Project Management Methodologies:
An Assessment for Process Improvement Projects
Odds are that you have heard the term Project Management Methodologies, but haven’t had the opportunity to expand your knowledge of the topic. What are the different methodologies and how do they help Process Improvement Projects?
Project Management Methodologies are the guiding processes for those who are doing project management. The discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and completing the work to achieve specific goals and objectives. There are several variations of approaches for project management methodologies, including PDCA, A3, DMAIC, Agile, and Waterfall, just to name a few. Different projects benefit from different methodologies. Not every style of project management will work for every assignment.
Process Improvement Projects aim to identify, analyze and improve existing processes within an organization to meet new goals and objectives. There are frequently key projects within an organization and, regardless of the size of the organization, there is always room for improvement. Even if a business process improvement project is targeted at an individual department, the impact of the change will be organization-wide. An organization cannot stand still and expect project management to continue at expected levels of effectiveness, it must continually improve processes. Finding the right methodology for the right company is the key to fine-tuning the processes and to giving an organization a competitive advantage in a global marketplace.
PDCA is an acronym for a continuous quality improvement model consisting of a logical sequence. Also, known as PDSA (Plan Do Study Act), these four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement:
Plan: Identify a goal or purpose, formulate a theory, define success
Do: Put the plan into action, taking small steps in controlled circumstances
Check: Study the results to test the validity of the pans
Act: Take action to standardize or improve the process
A3 Process is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement approach. Also, known as Systematic Problem Solving (SPS). The process is based on the principles of PDCA. The A3 method assures that the PDSA cycle is followed and the changes are monitored.
The process steps can be documented in a variety of formats, but it typically includes the
following elements, placed on an A3 single sheet of standardized paper (11” x 17”):
Background: the improvement goal – what we are trying to fix
Current conditions: what is happening today
Goals: what specifically are we trying to accomplish with this change
Analysis: what is the gap between where we are today and where we want to be
Countermeasures or solutions: what are possible solutions and barriers to successful implementation
Plan for improvement: what will our new process look like
Follow-up: confirm results and sustain the change
DMAIC refers to a data-driven improvement cycle used for improving processes, and is an integral part of the company’s Six Sigma Quality Initiative. DMAIC is an acronym for five interconnected phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Each Step in the cyclical DMAIC Process is required to ensure the best possible results.
Define the customer, their Critical to Quality issues, and Core Business Process involved
Measure the performance of the Core Business Process involved
Analyze the data collected and process map to determine root causes of defects and opportunities for improvement
Improve the target process by designing creative solutions to fix and prevent problems
Control the improvements to keep the process on the new course
Agile development methodology provides opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout the development lifecycle. This is achieved through regular cadences of work, known as sprints or iterations. By focusing on the repetition of abbreviated work cycles as well as the functional product they yield, agile methodology is described as “iterative” and “incremental.” The results of this “inspect-and-adapt” approach reduce development costs and time to market. In Agile there is still a disciplined prioritization process, but the non-static requirements, flexibility, constant change, and regular communication approach this as part of the culture and process. The Agile method tries to provide rapid, continuous delivery of product to the customer.
Waterfall: Also, referred to as a linear-sequential life cycle model, the waterfall model is a sequential design process, commonly used in software development processes, in which progress is flowing steadily downwards through the phases of:
Requirement Analysis: requirements of the system to be developed are captured in this phase and documented in a requirement specification document
System Design: requirement specifications from first phase are studied in this phase and the system design is prepared.
Implementation: system is first developed in small programs called units, which are integrated in the next phase
Integration and Testing: units developed in the implementation phase are integrated into a system after testing of each unit
Deployment of system: functional and non-functional testing is done; the product is deployed in the customer environment or released into the market
Maintenance: is done to deliver changes in the customer environment
If you want to make your projects flow faster and with less wasted effort, there are a variety of Project Management Methodologies you can use. However, these are not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages in different types of scenarios. The goal should be to maximize the Project Management Methodology’s effectiveness.
Other popular Project Management Methodologies include:
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Event Chain Methodology (ECM)