What is the difference between method and methodology?

It is quite common for professionals in project management to use ‘method’ and ‘methodology’ interchangeably. Is this correct?

If not what are the differences?

The following is part of one chapter in our upcoming book on The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAMMP™).

It is common that some practitioners confuse the meaning of these two terms, method, and methodology and use them interchangeably.

In general, a method is “a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something[1], whereas a methodology is “a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity.[2] In other words, a method is a specific way that is set or fixed, whereas a methodology is a wider term, “a system of methods”.

Further, a method is different from a framework since a method means there is a certain way of doing something; like systematic process, a step by step approach. Whereas a framework is a general guideline as defined earlier.

A common project management method may follow a project life cycle or a similar approach. For example, Waterfall is a method with a project life cycle consisting of a few phases in sequence. SDLC refers to a Software Development Life Cycle with its own phases. Some practitioners refer to ‘Agile’ as a method but it is an approach, more a framework, whereas scrum might offer a specific method for software development projects.

To differentiate between method and methodology, please reflect on the following:

  • PRINCE2®is a method; “PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management method” (What is PRINCE2®, 2015). Notice the use of the terms ‘structured’ and ‘method.’
  • PRiSM™ (from GPM) is a method; Projects integrating Sustainable Methods and have specific deliverables and steps that one should apply to the project life cycle.
  • SUKAD developed a methodological approach that is based on a project life cycle, which is The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAMMP™[3]). Notice the use of the term ‘methodology’ and not ‘method,’ which is not an error. The reason for the use of the term methodology is because CAMMP™ offers an approach that is not rigid or fixed and has to be customized and adapted to the organizational and project context. The customized and adapted version, for a specific project’s type, become a method.

The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAMMP™) Version 3
For example, managing a ‘small’ real estate development project can follow a certain tailored method. Whereas managing a large and complex real estate development project may follow another method. These two methods could have similar features but each is tailored to a different level of size and complexity.

In other words, CAMMP™ is “a system of methods.” The Organizational Project Management System for an entity can and should have a set of methods, one for each project type[4].

It is important to mention that it is not common to hear, or read, about specific project management methods in the professional community. This is due to the fact that methods are often custom-built[5] for an organization; they are internal resources making them proprietary information.

[1] Oxford Online Dictionaries (http://oxforddictionaries.com/)

[2] Same reference

[3] Before this book, the author and SUKAD (the company he leads) had been using CAM2P™ to refer to this model, however, as this book is offering the third generation of the model, and due to various feedbacks, it was decided to stop using CAM2P™ and use CAMMP™ instead.

[4] In this context, “type” represents domain, sector or industry, and project classification.

[5] Tailored is another common term.

  • drpauldgiammalvo

    PS Mounir and colleagues, this is what project management looks like in most OWNER organizations.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/997a1cf529695de218aa7e0ca6f753c467a17509846303acf7bc9d1b85c91680.png
    Guild of Project Controls, Module 1 Figure 2

    http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/gpccar/introduction-to-managing-project-controls

    To my knowledge, this concept originated with Max Wideman in the 1960’s so this is not something “new” that we didn’t know or shouldn’t have known, but even to this day we cannot recognize or accept that OWNERS view projects very differently than do CONTRACTORS.

    Why? Because for an OWNER organization projects are a COST or INVESTMENT center, while for a CONTRACTOR a project is a PROFIT center. Contractors make money from initiating, planning, executing and controlling the project while owners make money or otherwise receive value or benefit not from the project but from whatever it is that the project was undertaken to achieve or accomplish.

    That is a HUGE difference in perspective and we need to recognize that fact and incorporate it into the “model” or “methodology” that we create.

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  • drpauldgiammalvo

    Mounir, I still think your approach is advocating the same flaws that haunted PMI’s PMBOK Guide and that is, the project is NOT at the center of this model as you show but is but a small part of the Asset Management life span.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f383e3c92d5c999cdb61d7f4d8024e57096b1535dd2386afdd505478e6c1e2d3.jpg
    From the Guild of Project Controls Module 1, Figure 1
    http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/gpccar/introduction-to-managing-project-controls

    You and I both know coming from a background in “big oil” that this model was developed by Esso or Diamond Shamrock back in the 1950’s and attesting to the fact that it actually WORKS is the model AACE popularized with their Total Cost Management Framework (TCMF) and PMI, having finally admitted that their PMBOK Guide hasn’t worked, is now adopting this same approach for the PMBOK Guide 2016.

    Bottom line- until or unless you INTEGRATE project management as one of the DELIVERY SYSTEMS used by organizations to create, acquire, update, expand, maintain and eventually dispose of organizational assets, IMPO, your “method” or “methodology” will not work any better than PMI’s PMBOK Guide worked, on the grounds it is only a piece of a much larger system.

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

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