Methodology Versus Creativity

In my consulting practice, I have not developed many methodologies and notice that many people create methodologies and I wonder why.  I know with my approach I look at each situation as unique and use simple principles and checklists.  The main idea is to assess the current situation and the desired future state and develop an approach to deal with the issue.  Based on my experience, I have many different approaches I can propose but I avoid trying to shoe horn my ideas into a formal methodology. 

One of the most difficult things for a consultant is to avoid using your last approach on the next project.  I believe we need to use our creativity to develop a approach that deals with the issues of each situation uniquely.

However I am firm believer in checklists to use a guide in considering the way to approach any issue.  I think the term methodology is the problem.  Checklists and guidelines are extremely useful and help deal the many difficult issues we encounter on projects.

Another use of a methodology is for training.  Without a structure, training is not difficult. The difficulty in such training is to help to student understand that these are checklists as opposed to steps in a process.   The use of case studies in training is an excellent way to teach how to deal with consulting and project issues.  If the methodology is applied rigorously, following the steps in the methodology becomes the project as opposed to dealing with the issues that arise.  We can follow all the steps and check all the boxes and the issue is unresolved because of some factor which was not considered in the methodology.   Good training will help students cope with circumstances that do not fit into the methodology.

I have written several blogs on hidden factors and readiness in consulting and these factors can rise up and bite your project at any time.  Good consulting and project management must cope with surprises without losing site of the goal.

I recall a project that had as one of the early steps a risk assessment.   The assessment came up with some substantial risks associated with the project but did not suggested a method of managing these risks.  However the report was ignored by the project manager.  The reason the assessment was done was because it was part of the methodology.  That project had huge risks and in the end was not successful.  The methodology was followed but the risks were not addressed.   An example of checking off the boxes but not addressing the issues.

Methodology and creativity can coexist on a project but requires leadership and sound management.  We must all encourage innovation and not allow a methodology to stifle creativity.

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