In today’s environment of unpredictability, high volatility and instability that characterize the dynamics in which organizations operate, it is now undeniable that in order to survive, they must go beyond the already demanding business continuity but before they can differentiate themselves in their ability to transform it sustainably. In fact, if the operating context is fundamental to ensuring the organization’s daily life, it is nevertheless through change that continually reinvents itself and strengthens (re) creating products and services, defining new working methods and / or changing Productive or organizational processes. In this way, the project concept emerges as a concretizing action of change and the par excellence way to implement the organization’s strategies in practice, which is essential to Project Management as a set of knowledge, skills, techniques and tools that allow driving Vocational training in the way projects are managed.

However, if the strong growth and dissemination of this discipline corroborates the wide benefits it brings to Management, including predictability in delivery and alignment with the business and rigor in the fulfillment of the project objectives, it should not be assumed that Project Management is the same for all, but an effort must be made to ensure that the organization matures in this matter as well as to the typology or design of the projects in question.

As we do not all learn to walk at the same time, organizations also evolve at different speeds in their journey to excellence in Project Management. This course designates its maturity, that is, the state of the organization’s Project Management processes when compared to the best international practices, being recognized five levels of maturity, below explained:

  • Ad hoc – initial stage in which the processes are carried out in a reactive, inconsistent and unpredictable way, casuistically and without control
  • Defined – in this state, there are defined processes and templates, based on international standards and references, although their use is incipient
  • Normalized – it is a level in which the processes are formalized and normalized, that is, there is a widespread use of what is defined
  • Measured – At this stage, the organization has indicators on its main processes and is therefore aware of its performance
  • Controlled – at this level the organization accepts the results of the indicators it observes and the process is considered managed.
  • Optimized – on this last level, the focus is on progressive optimization leading to continuous improvement of Project Management processes.

It is in this scenario, in particular, as a primary but not exclusive factor that distinguishes an organization that starts in Project Management from those who seek to advance its maturity in this field, which highlights the importance of the existence and follow-up of a methodology in the organization.

The importance of standards

The standardization of processes, procedures or tools is based on a critical need – to prevent the reinvention of the wheel at each moment and thus save time and energy, as well as reduce rework and increase quality. In addition, the existence of a standard in the organization allows all to speak the same language, removes ambiguity and constitutes as a factor of internal stability able to provide the main orientations of conduct or modus operands in the context of project.

The reality is that, although techniques that are in use today and increasingly sophisticated form a solid and fundamental basis for project management and for what is Project Management as a discipline, they are still insufficient so that, with a methodology by the Book, ensure the success of projects or respond effectively to the dynamics and uncertainty that surround.

Framework vs Methodology

Let us begin by clarifying the scope of a methodology. Very often, there is an inadequate use of the terms “framework” or “methodology”, which are often used interchangeably. In fact, it is not a simple distinction, although we can consider here the one worked by Benjamin L.

Tomhave (2005), who focused on this taxonomy. According to this author, framework is a fundamental and general construction that defines assumptions, concepts, values and practices, including guidelines for its own implementation.

The same author presents the concept of methodology as a more prescriptive construction, directed to a given public, that defines in a specific way practices, procedures and rules for the implementation or execution of a concrete task or function.

Thus, for a better understanding, we can advance, by way of example, that the PMBOK® Guide is a framework and PRINCE2® is a methodology. Also, the methodology developed for the organization may be based on a framework or other existing methodology.

Thus, a methodology is an adequate, repeatable, standardized and documented collection of processes, tools, techniques and templates for project management, which should consider the following points in its elaboration:

  • Reflect the size, complexity, and industry of the project
  • Be based on best practices
  • Be easily localizable and understandable by all team members
  • Be subject to continuous improvement process
  • Be flexible and scalable enough to be applicable to any type of project
  • Focus on the most favorable approach to the project
  • However, it is essential to also remember what a methodology should not be:
  • A methodology is not a quick fix
  • A methodology is not a temporary solution
  • A methodology is not a cookbook

Regardless of the methodology used, it is now a widespread knowledge that “one size does not fit everyone” and if in Taylor’s time this was the practice, not getting the right fit of the methodology today could be a hindrance to project success of the organization.

What has changed since Taylor?

The principles of Scientific Administration 5 designed by Frederick Taylor advocated a unique and optimal way of doing things, which found its most recognized application in assembly and mass production factories.

However, much has changed since the industrial era, in which the organizational environment was characterized by being stable and predictable, the client assumed an undifferentiated role and the tasks were predominantly manual, routine and simple. In this scenario, it was easily acceptable and recognized as a surplus to the existence of standards, but today, in an environment that is dynamic and highly unpredictable, where the customer is king and tasks require mental ability of so unique and complex, the existence of a Can be castrating and the lack of process elasticity can hamper the progress of the project.

When the process inhibit progress

Someone wrote that “PMBOK® is track (music), not track (track)”. Being of a remarkable simplicity, this sentence contains in itself an important truth: it must be the methodology to adapt to the project and not the project to adapt to the methodology. In fact, it should be remembered that each project has unique and differentiated characteristics, and can vary widely in complexity, size or risk, among others.

Often the methodology is followed literally and blindly, as a copy-paste of the PMBOK® Guide and with no space to get out of its way, which ultimately leads to a robotic and somewhat flexible Project Management to accommodate the usual dynamics of a project, In addition to being able to cause resistance of the equipment to a structure too heavy, bureaucratic and administrative. It should be noted that the processes foreseen in the methodology are not an end in themselves, but rather have a nuclear objective to facilitate delivery of the project, at the expense of achieving such an administrative workload that hampers progress.

This methodological myopia allows us to observe an adoption spectrum that has in its extremes the “Project Manager” and “Robotic Project Manager”, described below and which emphasize the need for a methodology that is sufficiently adjusted to the project portfolio – through Tailoring.

The one who best adapts to change

“It is not the strongest or the brightest of the surviving species but the one that best fits the change,” Darwin’s celebrated statement might also be a catch phrase on the tailoring process in Project Management. In fact, this is what we mean when tailoring – the ability to adapt or tailor the methodology to the characteristics of the project and its context and ensure that projects are managed with the right amount of documentation and control. In fact, it should be noted that Project Management should not serve to “give work” but rather to facilitate the way work develops.

However, a principle underlying this statement is that Project Management work should be a function of the technical work involved, typically varying between 5% and 25% of the effort considered, and thus allowing an efficient balance between the administrative effort and the projected effort.

Thus, the purpose of tailoring is then to ensure that the project management methodology is related to the project design and product environment, namely, in the business processes that support it, as well as to ensure that Project are based on the dimensions that define the project, such as its scale, complexity, importance, dependencies or project risk, i.e. that the processes are appropriate for the project.

A common approach is that of the UCP (uncertainty, complexity, pace) model, later adapted and theorized by Shenhar and Dvir (2007), in the approach they called “adaptive design management”, represented as a four dimensional diamond And their possible settings:

Novelty – Represents the uncertainty of the project objectives, market uncertainty, or both; Measures how the new project product is for customers, users or the market in general and, by implication, how clear and well defined the product requirements are; Includes three configurations: derivative, platform and radical;

Technology – Level of technological uncertainty, determined by the volume of new technology required; comprises four configurations: low-tech, medium-tech, high-tech and super-high-tech;

Complexity – Measures product complexity, task and project organization; has three possible configurations: assembly, system and array;

Pace – Reflects the urgency of the project, namely, how much time is available to complete the work; encompasses four settings: regular, fast, critical and blitz.

Each of these dimensions affects the management of the project in its own way, from the development cycle followed to the required formality or not, the autonomy of the team or the intensity of planning and revisions required.

Thus, for the correct application of tailoring the following steps can be considered:

  1. Analyze the project portfolio and assess a set of dimensions relevant to the organization that typically characterize projects (e.g. cost, team size, risk level, clarity of requirements, etc.)
  2. Define the settings for each of the criteria (e.g., based on the level of risk, it can be high, medium or low)
  3. Establish a very short set (three to five) of project typologies (e.g., I, II, III, Complexity A, B, C)
  4. List established typologies with the dimensions and configurations considered (e.g. type I is one in which the project has a high risk, a small team and unclear requirements)
  5. Define the processes and deliverables of the methodology applicable to the different typologies (eg, a project of typology I, of high risk and unclear in the requirements of the solution, requires more control and formality than a project of typology III, in which they have a low level of risk and sufficiently clear requirements).

As a result of effective application, tailoring aims, inter alia, to obtain the following:

  • Avoid redundancy of information
  • Optimize the methodology
  • Improve the quality of information
  • Avoid resistance to the implementation of the methodology

By contrast, below are some critical symptoms that the methodology may not be adequately adequate or that the tailoring needs to be refined:

  • The project team is not using the methodology
  • The project team is modifying the methodology by free initiative
  • The methodology applies equally to all project types

Therefore, it is up to the organization, often based on the role of the Project Management Office (PMO) as the entity that centralizes the Project Management practices, to carefully consider how the methodology is followed by the project teams so that, in a timely manner, necessary preventive and corrective actions.

It should be noted that, as in any other Project Management process, the tailoring process must be continually refined based on the experiences obtained, since, as we have seen, what can serve a project does not necessarily have to serve another.


The concept of tailoring has been given increasing importance, with the different versions of the PMBOK® Guide recognizing this emphasis. It should be noted that the word “tailor” is used 0 times in the second edition, but in the last version (exposure draft) it appears 11 times.

In addition to this greater awareness of the importance of this concept, it is also agreed that tailoring on Project Management methodology is an important sign of maturity of the organization in Project Management.

Thus, in summary, it is emphasized that the fundamental value of the role of a Project Management methodology is not denied as a foundation of the best practices in the organizations, but only alert to the danger of following blindly and without the capacity Adaptation to the project context.

Thus, organizations need to have enough formal and standardized processes to achieve efficiency and consistency, but they must also be able to provide themselves with sufficient informal and flexible processes that enable them to adapt and innovate.

By Marisa Silva,
August of 2012