Project planning tends to have a reputation. A reputation for being only available for large organisations, who have multiple departments, who come together for large scale projects. However, giving small to medium enterprises (SMEs) access to project planning can be pivotal to the success of their business.

It’s a unique challenge compared to managing projects for larger businesses. Resources such as staff and funding can be more limited, which is where a project plan can be at its most powerful. No matter what size or scale a project is, applying the right systems at the right time is key to success. 

What is Project Management Methodology?

Project Leads or Managers need to stay on top of every part of a project to hit goals on time and on budget. To help with this, we recommend adopting a Project Management Methodology (PMM). A PMM guides the direction of an entire project, including everyone’s roles and the information shared in the team. 

The definition of a PMM is:

‘A strictly defined combination of logically related practices, methods and processes that determine how best to plan, develop, control and deliver a project. This is done throughout the continuous implementation process, until successful completion and termination. It is a scientifically proven, systematic and disciplined approach to project design, execution and completion.’

The PMM’s sole purpose is to control the entire management process. It does this through effective decision making and problem solving, and ensuring the success of processes, approaches, techniques, methods and technologies. 

Typically, a PMM provides a skeleton for describing every step in depth. A project manager knows how to deliver and implement work according to the schedule, budget and client specification.

Selecting the right Project Management Methodology (PMM) can pave the way for:

  • Defining the needs of stakeholders
  • Establishing a common language understood by the team, so everyone knows what is expected of them
  • Cost estimates that are complete, accurate and credible
  • A common methodological approach to every task
  • The prevention and easy resolution of conflicts
  • The production and handing over of expected deliverables 
  • Lessons learned and solutions quickly implemented
  • Strict and consistent guidelines that every team member should adhere to
  • Measuring every stage of the project and assessing if you are on the right track.
  • Procedures and processes that minimise rogue decisions, preventing overspending and project overrun.

Types of Project Management Methodology

There are a number of established PMM’s that can be employed in managing different kinds of projects. All types of PMM can be divided into traditional and modern approaches.

The Traditional Approach

The traditional approach involves a series of consecutive stages in the project management process. It’s a step-by-step sequence to design, develop and deliver a product or service. This methodology type is called ‘Waterfall’ – where one portion of work follows another in a linear sequence.

These are the stages included in the traditional approach:

  • Initiation – defining the ideas, concepts or scope of the project
  • Planning and design – agreeing on the plan structure, outputs and data
  • Execution – issuing the plan, then implementing and recording progress
  • Control and integration – reporting, providing feedback and analysing issues
  • Validation – making decisions on the project using information from the previous stages
  • Closure – the completion and handover of the project

The Modern Approaches

Modern methodologies don’t focus on linear processes, and provide an alternative look at project management. Some methods are best for specific industries, while others can be implemented in: construction, production, process improvement, product engineering, and much more. 

Modern PMMs use different models for different needs, industries and requirements.

Project Management Methodology Examples

PMBOK® Guide

Although a guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge isn’t technically a PMM, it’s considered in our list. It’s a methodological approach to planning, executing, controlling and terminating projects. It’s also produced by the world-renowned Project Management Institute (PMI). 

PRINCE2

PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments 2. It’s a combination of process-driven methods, and documentation oriented approaches. Originally developed by the UK Government, it’s a good example of a PMM that’s used here and overseas.

CPM

The Critical path method (CPM) explores the most important, or critical, tasks of a project. It does this by defining possible activity sequences and estimating the longest duration of each sequence.

CPM helps figure out how long it will take to complete the work, and what tasks will compose the scope. 

Lean

Lean methodology is implemented to maximise customer value, and minimise resource waste. It lets organisations create higher value for their customers with fewer resources. 

This approach aims to achieve customer satisfaction and value generation. This is through implementing an optimised process flow that eliminates waste: in products, services, transportation, inventories, etc.

Six Sigma

Originally developed by Motorola, Six Sigma aims to improve its production processes by eliminating defects. Defects are defined as ‘non-conformity of a product or service to its specifications’. 

Today, Six Sigma is one of the most trusted examples of project management methodology. It ensures the accuracy and speed of a process’s implementation, through eliminating or minimising waste.

CCPM

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a way to plan, implement and review various kinds of work. This can be in both single and multi-project environments. 

This management methodology uses Theory of Constraints (TOC) and the concept of buffers to establish improved task durations. It is also used to manage resource dependent tasks and activities.

SCRUM

SCRUM is an example of agile PMM: that involves teams working in 30-day ‘sprints’ and monthly ‘scrum sessions’. 

In a SCRUM-driven project, the deliverables are broken down into 30-day intervals. This PMM example is quite specific, and works best in collaborative teams. We consider it to mainly be applicable to 100%-dedicated teams, who have no heavily constrained time and materials budget.

Want to find out more about project management methodologies? Or want to discuss a project plan of your own? Get in contact with the experts today.

Post-it note plan

At BPS, our project planning strategy revolves around 4 simple steps: think it, plan it, do it and check it. With this simple mantra in mind, we’ve put together our top tips for ensuring whatever the scope or scale of your project that you have the tools and the mindset to succeed.

Use our basic project planning exercise below to help you visualise, strategise and implement your project plan!

Think It: Project Planning Step One

Examine the overall project or task – and ask yourself, your team and your stakeholders a series of simple questions to help break it down into manageable chunks. We recommend a brainstorming session based on the 6 W’s – the Why, Who, What, Where, When & hoW.

Consider:

  • What are the goals of the project? Is it business expansion, increasing profits, or more general improvement? Consider the What & Why
  • What is the scope of the project? Is it new offices, a new shop, or staff training – the What & Where
  • Are there any drivers for the project? Are they seasonal, do they have an expiry date? Think about Why.
  • What is the timeframe for the project? When will it start, and when is it expected to finish? The When.
  • What are the expected outcomes of the project?
  • What will be the measure of the outcomes? Consider the metrics & KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
  • Who is to be involved with the project? Think about who are the key stakeholders, decision makers, and staff involved.
  • What are the key milestones of the project? Are there key events, perhaps a launch or opening for a specific milestone.
  • What is the budget for the project? Consider the What and HoW in monetary terms.
  • What are the tasks or deliverables involved? Think about the high level to begin with.

BPS Top Tip

If a task or deliverable is too large, break it down into smaller ones. These can be elements such as

How long will each task take? (hoW & When)
Who will do each task? (Who)
What are the unknowns at present?
Are there any potential risks or impacts to the project? (What if)
What are the contingencies for the project? Consider time & money, and your Plan B (What If)
What is your exit strategy? What happens if your project fails?(What if)

Write it down – we recommend post-it notes, a note paper or any paper you may have to hand. Getting these ideas down in writing will solidify the beginning of your project plan.

Think tile

Plan It: Project Planning Step Two

Use the answers, ideas and unknowns from above to start mapping out the project. Write a scope statement, list your deliverables, and define roles & responsibilities (an organogram will help with this!), and create project documents.
BPS Top Tip

Get some lining paper, a cheap brown wrapping paper roll, or even use an empty office wall to start putting your post-its or notes across a timeframe (ensure this is between the start and finish post-its).

From the lining paper or wall exercise, write down or record all the tasks in the order they have been posted, and assign an individual or group to each task.

Then give each task an expected duration, and if possible, a start and finish date. From there, give each task a cost value or estimate if unknown.

You can now develop a realistic plan/schedule and cost estimate. Use a planning tool or software at this stage (if you are familiar with one) to create a simple end to end view of the project.

Review and optimise the plan / schedule to see what activities can run together, to reduce the overall project time. Factor in any limitations your team might have (such as holidays, manpower, availability, outside help).

Pinpoint which tasks need additional resources and list these down. Then determine what tasks are interdependent, as these are the ones that have potential for knock on delays (what we call the Domino effect).

Finally – issue the Plan! Ensure everyone knows what they are doing and when – this will be the key to success.

Post-it note plan

Do It: Project Planning Step Three

Possibly the easiest section to say, but often the hardest to follow! Our mantra is Plan the Work, Work the Plan. Whilst it is important to follow the plan, we know how sometimes things crop up and a plan can change.

This is the time when problems and issues emerge that may not have previously been thought about (what we call the unknowns). Where possible, add the unknowns into the plan so that they’re known to all.

You can then direct the team and your outside resources to complete their tasks. Communication at this stage is key, so ensure your whole team knows the plan and their role within it.

BPS Top Tip

A plan is a guide: one to stick to, but be careful not to be too rigid as you may cause your own delays. Allow for some flexibility, as things done out of sequence may benefit others on the project.

People doing work in an office

Check It: Project Planning Step Four

The final planning stage is to check how your plan is being implemented, to monitor progress and ensure things are on track. Check the work, and report progress back into the plan. Aspects to check as a minimum are:

  • The date the task started
  • How long it took
  • The percentage of your task that is complete and / or the date it finished
  • Any delays or works done out of sequence.

Communicate to your team any problems or issues, but also communicate the successes and early wins.

BPS Top Tip

Regular monitoring and reporting will help prevent the project slipping, and give time for project recovery if needed.

Consider lessons learned and feedback. This is often an area that is missed, or only partially carried out, and it’s key to build it into the project plan.

During any project it is valuable to gain feedback from your team. This feedback will give early warnings to potential problems, giving you more time to make informed decisions to resolve the issues. Otherwise, you can be under pressure and be forced to make rash decisions because of lack of time, from trying to keep the project on track. These often have the opposite effect and cause future delays, when things have to be changed as a result of a rushed outcome.

Use the lessons learned in feedback, both good and bad, to improve how you deliver your next project.

Planning from these 4 easy steps leads into more detailed planning actions that are invaluable tools to have in your arsenal for any future project. If you’d like to see a more detailed project plan, see the sub elements in figure 1 – our Planning Wheel.

BPS Project Planning Wheel

Fig. 1: Our BPS Project Planning Wheel

With the right attitude and the right mindset, anything is possible. And BPS Ltd are here every step of the way to support businesses and organisations, large and small, in achieving their goals.

Mark Beckett Suzi Perry

Throughout my working life, I have always liked lists. From being an electrician to a contracts manager in the earliest stages of my career, I found myself involved with organising resources: from equipment to materials, vehicles and even people. I developed trackers in Excel to help keep everyone and everything organised.

Travelling the World

When I travelled the world, I took planning with me – spending 19 months travelling and working for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and the Reserve Bank of Australia. It was when I returned to the UK to work for the Houses of Parliament in supervision and management that I found a pattern: I was utilising lists and trackers wherever I saw a benefit to do so.

My career then took me to Gabon in West Africa, where I became an electrical engineer for a project in the Oil & Gas sector for Shell. I developed a tracker for the site Electrical & Instrumentation works, which the planner for the project loved when I reported progress back to him. He was a lovely man, and suggested I should get into planning – not an easy route to take in the UK in 2009.

Gabon West Africa

Introduction to Project Planning

He said that if I managed to pass the planning course, I might be eligible to work abroad getting the 3 years experience required by the largest UK companies. On my 4 weeks off rotation, I enrolled on a Primavera P6 course in Hereford for three days – a tough course I paid for myself, and passed.

Travelling back through the jungle for three days, I returned to Gabon – proudly showing John the project planner my newfound qualification. We discussed ways of becoming an experienced planner, and he sought permission for me to assist him once I’d finished my daily electrical work. I’d be set on drafting a plan for Electrical, Instruments and Mechanical – my first hands-on planning experience, that I learned so much from.

I formulated the idea of becoming a freelance project planner back in 2010, and toyed with how viable it would be. But the software and the licenses were prohibitively expensive, and were reserved for corporate businesses – so the idea was shelved.

So I continued working as an Electrical Engineer, Project Lead and Project Manager at BP for nearly six years – constantly working alongside project planners. I discussed with them what their roles were, and used my knowledge to help them in any way I could and get involved as much as possible. 

Following on from this, I received permission to be mentored by a professional planner a few hours a week, when a timely departure by another planner meant I could apply for a role. My application was successful, and I became the lead planner for BP Saltend. 

The Beginning of Beckett Planning Solutions

Over the next 4 years I developed my skills and training, yet the idea of running my own business kept coming up. On holiday I’d scribble notes, jot down ideas, and make lists, often when my son Alfie was sleeping!

After returning from holiday I started discussing these ideas with my brother Lee. We began to research, strategise and shape the business – and decided to take the plunge and set up a limited company in September 2017. 

We suffered a year long setback along the way when I discovered I needed a new hip, which caused the business to lay dormant while I continued my work at BP. When I was in a position to leave and work on the business full-time: BPS Ltd. was born in November 2018.

Mark Beckett

My working life has covered a number of different careers and industries, but the common thread has always been working as part of a team to deliver an end goal.

Education and Early Career

In the early stages of my career, I provided care and expertise in operating theatres: leading a small team supervising theatres, and negotiating workloads with Surgeons, Anaesthetists and nursing teams. And although I loved leading a team, I made the decision to leave the healthcare sector to pursue my passion for music. 

I gained a Bachelors and then a Masters Degree from Leeds University, which led me to work with the world renowned Hallé Orchestra in Manchester as part of their concerts team. I saw first-hand how a dedicated and resourceful group of musicians could deliver a world class programme of music throughout the UK, and overseas on tours.

Orchestra

Project Planning and Events Management

It was this role that fired up my enthusiasm for providing live music performances, by bringing joy to thousands of people – and grew my passion for events management. I then developed this passion further by taking a Local Government role as part of their Events Team.

Learning about events management made me realise how important collaboration is, and how to work to short deadlines using multiple agencies to deliver a range of services. I honed my supervision and leadership skills learned initially through my nursing career – bringing them to project management. 

Collecting together all the elements required to provide events for up to 40,000 people requires all the tools and skills of project management. I worked with Local Authorities for a number of years, before moving to an exciting new role leading and developing a three-year programme of arts in a local venue, starting completely from scratch.

benefits of project planning

A New Direction

When this fixed-term project unfortunately came to an end, I was left without a clear direction. The arts had suffered terribly in the financial crash and years of austerity – which prompted a move to a completely different area. 

I worked for a large regional business as a manger, which developed my project management skills further. Through conversations with my brother Mark, we discussed how I could bring together my ideas for the branches in my care. He’d been working as a Project Planner in the petrochemical industry for some time, and suggested using Primavera P6 to achieve my goal.

Although I wasn’t familiar with it at the time, I had experience using planning software and used Primavera to create an Annual Operating Plan (or AOP) for the five branches, equipment, vehicles and 30 staff under my leadership. 

I loved developing my own AOP plan and instantly saw the adaptability for businesses it offered, and not just in the construction or heavy industry fields. We then discussed the idea of BPS Ltd. and agreed to set up the business together, joining together our skill sets to achieve our vision.