Project-based work is the future. Accenture’s Technology Vision report found that 79% business leaders agree this is how work will be organized in the coming decades. That explains why project management is becoming such a vast field, with different project management techniques working for different teams.
Yet, there are a few popular methodologies that project managers use all over the world to keep the work of their teams organized. This article will introduce you to those you can use, even if you don’t have advanced project management skills.
But first, let’s look at why you should even bother picking a project management technique in the first place.
Why Use a Project Planning and Management System?
A successful project often means making something out of nothing. In the beginning, it all only exists in your (and your teammates’) mind. To bring it into being, you need an operational roadmap that will define and organize the project tasks.
Using a project management technique of your choice is a great way to reach your project goals. Having a system allows you to coordinate, record, and evaluate your project activities. It also helps you navigate a project life cycle.
Even though each project is different, according to Project Management Institute, most project cycles consist of these five phases:
You could argue that it’s possible to carry out a project without adopting a particular project technique. But there are benefits of picking and sticking to one. Here’s a few of them:
- Teamwork becomes more efficient when following a structured plan: This allows the whole team to communicate better, synergize efforts, and improve their time management.
- Having a project planning system reduces the amount of time spent on decision-making: Most decisions can be made in advance and then inform the unfolding process.
- The project scope is better defined: This helps all stakeholders to be better informed about what needs to happen in each project stage.
- Risk management becomes more straightforward: When the project is laid out within a clear structure, it’s easier to spot what may potentially go wrong.
- All the above save everyone involved a ton of stress and time: The team members have more clarity on what they're doing and why. They also are more prepared for troubleshooting.
Now that you know the main advantages of implementing a project management technique, it’s time to pick one for your project.
5 Popular Project Management Techniques You Can Implement Today
There are dozens or maybe even hundreds of project management techniques, styles, and variations. We can’t possibly cover them all here. So, we decided to describe five popular ones that can be used for a variety of projects and don’t require a ton of time management experience.
Some of them are more suited for fairly small, well-integrated teams. Others are meant for more complex projects where you need to break the entire project into smaller chunks. Hopefully, by the end of this list, you’ll be able to choose a methodology that suits your project team.
Kanban is sometimes described as the simplest project management technique. It allows you to visualize project progress by dividing all your tasks into three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done. As your project unfolds, you simply move the tasks through the columns, according to their status.
Kanban boards can be organized in a project management software (e.g., Trello), but they work equally well on a flipchart and post-its. Remember to assign tasks to specific team members; otherwise, they may linger in the to-do column for ages.
What Kind of Projects Will Kanban Work For?
Kanban works well for simple projects where it’s important that everyone involved can see the project progress. It will be useful for team members who are involved in various projects at the same time. Kanban boards make it easier to remember what’s going on in which project and pick up tasks quickly.
SCRUM is a popular agile project management technique, often used for software development projects.
The core idea is to organize the workflow by the end-product features and deliverables that the team can work on within designated periods of time. These periods are called sprints and usually last 1-2 weeks. That’s why thinking in terms of weekly work plans works well in SCRUM.
After each sprint, a new iteration of the product emerges and gets reviewed. The team then moves on to the next sprint. This technique requires a lot of communication between the team members. Daily stand-ups and weekly sprint meetings are usually an inseparable part of SCRUM methodology.
What Kind of Projects Will SCRUM Work For?
SCRUM is considered an agile work method, which means it can be adaptive throughout the project. It will work well when project requirements are uncertain at the start and when teamwork is key to the project success.
Cross-functional teams who need to factor in project dependencies will also benefit from SCRUM and the flow of information it encourages.
3. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
One of the most intuitive project management techniques is Work Breakdown Structure. It allows teams to break the entire project into smaller tasks, which makes it more actionable and easier to navigate.
You can visualize this technique by putting the main project outcome on top and then dividing it into subtasks below. Those subtasks then get divided even more until you arrive at granular project activities that can be tackled one by one.
What Kind of Projects Will WBS Work For?
WBS works great when a whole team needs to be involved in the project planning. It empowers different people with relevant expertise to break down particular parts of the project.
It can also be used as a project management tool to simply break the project scope down into tasks. Then, it can be used in tandem with another project management technique.
4. Waterfall Technique
Waterfall is one of the oldest project management approaches, sometimes also referred to as “traditional project management.” It’s typically used for projects that can follow a template of five distinct phases:
- Requirements: Getting all the documentation in place
- Design: Sketching out project activities — for example, by using WBS
- Implementation: Carrying out the activities necessary for project completion
- Verification: Reviewing project outcomes against the requirements
- Maintenance: Ensuring there are processes and resources in place to maintain the outcomes
In the Waterfall method, the transition to the next phase of the project is dependent upon completing the previous one. That’s why this project management technique leaves little wiggle room for making big changes throughout the project.
What Kind of Projects Will Waterfall Work For?
As a traditional project management technique, the Waterfall method is best for fairly predictable projects. It will help you coordinate your team’s efforts when the time estimates, project schedule and costs are mostly unchanging.
If there are many unknowns at the beginning of your project, this technique probably isn’t for you.
5. Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart is a project management tool that allows you to see the project tasks stretched over time. The visual representation of a Gantt chart lists specific tasks on a vertical axis one after the other, while the timeline of those tasks is represented on a horizontal axis by bars of varying lengths.
A Gantt chart allows you to visualize project milestones and phases and see how they relate to each other in time. It also allows you to add task dependencies — i.e., information about how completion of some tasks enables starting others.
Many types of project management software have a built-in Gantt chart function. While you add the information about your project tasks, timelines, and dependencies, the software translates it into a visual representation.
What Kind of Projects Will a Gantt Chart Work For?
Gantt charts work great in projects where a lot of tasks and milestones are mutually dependent. Especially if you’re using a piece of project management software, you’ll be able to clearly see task dependencies. This may, for example, help you spot where and why the project is being delayed.
Other Project Management Techniques
While the above five techniques are a solid introduction to project management, there are a ton of other methodologies out there. Here, we’ll only mention a few of them. The ones below require a bit more project management skill to implement.
- PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique): PERT charts are visual representations of the planned project activities. They allow you to assess a project’s feasibility in advance, as well as map out all the tasks on a timeline. PERT is an invaluable tool in planning out complex projects.
- Critical Path Method (CPM): This methodology is mostly used to create an accurate project schedule. By defining critical tasks that are needed for project completion, CPM allows you to define the shortest path to project success. This helps with prioritization of tasks and creates a clear structure and project timeline.
- Extreme project management: In this case, the word ”extreme” doesn’t mean that you’ll need to do something risky or irrational. Rather, this is a project management technique designed for uncertain projects in which you need to stay adaptive and optimize for incoming changes.
Evaluate Your Project Management Methodology by Time Tracking
Project success isn’t defined only by providing the deliverables. Of course, it’s important to know that your team has met the project goals and hit deadlines. However, there’s also something to be said about project costs and whether or not they were worth your while.
One of the most important costs is your and your team’s time. Knowing how long the tasks took (versus how much time you planned them to take) can provide valuable insights about whether or not your project management technique was efficient.
Time tracking apps like Rize can help you identify inappropriate uses of your time. While you work on project tasks, Rize runs in the background and monitors whether you’re allocating enough time to those tasks that really move your project forward.
We’re so sure Rize will enhance your project management that we offer a free 14-day trial with no credit card required. Sign up now to see for yourself how your productivity and focus can improve.