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Slaves to Methodology

Friday, August 21, 2009 by Slaughter Development

Businesses love to implement a new, comprehensive solution to address a wide range of challenges. However, an analyst named Duncan Haughey argues that blindly adhering to methodology is ineffective and all too common.

In an article (PDF) published on, Haughey writes:

Project management by form filling is not an effective way of managing projects. These days many organisations and individuals whole project management strategy revolves around becoming slaves to a methodology.

This quotation concurs with previous reports from The Methodology Blog. These include commentary on changes at Starbucks and the issues in general with treating service like manufacturing. As we have said before, it’s not about the theory, but the quality of execution.

Complete with British slang, Haughey also notes:

My worst experiences have been with organisations that stick blindly to the methodology regardless of whether it adds value.  ‘It says you fill in this form at this stage and we’re jolly well going to fill it in.’ Then the form invariably gets filed away and never looked at again.

This leads to many methodologies being perceived as needlessly bureaucratic, which, when used appropriately they’re not.

What’s actually happening in this scenario is the transfer of responsibility. If a team member insists on completing a form or a procedure, they are insisting that success or failure lies entirely with the methodology. Actually deciding what needs to be done might require creativity, innovation, or questioning the process. In the end, stakeholders conclude that because other people blindly followed the methodology when it wasn’t necessary, the methodology itself must be bloated. In reality, it’s the stakeholders who refused (or were denied) responsibility that created the waste and frustration.

The warning that Haughey repeats is a familiar saying: there are no silver bullets. This expression reminds us not to put too much stock in comprehensive methodologies. However, the bullets are not without value. Peter Drucker says it best: Plans are worthless, but planning is invaluable. The benefit of a methodology is not in adhering to the practice, but in being methodical. If you need help developing processes for your business (or freeing yourself from an unhealthy obsession with methodology), contact Slaughter Development today.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Murder Writer Methodology - There’s a process for everything. An organized methodology can make almost anything more effective, including writing a murder mystery novel.
Read on »
Broken Form - How many times have you had to fill out a government form, only to find yourself struggling to fit all the required information in impossibly small boxes? These processes illustrate a broken workflow, but not how you might think.
Read on »
Putting Theory into Practice - Over at TechRepublic, writer Chip Camden reminds us that “no methodology or theory is a silver bullet.” Project success depends on the quality of execution, not blind adherence to broad principles. Read on »
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