Project management methods are sets of rules and processes that describe a project life cycle from the beginning to an end. Each of these methodologies puts emphasis on different aspects of a project. But the key to choosing the right method is to understand what the project itself is about. How to manage projects? Read our article and learn more.

How to manage projects? – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of the project management methods
  3. Waterfall
  4. Agile
  5. Summary

Introduction

Do you need a very detailed action plan before you get down to work? You will need it when you build a house as the project specifies the order in which the work must be done, and all the details – even the location of electrical outlets. The work needs to be done in a certain order and at a certain pace to get the desired result, while any change in the project is costly and risky. Therefore, the task of a person managing a linearly organized, predictive project is first and foremost to ensure that the entire team strictly adheres to the plan.

Management looks completely different when we want to create an application for trouble-free parking space reservation. You can come up with an idea of how it should work, then outsource the work to programmers, designers and graphic designers. Perhaps the application will work exactly as we have planned. However, it may turn out that it does not meet the users’ expectations. That’s why the second approach – the iterative or adaptive approach – is all about purpose and flexibility.

What the application will look like and what functions it will ultimately have will be determined during implementation. We may create many different versions, as well as features that will not be used in the final product. This will depend on the current, changing customers’ needs. The most important thing is that the application fulfills its purpose. The main task of the person managing such a project will be to wisely adapt the team’s activities to changing market requirements and terms of project implementation.

Once we recognize what type of project we are dealing with, it’s time to choose the right management method. So let’s start with an overview of the management methods.

project management

Overview of the project management methods

The most general approaches to project management can be divided into:

  • Linear, also known as predictive – where it is important to perform planned tasks and stages one at a time, and the completion of one stage is often a condition for starting the next. It facilitates the management of complex and repetitive projects
  • Iterative, or adaptive or evolutionary – where many aspects of the project are carried out simultaneously, and the goal is reached by creating successive versions of the working product improved by analyzing the achieved results, correcting and detailing them, i.e. iterations

Between these two extremes, there is a whole spectrum of intermediate management approaches that combine linear and iterative elements. Among the specific methods, the most commonly used include:

  • Waterfall
  • Agile
  • Scrum
  • Scrumban
  • Kanban
  • Extreme programming (XP)
  • Lean
  • Prince2
  • Six Sigma
  • Critical path method (CPM)
  • Critical chain project management (CCPM)

We will discuss the first two management methods below. However, a detailed description of the others will be presented in the next article.

Waterfall

The cascade method, or the waterfall method, is considered the classic method of project management. It is the method closest to the linear approach. In this approach, a project is divided into the following phases:

  • identification of requirements
  • analysis of requirements
  • solution design
  • product development
  • testing
  • implementation

You move on to the next step only after completing the previous one. That’s why waterfall works mainly for well-defined, repetitive projects implemented in a relatively stable environment.

Its benefits include a clear definition of the project’s purpose and ways of working from the very first phase of the project, which focuses on gathering guidelines from all stakeholders. The cascade model is also often chosen because it is relatively easy to manage and places great importance on project documentation, which facilitates external audits and allows you to track your task completion history.

This model also has its drawbacks. Among the most serious ones is the assumption that the organization or client knows exactly what result they want from the very beginning, and their expectations will not change during the project. The second major problem is the need to predict the optimal way to perform tasks already in the design phase. This allows for more precise budget planning, but is itself error-prone and expensive – requiring a lot of work by specialists in the early stages of the project.

Agile

Agile, a set of agile project management methods, emerged as an answer to the ills of the cascade model. It sits closest to its opposite pole, the iterative and evolutionary approach. This is because agile project management is all about continuous improvement.

According to the Agile Manifesto, the following values count above all in project implementation:

  • people and interactions over processes and tools
  • a working product over extensive documentation
  • collaboration with the customer over negotiating a contract
  • responding to change over executing a set plan

Advantages of agile project management include continuity of change and close collaboration between team members and stakeholders. One of the main disadvantages, on the other hand, is the high bar set for communication standards. This is because in Agile, frequent and deep customer engagement is required. In turn, the process of reaching an agreement can prove tedious, conflicting and difficult to coordinate, especially when many people are involved.

Summary

The key to choosing the right project management method is to understand the specifics of the project and place it on the line between the two extremes: linear and evolutionary approaches to projects. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, which is why it is so important to adapt the method of operation to the expected result, as well as the availability and quality of communication with the client.

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How to manage projects? | #3 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. What is the cascade model in project management?

    The cascade model is a proven linear management method that divides a project into successive phases. The condition for moving to the next step of project implementation is the completion of the previous one.

  2. Will Agile work for my project?

    If the project you're planning involves bringing an innovation or other out-of-the-box solution to the market, an agile approach to management should work well. After all, in Agile, the core value is speed and constantly following customer and market requirements, which provides great flexibility.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4P of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?