Understanding and Applying Effective Project Management Methodologies

Wherever there is work to be done to create a product, service or outcome, project management occurs. Wayne Brantley, a certified Project Management Professional® (PMP) and adjunct professor for Florida Tech’s 100% online MBA in Project Management program, likes to joke that “project management has been going on since the pyramids.”

The ability to professionally manage this process, navigating timeline, budget and operations, emerged as a profession in the mid-20th century, according to the Project Management Institute. And though the objective of the projects themselves is vastly varied, project management in any discipline applies knowledge, skills and techniques to the tasks driving the project, ultimately ensuring the project objectives are achieved. Project management is distinct from a standard operational process because its tasks are aimed at a specific outcome, and often span numerous departments and skillsets to meet the objective. Project management expertise oversees scope, timeline, budget, quality, procurement, human resources, communications, risk management, stakeholder input and overall integration of the project into the organization.

Project Management Methodologies

While the key areas and skills for project managers may be static across industries, a variety of project management methodologies exists to drive desired outcomes.

Major Methodologies

Waterfall Project Management

The traditional project management methodology, the waterfall approach flows in sequential order: concept, planning, development, testing and quality assurance, and project finalization and maintenance. This more structured approach establishes project requirements at launch, and seldom adjusts.

Critical Path Method (CPM)

A linear methodology, Critical Path outlines a step-by-step approach to tasks, outlining timelines, key milestones and deliverables, assessing the time required to complete and distinguishing critical tasks.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

The core focus of Critical Chain is the assignment of project resources, funneling resources to the critical chain while ensuring resource allocation to other work streams on the project running concurrently.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management requires an ongoing dialogue between project stakeholders, both client and team members, and continuous adjustment based on that feedback. Within the Agile approach exist several different approaches.

  • Scrum: The Scrum framework blends structure with adaptation, breaking a project into sprints comprised of planning, presentation, demonstration and retrospective. In this methodology, responsibility is distributed across team members, and the project manager, called Scrum Master, supports the team as a resource and facilitator as opposed to a traditional project manager.
  • Kanban: Kanban, Japanese for “visual sign” or “card,” establishes a framework that highlights when a team has capacity for a new task, visualizing the entire project process in card form. As work flows, new tasks are pushed into empty spaces. A tool to foster team communication, this approach can be partnered with existing approaches.
  • Extreme Programming: Under the Extreme Programming framework, teams follow a more rigid Agile approach, working on compressed sprint cycles even compared to other Agile methodologies and adhering to a rigid priority order.
  • Adaptive Project Framework: On the other hand, the Adaptive Project Framework approach is a highly flexible Agile framework, allowing for teams to adapt systems as goals and outcomes evolve

Six Sigma

Developed by Motorola, Six Sigma leverages data, operating across three components:

  • DMAIC – Define, measure, analyze, improve, control
  • DMADV – Define, measure, analyses design, verify
  • DFSS – Design for six sigma

Not all project managers regard Six Sigma as a project management methodology.

Additional Methodologies

  • Oelle1
  • Rapid Applications Development (RAD)
  • New Product Introduction (NPI)
  • Packaged Enable Reengineering (PER)
  • Outcome Mapping

Selecting the Right Methodology

Several factors drive project management methodology selection for an organization or project: team composition, need for flexibility or structure, and the nature of the tasks required to complete the project. 

Team Composition

Both the communication style and the skillset of the project team play a vital role in selecting the project management methodology. For example, a team with a robust breadth of skills can leverage resources across critical work streams with the Critical Chain methodology. Teams that benefit from clear communication around capacity will thrive with a Kanban approach. 

Flexibility or Structure

In projects where predictability is vital, more systematized approaches allow for end-to-end planning and establish fixed frameworks. Approaches like Waterfall or Six Sigma establish a structured framework.

Alternatively, projects that benefit from ongoing adjustment will thrive on more flexible approaches, like Agile, particularly an Adaptive Project or Scrum Agile framework. 

Nature of Project Tasks

If each project task relies on the preceding task, linear project management methodologies establish a clear path. On the other hand, projects that benefit from concurrent work can capitalize on resource distribution under a resource-focused model such as Critical Chain.

Additional Considerations

While no one project management methodology emerges as superior, the organizational goals, values, project size, project cost and ability to take risks should drive the organizational decision to use a project management methodology that best aligns.

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