Flexibility within a Framework

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5-21 framework
With projects involving team members and stakeholders across the enterprise, and ever changing requirements and business success criteria, the “art” of project management – effective collaboration, communication, coordination and negotiation – separates project success from project failure.

We have all heard it said that project management is both art and science. I have found that the best project managers are those who understand the science and are mastering the art.

A client of mine adopted the guiding principle of “Flexibility within a Framework”. This guiding principle has always stayed with me because of how it balances the need for structure with the realities of business. I liken it to the Yin and Yang of project management where apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent. Flexibility must exist for the framework to exist. The framework must exist to allow for flexibility.

When seeking to institutionalize improved project, program and portfolio management practices it is easy to develop rigid processes, governance structures and technology solutions that are meant to improve project performance and business outcomes only to realize the opposite effect. A framework that does not allow for flexibility is oftentimes just as ineffective as no framework at all.

The same holds true for the project portfolio. We can have a framework for creating, selecting, planning and managing the portfolio of projects, but we need to the flexibility to allow for the realities of our business. Initial estimates are not accurate, priorities change, must-do projects surface and resource constraints shift. Allowing for flexibility provides the ability to dynamically manage the portfolio of projects and remain focused on maximizing the business value of the overall portfolio of investments throughout the year. Hopefully, the business value you realize at the end of the year is greater than your initial estimate at the start of the year. As a wise man once told me, “building flexibility into the framework reserves the right to get smarter.”

Flexibility within the framework enables continued focus on the desired outcomes for the project or the portfolio of projects as a whole. When the process and/or technology become the main focus, we lose sight of those we are serving and the business capabilities we are supporting. The balance is lost. We need the framework, or process, to help us get to the end result. We need the flexibility to find the best way to get there with things constantly changing all around us.