Choosing the project management technique pretty much means defining the way you approach a certain project.
As such, PM technique is crucial in mapping the project development – planning all the milestones and tasks, distribution of work, the use of resources, collaboration among team members as well as cooperation between a team and a client, etc. The value of the end result will be hugely influenced by the technique you used.
There are numerous PM techniques at your disposal and all of them overlap in certain segments. The importance of milestones in project management is undeniable. So, whatever technique you choose, you will still have a network of milestones and tasks.
However, there are also significant differences. Some of them are linear and don’t view possible corrections kindly while others thrive on going back, redoing something and making it better.
Overall, selecting the right project management technique will be primarily determined by the type of project you’re working on.
Here are 5 essential techniques every project manager should be aware of in order to efficiently organize and complete assignments.
1) Critical Chain Method
Critical Chain Method is highly appreciated by the PM professionals and its introduction is often thought to be one of the most significant events in the field of project management. This method is the creation of Israeli physicist Eliyahu Goldratt, who mentioned it for the first time in his 1997 book ‘Critical Chain’
While doing his research, Dr. Goldratt focused on human factors influencing the project tasks being completed on time. They are:
- Student Syndrome: Waiting for the latest possible moment to start a scheduled task.
- Parkinson’s Law: Organizing a task workflow in a manner that will take you the full assigned duration to complete it
- Multitasking: Not dedicating your full attention to one task but working on several of them at the same time
The primary focus of CCM is on the management of resources, risks, and uncertainties. It has a more flexible approach when it comes to scheduling and puts more attention to analyzing how much time the team spends on different project activities.
By applying this method, organizations will be able to make their projects run faster and finish tasks ahead of schedule. It’s all about extracting the maximum of everyone involved, minimizing the resource constraints and using buffers to control projects in a more effective way.
Buffers have an important place in CCM as they are strategic points within a project diagram dealing with any unexpected events.
There are 4 types of buffers:
- Project Buffer – protects the project’s completion date. It is added between the last task and the completion date on the network diagram.
- Feeding Buffer – added to the tasks on a non-critical chain to eliminate any possible effects on the critical chain and prevent delays from happening.
- Resource Buffer – incorporated into a critical chain to ensure all resources are available when needed.
- Capacity Buffer – added in the case of some unpredicted budget issues.
Although mostly used by big organizations with a lot of resources, the Critical Chain Method will be suitable for smaller projects as well. Some of the benefits of this PM technique are increased team productivity and accelerated project completion.
2) Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT)
Program Evaluation Review Technique or simply PERT is one of the best PM techniques available today. What it does is calculate the amount of time you would need to successfully finish your project. PERT charts are top-notch project management tools giving you a visual outline of all the assignments and help you in planning and scheduling tasks.
As already mentioned, the project management milestones are a significant part of the project management process. On PERT charts they are represented by nodes connected by lines and arrows which indicate what steps need to be taken and how much of your time will each of them consumes.
As a user, you will be able to see 4-time estimations. The first one is “Optimistic” which states the shortest time possible while “Pessimistic” is based on the worst-case scenario. There are also “The Most Likely“, which is the best possible estimate in the case everything goes smoothly and without any problems, and “Expected time” if things don’t go as planned and you run into some obstacles along the way.
PERT was created by the US Navy’s Special Project Office back in 1957 to track the nuclear submarine project Polaris. Over time, just like many other successful military ventures, the private sector started applying these charts in their project management methodology.
They are often used in combination with CPM (Critical Path Method) because while PERT is concentrating on time, the CPM controls both the time and costs of the project.
Like pretty much everything in life, the PERT comes with its set of pros and cons. On the upside, this PM technique will improve your project organization as well as the ability to predict necessary resources. However, it’s not the best option for the more complex projects since in those situations charts might be quite difficult to interpret.
The Hybrid actually represents the fusion of two well – known methodologies – Agile and Waterfall. The project management world has been divided between those who believe the traditional method is the best for developing projects and those who insist on the Agile approach.
Hybrid, as its name implies, is a mixture of both. It is combining the greatest traits of both systems by bringing users a structured planning procedure as well as the flexibility to make changes as the project progresses.
Just like with Waterfall, the first step is to gather all important information and necessary documents.
During this initial phase, everything is analyzed, including deadlines and guidelines, and the goal is created. From this stage onwards, the Hybrid method incorporates Agile practices. This means that you will be able to do work in short development cycles (sprints) and work on improvements until the client’s requirements are met. Thanks to the iterative trait of the project, the stakeholders and the team have a close working relationship.
So, when applying this methodology, you will be able to deliver a more precise project assessment and to react to any eventual changes in the market in a timely matter and provide a wanted product faster. All in all, this system will be the best fit for medium-sized projects with an intermediate level of complexity and a fixed budget.
Originally based on PROMPT, the initial PRINCE method was introduced for the first time in the 1980s by Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) and it is an acronym from Projects in a Controlled Environment.
Its main usage back in the day was to help U.K. Government manage IT projects but in the 1990’s it was upgraded (hence 2 in the title) so it can be used in a variety of industries.
PRINCE2 is a process-based approach that can be used to manage the project of any type or size. It is adaptable and flexible. One of the biggest perks of applying this technique is that it belongs to the public domain, meaning it is free. Given this fact, its growing popularity comes as no surprise. This project management system is all about the extremely organized development agenda. Even before the project starts, everything is meticulously planned. Every phase of the process is strictly designed and controlled from start to finish.
The methodology of PRINCE2 is formed on 7 principles which serve as guiding points and are considered mandatory.
The 7 core PRINCE2 principles are:
- Continued business justification – there must be an acceptable reason for the existence of the project.
- Learn from experience – this is happening throughout the project life cycle; the team members are required to learn from past mistakes.
- Clearly outlined roles and responsibilities – allocating tasks and responsibilities to the right people.
- Manage by stages – work is planned and managed in phases; assessment of whether the project is on track is done at the end of every stage.
- Manage by exception – management on a daily basis is done by the project manager; project requirements (cost, time, etc.) are determined by the project board.
- Focus on a product – the team must constantly make sure the project requirements are met.
- Tailor to suit the project environment – the method should be adapted to fit the needs of every project (e.g. the number of people involved).
From beginning to end, the lifecycle of the project is represented in 7 processes: Starting up, Directing, Initiation, Controlling, Managing Product Delivery, Managing Stage Boundaries, and Closing. Each of these processes encompasses a set of activities and responsibilities.
It is extremely important to keep records of all the valuable documents. Aside from helping you stay on track, they will also help you improve your future work practice. There are 7 types of PRINCE2 documentation (themes): Business case (a detailed description of why the project is needed and its expected benefits), Risk register, Quality register, Issues register, Lesson log, and Daily log.
Overall, the PRINCE2 project management technique will expand communication among team members and between the team and stakeholders. It’s a cost-effective and time – saving method with a flexibility that will allow fixing any issues that might appear as the project progresses.
5) Lean Project Management
The proper implementation of Lean Project Management will lead to increasing the value of the whole process while minimizing the waste of time and resources.
It all started after World War II when the country of Japan was trying to revitalize its manufacturing industry. With the assistance of American consultants, Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota were able to develop a JIT (Just In Time) technique that will help them improve in terms of efficiency. When the energy crisis hit in the 1970s, companies around the world started researching and implementing the Toyota Production System (TPS). The Lean business philosophy derives from this system.
The book Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation by Womack and Jones was published in 1996 and in the book, the site the 5 core principle of this method that will help you set a successful production model and they are:
- Specify value – establishing what the customer is willing to pay for a specific product or service.
- Determine value stream – mapping the entire process, every step from start to finish. By doing this you will be able to identify which of them brings value to the project and which one does not.
- Create value flow – making sure that the whole process goes without interruptions and delays.
- Pull approach – the core belief is that nothing is created before the customer asks for it. This goes against a more traditional Push approach but it also eliminates the waste of resources.
- Improve – in the pursuit of perfection (a waste-free system) it is important to learn from your mistakes and find better, more efficient ways to deliver a product.
One of the best definitions of what it means to be Lean is given by PMI (Project Management Institute) and it says – “to provide what is needed, when is needed, with the minimum amount of materials, equipment, labor, and space.”
Although made for the manufacturing industry, this technique is used today in different business fields. It will optimize your workflow by managing your time and tasks in a more constructive manner with the goal to deliver more value to the customer.
However, this methodology is probably not the best fit for teams that are used to a more rigid project management style since adapting to the Lean system might be quite difficult for them.