- What is a project management style?
- Why is an effective project management style the key to success?
- Most used project management types
The critical decision of selecting the perfect project management style for your team’s needs can profoundly impact the outcome of your endeavors, influencing everything from workflow efficiency to timelines and team collaboration dynamics. It’s a choice that requires a deep understanding of your project’s scope, goals, and the unique characteristics of the team members, and today we will try to understand this decision better.
This article will elucidate the different project management styles, such as adaptable and iterative Agile or structured and sequential Waterfall. Each type brings its own strengths and weaknesses, making it essential for project managers seeking to have a firm grasp of their options. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager seeking to refine your approach to existing teams or a newcomer about to hire dedicated development teams, our practical guide will help you navigate the intricate landscape of project management styles and types.
What is a project management style?
In a word, a project management style is a structured approach or methodology used to plan, execute, and control development projects. It defines the principles, processes, and software project management best practices that guide project managers and teams in managing tasks, allocating resources, and achieving objectives. These styles can vary widely, and the choice influences how a workflow is organized, how risks are managed, and how collaboration among team members is facilitated.
Why is an effective project management style the key to success?
Effective management type can be compared with the compass that guides a work process from its inception to its successful completion. Effective management styles in project management transform the chaotic flow of tasks, resources, and timelines into a coherent and achievable plan. Such a management type is pivotal for project success because it provides clarity and direction. It ensures that all team members understand their roles, responsibilities, and overarching objectives, reducing confusion and enhancing focus as well as the feeling of engagement. In essence, it sets the project on a well-defined course, making it easier to navigate through the complexities of execution.
Additionally, solid project management types are a cornerstone for efficient resource allocation. Different projects have varying resource requirements, and the chosen style is critical in optimizing resource management. This means the right individuals with the most relevant skill sets are assigned to specific tasks, preventing resource bottlenecks or wasteful underutilization. It also allows careful budgeting, as resources are allocated based on a well-thought-out plan. Moreover, an appropriate style often encompasses risk management strategies, helping project managers identify potential challenges early and establish mitigation plans. This cautious approach minimizes disruptions to timelines and budgets, ultimately contributing to a higher likelihood of successful project outcomes.
Most used project management types
Within the dynamic technological field, several methodologies have emerged as the most frequently employed by professionals and organizations. These management styles are tried-and-true approaches that have demonstrated their effectiveness across various industries and contexts. So, let’s dive into the most widely adopted techniques, dissecting their core principles and practical applications.
Waterfall project management
Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach to managing projects that divides its lifecycle into several distinct phases. Each phase is completed before the next one begins, and progress flows in a cascading manner, much like a waterfall (that’s actually the reason why it is called so). The approach typically comprises a series of well-defined steps, including initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure. Waterfall’s structured nature makes it particularly suitable for projects with clearly defined objectives and stable requirements, where changes are expected to be minimal throughout the project duration.
Pros and cons
Let’s begin with the Waterfall’s advantages:
- Clarity and structure: It provides a structured framework for project execution, helping teams understand their tasks and responsibilities clearly;
- Predictability: Due to its sequential nature and early goals clarification, Waterfall can offer a high degree of predictability in terms of the project durations and budgets;
- Documentation: Extensive documentation is a hallmark of the approach, ensuring detailed processes record on each development stage;
- Client involvement: Clients often have a clear picture of what to expect since requirements are specified upfront, reducing the need for ongoing client involvement.
- Limited flexibility: Waterfall is less adaptable to changes in project scope or requirements, making it less suitable for dynamic or evolving projects;
- Late feedback: Stakeholder feedback is typically gathered toward the end of the project, which can lead to challenges in addressing issues or changes, taking plenty of time;
- Long delivery time: Any kind of work can take longer to complete as each phase must be finished before the next one begins.
- Risk of scope creep: Changes in requirements that arise after the initiation can be challenging to accommodate without significant disruptions to the work processes.
Agile project management methodology
Being a relatively new approach, formally introduced two decades ago as a response to traditional methods, the Agile approach was a paradigm shift in how projects are conceived and executed. Unlike conventional linear project methodologies, Agile embraces flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement as its core principles. The Agile approach is often described as one that puts working software over documentation.
With the Agile approach, projects are typically broken into small, manageable increments known as iterations, with frequent reassessment and adjustment based on evolving requirements and stakeholder feedback. This approach places a premium on collaboration and communication between team members, prioritizing customer needs, and delivering value incrementally throughout the project lifecycle.
Pros and cons
- Flexibility: Agile allows for adaptive changes, making it well-suited for projects with evolving or uncertain requirements;
- Rapid delivery: Incremental releases mean that valuable features or products can be delivered to stakeholders sooner;
- Stakeholder engagement: Agile approach promotes ongoing collaboration and feedback (including continuous incorporation of customer feedback), ensuring that the project aligns closely with stakeholders goals;
- Enhanced quality: Frequent testing and inspection lead to higher-quality deliverables.
- Relative complexity: Agile style may be more challenging to implement in large, complex projects;
- Lack of predictability: Due to its adaptive nature, Agile can be less predictable in terms of timelines and budgets;
- Documentation emphasis: While Agile values working software over comprehensive documentation, it may require a shift in documentation practices for some teams;
- Resource demands: Agile requires active involvement from team members, potentially leading to increased resource demands.
Important note: Most types of project management strategies mentioned below (apart from the last one) are based on the Agile method to some extent.
Scrum project management
Scrum is a widely recognized and practiced Agile framework. Apart from being popular in software engineering, nowadays, its popularity has extended to other industries and domains. While it shares its foundation with Agile principles, Scrum has evolved into a distinct approach with its own set of practices and roles. At its core, Scrum emphasizes iterative progress through short development cycles called “sprints.” These sprints typically last two to four weeks and culminate in potentially shippable increments of the product. Scrum divides your company’s members into small cross-functional and self-organizing groups collaborating closely to deliver value to customers. This framework places a significant focus on transparency, inspection, and adaption, including regular meetings, such as daily or weekly stand-ups and sprint reviews, in order to facilitate communication and continuous improvement.
Pros and cons
Scrum offers several advantages, including improved collaboration among team members, enhanced adaptability to changing requirements, and increased customer satisfaction through iterative deliveries. However, it may present challenges related to its strict roles and ceremonies, which may require a significant adjustment period for teams unfamiliar with the framework. Additionally, Scrum’s success is highly dependent on the commitment and engagement of all team members, and it may not be suitable for all project types or organizational cultures.
Kanban project management
Kanban, another notable Agile framework, finds its roots in Agile principles but has developed its own unique set of practices. Originating from Japanese manufacturing principles, Kanban has been adapted for various knowledge work domains, including software project management. The core idea behind Kanban is to visualize work, limit work in progress, and manage workflow efficiency. It often happens through leveraging the tables or cards, so-called Kanban boards, adapted into spreadsheets nowadays. The cards may include the status, description, and date of delivery of each task. Kanban categorizes the types of tasks in Swimlanes depending on the responsible person, the specifics of each task, etc. Kanban provides an equal load of work and transparency to the teams and applies to projects of any complexity.
Instead of fixed sprint cycles, Kanban promotes a continuous flow of work items through a visual board where tasks move from “To-Do” to “In Progress” to “Done.” This approach provides transparency into the project’s status and allows teams to adapt quickly to changing priorities or bottlenecks. Kanban is typically self-organizing and focuses on delivering value steadily and predictably.
Pros and cons
Kanban’s strengths lie in its simplicity for all parties, adaptability, and straight focus on optimizing the workflow. It excels in scenarios where work items have varying priorities or sizes and need to be completed continuously. Kanban’s visual boards offer excellent transparency, making it easier to identify and address process inefficiencies as well as workflow delays, leading to increased time management and long-term planning. However, its success depends heavily on the team’s discipline and commitment to maintaining work limits and consistently improving processes. Additionally, for projects that require strict timeboxing or fixed delivery dates, Kanban’s open-ended nature may pose challenges in terms of predictability and planning.
Important note: Modern companies can also combine various similar types of PM styles, such as Agile and Scrum approaches. In other cases, for instance, incorporating certain elements of different types of project management creates a new hybrid approach (Scrumban = Scrum + Kanban).
Lean project management
Lean project management style techniques are an approach deeply rooted in Lean manufacturing principles, initially pioneered by Toyota. It seeks to eliminate waste, optimize processes, and deliver value efficiently. Lean principles emphasize maximizing customer value while minimizing resources and time spent on non-value-added activities. In the context of types of project management styles, Lean focuses on resource-saving activities, reducing unnecessary steps and overhead. The two main principles of the Lean approach are delivering more with less and as late as possible principle regarding the decision-making process. Lean aims to fast delivery with a sharp focus on customer needs.
Pros and cons
Lean’s strengths lie in its ability to enhance efficiency, reduce waste, and improve customer satisfaction by delivering value quickly. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement and empowers teams to adapt swiftly to ever-changing project requirements. However, Lean may face challenges in highly regulated or heavily documented environments where certain processes are mandatory. Additionally, its success depends heavily on the commitment of all team members to identify and eliminate waste continually, which may require a cultural shift for some organizations and companies. While Lean is excellent at streamlining processes, it may not provide the same level of detailed guidance as other approaches for project planning and execution.
eXtreme programming (XP)
Extreme programming, commonly known as XP, is another Agile software development style. In contrast to previous types of management in project management, it was originally designed for software engineering. XP prioritizes customer satisfaction by delivering valuable software features frequently and consistently. It encourages frequent communication between developers and customers, focusing on small and regular releases, continuous integration, and test-driven development. This approach also emphasizes software quality metrics, improvement, cost savings, and responsiveness to changes in requirements.
For instance, one of the typical practices of XP is implying a pair programming of two developers writing and reviewing the code to eliminate unproductive activities. It takes the speed of task delivery to extreme levels and makes the cycles very short.
Pros and cons
XP’s strengths include its ability to foster close collaboration between development teams and customers, leading to improved product quality and customer satisfaction. Test-driven development helps identify and rectify issues early in the development process. Frequent, small releases enable teams to respond rapidly to changing requirements. However, XP may require a radical cultural shift for many organizations, especially for those accustomed to more traditional types of project management plans and strategies. Additionally, while it excels in delivering high-quality software, it may not be available for all types of projects. The emphasis on close collaboration and frequent communication can be challenging to implement in distributed or large-scale projects depending on remote teams.
Six Sigma project management
Six Sigma is a data-driven process improvement approach that has gained widespread recognition across industries for enhancing quality, reducing defects, and increasing operation efficiency. Its name derives from its goal of achieving statistical perfection, with “sigma representing standard deviation. While Six Sigma is primarily known as a quality improvement approach, its principles and tools can be applied to project management to drive more successful outcomes.
Six Sigma emphasizes a structured approach, often following the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) or DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) methodologies. These approaches help project managers identify, analyze, and eliminate defects or inefficiencies in processes, resulting in better project performance and reduced risks. Six Sigma’s key elements include rigorous data analysis, process mapping, and statistical tools to drive decision-making, encouraging the involvement of cross-functional teams. It ensures that different perspectives are considered in problem-solving and process improvement efforts.
Pros and cons
The advantages of the approach include the focus on quality improvement, data-driven decision-making (which is more and more actual), process optimization, and its structured methodology, which provides a clear framework for problem-solving and project execution. However, there are some drawbacks to consider, such as the resource-intensive nature of implementation, potential complexity for smaller projects or organizations, longer project durations due to rigorous data analysis, and the possibility of facing resistance to change when introducing Six Sigma.
Which style of project management to choose
The style choice in your development project depends on several factors, including the nature of the product or service, your organizational culture, and your team’s expertise. For instance, projects with evolving requirements are well-compatible with Agile styles, such as Scrum, Kanban, or even Scrumban. At the same time, based on project size, large and complex projects typically require more structured methodologies like Six Sigma. Generally, factors such as type, size, timeline, level of customer involvement, resource availability, risk tolerance, regulatory requirements, and previous experience impact the final decision.
Depending on your project, there is a wide variety of methods to stick to in software development. Being a trusted software development company with a vast portfolio across various industries, ELITEX usually resorts to a variety of Agile project management approaches that allow us to deliver high-quality projects on time and at less cost. However, each situation is unique and requires its unique approach. And, in case you still have any doubts about the project management style, contact our specialists to get answers to all your questions from industry experts.
How do I choose the right project management approach for my project?
Assess your project’s complexity, timeline, and adaptability to change to choose the right PM approach. Waterfall may suit well-defined projects, while Agile methods are better for ever-evolving requirements.
How do project managers ensure effective communication and collaboration among multidisciplinary teams?
Regular meetings, clear documentation, and collaboration tools may help you achieve effective communication and collaboration between multidisciplinary teams. Project managers should encourage open dialogue and ensure everyone understands their roles.
What kind of positive impact can be obtained through choosing the right project management style for my project?
Choosing the right style of project management can lead to improved efficiency, higher quality outcomes, reduced risks, and greater stakeholder satisfaction, ultimately enhancing project success.
How can project management software enhance the efficiency of the workflow?
Project management software enhances workflow by providing a centralized platform for task tracking, resource allocation, streamlined communication, and easy access to project documentation. It helps teams stay organized, collaborate effectively, and manage tasks more efficiently, ultimately improving project productivity and success.
Can I mix various styles of project management styles within a single project?
While it’s technically possible to blend styles of PM within a project, practically, it can be a complex task. Careful planning is necessary to ensure a cohesive approach that aligns with project goals.
How do project managers tackle unique challenges presented by interconnected projects?
Tackling challenges in interconnected projects involves clear communication, resource allocation, and a focus on managing dependencies to ensure smooth progress and timely completion.
What are visible project schedules in project management?
Visible project schedules are visual representations of project timelines, tasks, and milestones. They help teams and stakeholders track progress, make informed decisions, and ensure projects stay on track.
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