10 Project Management Techniques for Success
The planning and commencement of a project is probably its most important phase. Without proper planning and project management techniques, things can unravel pretty quickly. How you plan your approach to a project and allocate people and resources will determine your success.
No matter how many projects you may have worked on before, it helps to know some project management techniques and tools, as these are your key to a good outcome. This way, each stage of the project can be planned into a logical set of tasks that need to be completed.
Depending on the type of project, this set of tasks and the way you approach them can change. You can always adapt your management techniques to suit your project.
This article takes a closer look at some of the most common problem-solving and organisation techniques in project management.
Why do you need project management techniques?
Adopting a variety of project management techniques can benefit businesses of all kinds and sizes. With repeated processes and tools and problem-solving skills, you can more easily manage the work involved in a project, and the people in charge of that work. If you’re just getting started with project management, learning these techniques can give you a better chance of success.
Effective project management techniques will help you to achieve your goals on time, stay in budget, deliver projects consistently and to a high standard, and generally boost your chances of success. The quality and consistency of your work should improve, which decreases the chance of a project failing or major problems occurring, and will satisfy senior stakeholders as well as staff, clients and customers.
If you’re looking to have a track record of consistently improving productivity levels and the quality of your work, having a few tried and tested project management techniques under your belt is a great way to go.
10 project management techniques you should use
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most common project management techniques that will enable you to succeed, time and again.
1. The traditional approach
Many people still use a traditional and standard method of project management. This involves noting the tasks within a project that need to get done, and creating a monitoring schedule that ensures they get completed on time and to a high standard.
If you decide on the traditional route as a project manager, it’s likely that you’ll be closely monitoring your staff to ensure they complete tasks on time, while offering support and resources where necessary, and keeping higher management informed of your progress.
All of these processes will work in sync to ensure a successful outcome. If you adopt a traditional project management process, you’ll adopt a cycle of planning, execution, monitoring and conclusion. You’ll need to keep on top of documentation, time constraints, budget and priorities, which can change at any time.
While the time available and budget allocated for the project may change, the requirements of that project will likely remain fixed. The benefits of a traditional approach, however, is that you have clear control over defined objectives, and more accountability.
2. An Agile method
An Agile approach to project management isn’t too far away from a traditional one, but it cuts down some of the project’s larger goals into smaller short-term ones that team members can quickly achieve.
This approach is more appropriate for projects that require lots of small goals to be met quickly. The Agile method is commonly used in software development, as it enables team members working on a project to be in charge of their own short-term goals and tasks, and make their own decisions regarding them.
An Agile method to project management requires flexibility from all team members, and strong teamwork. Rather than focusing on tools and processes, it focuses on each individual in a project and whether they are keeping up with their allocated targets. Rather than following a fixed plan, the process responds quickly to change. This enables priorities to change when they need to and forecasts to remain adaptable, with greater transparency.
Based on Agile project management methods, Scrum is a technique that is designed for a small team working on a project. The project has a lead, known as a Scrum master, who removes any problems and obstacles that may be in the way of getting the work completed on time. Work is done in ‘sprints’, which are short work cycles that usually last around 30 days.
Teams often meet daily, with stand-ups to discuss work tasks and any problems that need to be addressed by the Scrum master. Scrum methods are usually adopted for projects that require testing and development (such as a UX project), usually with a small number of team members. This enables a focus on high-priority tasks, to ensure each one is completed before the next stage.
4. Critical path management
A critical path project management technique involves pointing out tasks that are vital for completion of a project, determining flexible schedules in order to meet them. A critical path is essentially a plan that outlines the longest sequence of milestones that have to be completed in order for the project to be finished.
Any delays in this sequence will delay the entire timescale of the project. Critical path management techniques were first developed in the 1950s to resolve problems with inefficient scheduling. Since then, they have become a common way for project managers to plan the important stages of a project.
Critical path management helps managers calculate via a timeline exactly how long tasks will take, helping them to identify which tasks are urgent or non-critical. This helps to speed up efficiency, as teams can prioritise tasks that will take longer, or that require more time and effort. It also helps to prevent bottlenecks, as managers can identify which tasks can run alongside one another, and which ones can’t.
A waterfall project management technique involves team members completing each task in turn, ensuring that their current task is complete before moving on to the next one. Tasks need to be carried out in a chronological sequence for the waterfall method to work. If tasks aren’t carried out this way, the technique doesn’t work.
Good communication skills are important so that every person working on their own individual task gets things done in good time. Waterfall methods are usually used for projects like software or product development, as everything is done in fixed stages like analysis, design, implementation and testing.
Each phase has to be completed before the next stage can begin, so a high level of accuracy is important, and almost all of the research linked to the project is done in advance. With this in mind, it’s harder to change course with a waterfall-style project than it is with an Agile approach.
With an adaptive project management style, decisions and practices can gradually be improved as a project progresses. Teams and managers learn from any mistakes and outcomes of the previous stage of a project, and resolve these problems so that outcomes are more positive at the next stage.
As the name suggests, an adaptive project management style adapts to the needs of a project and a company, and can take a number of variations. Rather than following a strict set of criteria, this management technique enables you to make decisions as you go, adapting your techniques and tools as you better understand the challenges and successes of a project.
This type of project management technique is rooted in change, and is often driven by client feedback. It places the client at the centre of a project, with them taking the lead and deciding how the project pans out and the next steps to be taken. The client also has the power to change the direction of the project and the goals that need to be accomplished.
7. Project evaluation and review technique (PERT)
PERT is a method of project management planning that is used to calculate the precise amount of time it will take to complete a project from start to finish. PERT charts are used in this type of management technique. These charts date back to the 1950s, when they were used to manage defence projects and the use and creation of weapons within the US Navy.
The private sector then harnessed this type of project management and applied it to businesses. With a PERT technique, you create three time estimates for a project’s completion. This includes the shortest amount of time that each task may take, the longest amount of time things may take if problems occur, and the most likely amount of time that each task will take. These time estimates are usually calculated backwards from a final deadline date, taking into account contractor deadlines, which tend to be less flexible.
Some project managers use PERT alongside a critical path approach to enable them to closely evaluate the amount of time each project is taking and the budgets and resources being used. PERT is commonly used in manufacturing, as it helps companies to more accurately track production timelines and costs.
A Kanban project management system involves using a Kanban board, which offers a visual guide to the tasks that need completion within a project, as well as their current status and their level of priority. A Kanban board will typically consist of a number of columns or stacks, which represent tasks that need doing and their current status – which could be ‘pending’, ‘in progress’ or ‘finished’.
Each team member is typically given access of some kind to the Kanban board so that they can see a display of their own (and the wider team’s) project tasks that need completion. Kanban boards also identify any delays or problems with a project, and enable team members to be allocated or assigned tasks.
As tasks are completed, the project entry on the Kanban is moved from one column to another, until it’s within the ‘completion’ column. Kanban boards are part of Agile project management styles, as they focus on efficiency, and show what exactly is being worked on in the present moment.
9. Rational unified process (RUP)
This is a project management tool mainly used by software development companies. It enables companies to develop beta versions of software so that they can test how the software operates and make several improved versions of it while assessing performance. This ensures that the best product available is released to market.
RUP involves making many changes and adjustments as a project nears completion, usually as a result of test results that can help to improve software performance and user experience. RUP also enables risks to be identified quickly and clearly, and quality assurance can be tested to ensure that a software product is of good quality.
10. Extreme project management
Despite the name, this project management technique is not as stressful and overbearing as it sounds. In any project, there are often mundane tasks that need doing that are repetitive in nature. Extreme project management focuses on scheduling as much work as possible to increase productivity.
This includes introducing daily, weekly or monthly routines when mundane and repetitive tasks are completed. For example, software systems may be updated and organised at a later point in the day or at night to ease disruption during the working day.
Choosing the right project management method
It’s important to choose the right project management method so that you reach a project’s targets and improve team efficiency. Team members working within a project will need to know which method you are using, so that they are aware of what is expected of them and their roles.
Begin by setting out the goals of the project, as well as the resources and budget allocated for it. You may also want to consider the timeline, stakeholders, team roles and company structure. Note the limitations of the project, and what is high priority. This will help you to choose a project management technique that suits your objectives.
By completing a project management qualification, you can learn a variety of strategies that can help you with a role in HR, business, construction and a range of other industries.