Because project management is a social, participative activity, the effectiveness of particular methods is inevitably bound up with the culture and aptitudes of the organization in which these methods will be employed. For an organization with little project management experience, earned value calculations don’t appear to be meaningfully different than the blithe “we’re 90 percent done” statuses that plague poorly run projects. Similarly, scope statements and change management plans are unlikely to find many admirers in organizations that rely heavily on oral communication and often fly by the seat of their pants.
In such organizations, trying to manage projects with the overt use of PMI-style techniques is probably futile and may even be counter-productive. Not every organization is ready for the PMI way of doing things, and if formal project management techniques are introduced clumsily, the organization is likely to recoil and dismiss these as a waste of time. Instead, it is often better to meet the organization where it is and begin with simple methods having broad, intuitive appeal.
The above is an excerpt from a 2-part series I wrote for Gantthead under the title “When PMI is TMI.” In that series, I advocated using one-page project plans for organizations that have minimal project management culture in place, because more elaborate methods are likely to meet with insufficient support in such organizations. While a one-page plan is obviously pretty thin, in many cases it would be preferable to more ambitious approaches that can fall into rapid disuse and/or actually turn people against formal project management techniques.
The articles are linked below, and have generated some favorable comments among the members of the Gantthead community. Part II also includes a sample of a one-page project plan that I used a few years back. Unfortunately, Gantthead requires registration before you can read an article in full – sorry about that.