I first read Robert Buttrick’s excellent book The Project Workout* when it was published in the late 1990s. This book — a UK best-seller — is an essential read for project management professionals and business leaders who intend to carry out beneficial change in their organisation.
It introduces a simple yet effective project management process framework.
The Project Management Process Framework
I believe it is Buttrick’s intention to provide the business with a flexible project management process framework that can be adapted and tailored to fit most organisations.
His message is quite straightforward: take it, shape it, and use it — all of the time.
The project management process framework is characterised by 10 guiding principles or lessons.
- Make sure your projects are driven by benefits which support your strategy.
- Use the same, simple, and well-defined framework with a staged approach for all projects in all circumstances.
- Address and validate the marketing, commercial, operational, and technical viability of the project throughout its life.
- Incorporate stakeholders into the project to understand their current and future needs.
- Build excellence in project management techniques and controls across the company.
- Breakdown functional boundaries by using cross-functional teams.
- Use dedicated resources for each group of development and prioritise within each group.
- Place high emphasis on the early stages of development.
- Build the business case into the company’s forward plan as soon as the project is formally approved.
- Formally close the project to build a bridge to the future, to learn any lessons, and to make sure a clean handover to operations.
However, it is the staged approach that defines Buttrick’s project management process framework.
Stages and Gates
The idea behind the project management process framework is to provide a predetermined minimum set of steps, or stages, in a sequence for planning and implementing a project.
Each stage has a gate, which is a point in time when an independent check is made on the project before starting the next stage. In other words, gates are entry points for a stage and are there to ensure the project has the necessary support and approvals from senior management before proceeding to the next stage.
Buttrick defines five main stages in his book. I prefer six:
- Business Case Development,
- Analysis and Design,
- Purchasing and Procurement,
- Build and Test,
- User Acceptance, and
But, this largely depends on the organisation, project type, task complexity, importance, and risk. Also, don’t get hung up on terminology. Use language that is understood in your organisation to describe each stage.
When applying the same disciplined approach to every project you will soon establish ways of working that sets the organisation up to reliably deliver business change projects.
The staged project management process framework can help improve project management capability, performance, and maturity for any organisation. Some of the benefits include
- Effective project planning and agreement – the mandatory process steps lead to consistency and repeatability. Gate reviews assure quality and place emphasis on project governance and decision-making.
- Clarity of role – the project manager is responsible for delivering the project; the framework is a tool for achieving this end. Other project roles are clearly defined.
- Achieving agreed outcomes – the framework assumes the project manager performs at an appropriate competency level. The application of mandatory process steps can be linked to performance measures that are included in performance development reviews.
- Value of project management – using the same approach for every project drives continual improvement and project management capability maturity.
The Project Workout — now in its 4th edition — is an excellent book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to those attempting to create project management capability and discipline in their organisation.
The principles contained in The Project Workout are compatible with formal project management methods such as PRINCE2 and cover the practicalities of project management.
This is an essential guide for those wanting to drive change through their organisation.
Do you use a project management process framework?
Or do project managers do their own thing in your organisation?
Creative Commons image courtesy Talus.