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Project Management Golden Ratio
By Linky Van Der Merwe

“The Golden Ratio is a universal law in which is contained the ground-principle of all forms striving for beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art” – From Wikipedia.

The golden ratio is also defined as divine proportion, divine section, golden proportion or golden number. The golden ratio is often denoted by the Greek letter phi, usually lower case (φ).

The golden ratio finds its fullest realization in the human form.

Example: The human hand and Mona Lisa’s face is a perfect golden ratio.

What does the golden ratio have to do with project management?

Every project has characteristics and requirements that set it apart from others, in other words, that makes it unique. Each project needs to be responded to with a fresh approach, with the intensity of effort and with the care and attention to detail that every project deserves.

The methods, processes and best practices used to deliver projects, are the 3 parts of the golden ratio.

You need to find the ‘golden proportion’ for each project.

What is a methodology? A methodology is “a set of methods, processes and practices that are repeatedly carried out to deliver projects”. The key concept is that you repeat the same steps for every project you undertake, and by doing that, you will gain efficiencies in your approach.

What is a standard? A standard is “a collection of knowledge areas that are generally accepted as best practice in the industry”. Let’s try to understand the difference between a methodology and a standard. Standards give you industry guidance, whereas methodologies give you practical processes for managing projects. Standards are not methodologies, and vice versa.

The two most popular standards are PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and Prince2.

Here are 5 things that should be included in a project management methodology:

  • A core set of processes to follow for delivering projects.
  • A set of templates to help you build deliverables quickly.
  • An option for customizing the methodology provided.
  • The ability to import your existing processes into it.
  • A suite of case studies to help you learn from past projects.

Here is the one thing that a project methodology will not do. A methodology is not a silver bullet. It will not fix projects by itself or guarantee success and an efficient, effective experienced project manager is still required to deliver projects successfully. Remember that the finest carpenter’s tool-box will only be as good as the carpenter. No methodology will be 100% applicable to every type of project. So you will need to customize any methodology you use to ensure that it perfectly fits your project management environment – to find the ‘golden proportion’.

The biggest mistake in project management is not using a methodology. Here is what you will gain from using a project management methodology:

  • Create a project road map
  • Monitor time, cost and quality
  • Control change and scope
  • Minimize risks and issues
  • Manage staff and suppliers

Of course, you will need to use the elements of the methodology that are most suitable to each project you undertake. When managing smaller projects, you will only want to apply lightweight processes to your project and when managing large projects, you should apply the heavyweight processes to monitor and control every element of your project in depth.

But if you can manage every project you undertake in the same way, then you will gain efficiencies with your approach, work smarter and reduce your stress. You will also give your team a clear understanding of what you expect from them and boost your chances of success.

A simple way to organize your business projects, is to use a project management methodology or at least a standardized approach to manage projects. This will greatly enhance your chances of finding the golden ratio and deliver successful projects – projects that finish on time, within budget and with quality.

Linky Van Der Merwe is the founder of Virtual Project Consulting and a Project Management Consultant. Linky invites you to view more project management articles giving you best practices and project tools to use for managing your own projects successfully at

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