Project Management Guide
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What Is a Project Management Approach?

The number — and complexity — of projects undertaken by organizations is on the rise globally. In its 2017 Job Growth and Talent Gap report, the Project Management Institute (PMI) predicts that employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. “The global economy has become more project-oriented, as the practice of project management expands within industries that were traditionally less project-oriented, such as health care, publishing, and professional services,” PMI writes. With more projects to manage and more intricacy within those projects, project managers are increasingly turning to tried-and-true methodologies to help them stay organized and maximize workflow efficiency. Each project management approach works best for certain kinds of projects. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.

Traditional project management approaches

Some of the most well-known project management approaches were developed for industries like manufacturing or engineering, which produce physical products such as buildings, cars, or computers. They include:

  • Waterfall: Perhaps the most common way to plan out a project, the Waterfall method is a simple sequential approach. Each project phase must be completed before beginning the next one, leading to the end deliverable. These project plans can be easily replicated for future use.
  • Critical path method: Similar to the Waterfall methodology, the critical path method is a sequential approach that allows project managers to prioritize resources, putting more emphasis and investment into the most important work and rescheduling lower-priority tasks that may be slowing down the team.
  • Critical chain project management (CCPM): This methodology focuses on the resources needed for each task in the project. Using this approach, the project manager identifies and allocates resources for the most crucial, high-priority tasks — the “critical chain” — and builds in buffers of time around these tasks to ensure the project’s main deadlines are met.

Agile project management approaches

Simply put, Agile project management is a collaborative methodology comprising short development cycles called “sprints” that incorporate feedback as the project progresses in an effort to embrace flexibility and continuous improvement. The methodology was developed by 17 people in 2001 as an optimized approach for software development. (Read the official Manifesto for Agile Software Development here). Agile project management focuses more on team collaboration and less on a hierarchical leadership structure. Some of the most popular Agile approaches include:

  • Scrum: This practice disperses the traditional responsibilities of the project manager among the team members, with a Scrum master serving as a leader and facilitator.
  • Kanban: Suited for projects with priorities that can frequently change, Kanban is similar to Scrum but progresses continuously, rather than in predefined sprint periods. Work is pulled in when needed and when capacity allows.
  • Extreme Programming (XP): The Extreme Programming approach was developed specifically for software engineering. It is ideal for clients who are not 100% sure what they need from the end product, and therefore need many opportunities for testing and feedback.
  • Adaptive Project Framework (APF): This approach is also suited to IT projects requiring a high level of flexibility and adaptability. It was developed by industry expert Robert K. Wysocki and is laid out step by step in his book, Adaptive Project Framework: Managing Complexity in the Face of Uncertainty.

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