Which Project Management Approach is Right for Me?

When an organization needs to achieve results and forecasted objectives on-schedule and under-budget, using a Project Management (PM) methodology can be helpful.  No matter what industry or discipline, the PM approach you select can facilitate every stage of your project from kick-off to completion.  A number of factors must be considered in order to determine the appropriate methodology for your project or company.  Such factors may include (but are not limited to) the project purpose, timeline, and cost, in addition to how specific tasks will be delegated.


A PM methodology is a model that helps a project manager design, plan, execute, and accomplish the goals of a project.  Although there are many approaches, not all of them will be a good fit for every project.  For example, the PM methodology used by a construction company to erect a building might not be the best choice for a nonprofit launching a new fundraising campaign.  In this post, we will discuss some of the most commonly used approaches to project management.


Project Methodologies


  1. Traditional


In the Traditional PM approach, the project’s lifecycle has linear timelines and fixed phases.  A Traditional methodology lays out a sequence of tasks to be performed, and project development is divided into five stages:


Traditional PM Stages



Because projects can often be discontinued early, not every project will have all five components.  Additionally, many projects may cycle through steps II-IV more than once prior to completion.


  1. Agile


Agile PM is an incremental and iterative approach to managing a project’s requirements in a nimble and communicative way.  Agile PM necessitates both customer and supplier input, and is often most effective when leveraged for small-scale projects or for elements of a larger program.  Techniques used in the Agile methodology may also be referred to as “extreme project management.”


The Agile PM approach calls for an iterative project lifecycle, meaning that deliverables are submitted in every stage of the timeline.  A project that develops more incrementally allows almost constant feedback, which helps mitigate the effects of long-term uncertainty in complex environments.  When applied and executed appropriately, the outcome of this methodology is a project or product that meets all customer requirements with minimal wasted resources.


  1. Event Chain


The Event Chain (or Critical Chain) PM methodology focuses on identifying and managing circumstances that will impact the project timeline.  The Event Chain approach is built around some explicit principles:

  • Probabilistic moment of risk:  Most real-life tasks will be subject to external factors.
  • Event chains:  Events not only have a discrete effect on project timeline, but also cause chain reactions that cumulatively influence the course of a project.
  • Critical events:  Network analysis can be used to determine which events or event chains will be the most impactful.
  • Project tracking with events:  Data on a project’s resource usage and event chains can be used to estimate future event probabilities and project performance.
  • Event chain visualization:  Event sequences can be depicted visually using diagrams like the Gantt chart below.



  1. Lean


The Lean PM methodology, as its name suggests, applies lean thinking to a project environment.  The concept of “lean” originated in manufacturing and prioritizes maximized value with minimal waste.  Consequently, implementing the Lean PM approach is concentrated on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantities.  An exemplary lean system is implemented through the following action steps:

  1. Simplify the system design.
  2. Acknowledge room for improvement.

iii.            Continuously improve.


  1. Process-Based


Process-Based PM is an approach that aligns project operations with the vision, mission, and values of the organization.  The process itself dictates what actions are taken on a project.  Process-Based PM keeps the project aimed at accomplishing a specific objective rather than breaking down precise activities and tasks.


Process-Based PM offers a number of advantages to the execution of a project.  In addition to unifying the project management approach with the company’s values, continuous process improvements lead to an increase in value-add activities as well as the elimination of unnecessary costs.  The Process-Based PM methodology consists of six stages:

  1. Define the process.
  2. Establish process evaluation measures.

iii.            Analyze process performance.

  1. Examine process stability and tweak objectives if needed.
  2. Plan improvements.
  3. Execute improvements.


No matter the industry, discipline, and requirements of your project, selecting a PM methodology will enhance your project planning and execution.  The five approaches listed here are some of the most common but are by no means the whole story.  With a moderate amount of research, you can find the Project Management strategy that makes the most sense for your organization.

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