The ugly truth: Does the method count or is success due to something else?

Methods are nothing without the individuals in organisations who will employ them; methods are meant to help people do something systematically (according to a fixed plan, in a thorough and efficient way). The purpose of a method is efficiency in the organisation.

Because decision making takes place in uncertainty, it is not surprising that many of the decisions that managers and organisations make are mistakes and end in failure. Organisations prosper when their members make the right decisions — sometimes through skill and sound judgement, sometimes through good luck. So, it’s fair to say that success is due to skill, sound judgement and good luck. But what about sustainable success? When the skill is not paired with motivation, sustainability drops.

This is where the method comes in to help project managers sustain success over time by improving their decision-making ability and enhance organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

By employing a method (more appropriately, a process), an organisation can assess if and why they are successful and how they can continue to pursue success. They can continue to raise efficiency and, on top of that, they are able to foster a culture in which individuals are motivated to pursue goals and are proud for efficient operation. After all, individuals in organisations are in fact, people and what people think and feel at work affects their performance.

However, methodologies for Project Management do not take into account either the key determinants of intrinsic motivation or the core job dimensions (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback). Hence, teams often depend on the presense of a leader who is expected to have a positive impact on the intrinsic motivation and performance of the team members. There is no method that leaders can follow to sustain success. Leaders need the skill, the sound judgement and the good luck — every time. Leaders work with values, attitudes, moods and emotions. Managers work with orders and processes to justify these orders.

Project management methods are not concerned so much with the “human” aspects of an organisation’s human capital but more with organisational commitment and the obligation to “obey” the process. There are a couple of videos that you need to watch to understand that people comply with an order even when their decision to comply can harm another human being. So, where there is a process, there is a way.

Why do we obey?

The Milgram experiment was based on “obedience” — that people just follow orders from their superiors. The people on the video administered electric shocks on other people because their superiors instructed them to.

The Milgram experiment

The ugly truth is that project methodologies do not need either the motivated individuals or the leader to be successful. The method in itself, relies on initiation, planning, execution and optimisation phases designed to monitor, assess, sustain, report and forecast metrics so that Managers can effectively manage complex and intense program and project investments. People in organisations are investments: They are ranked, prioritised, balanced, reviewed and validated according to how successfully they can “obey” to orders given by their superiors. That’s a process outside of the objectives of a project management methodology but in the scope of the performance domains: The human capital is part of the portfolio capacity and capability management processes that some managers are responsible for.

So does the method count? Yes. The method is everything. Do people count? People are everything. There is no process without people.

Uhm… That sounds like the chicken or the egg causality dilemma. :)

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