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When to Use Extreme Project Management

written by: Bart Gerardi • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 4/19/2013

If you find that you have many more requirements then you can possibly deliver, or there are several choices about what to deliver, then you may need the ability to change your mind in the middle.

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    Extreme Project Management

    Extreme Project Management Extreme Project Management (XPM) is a methodology used to run complex projects that don’t necessarily have an easy to understand end point. It is somewhat related to Agile Project Management, but a different breed altogether. XPM lines up with the development methodology known as Extreme Programming. The key to both methodologies is the flexibility and adaptability built into the process. It also has client or stakeholder interactivity as a requirement for success.

    There are lots of methodologies available, and clearly not all projects can be run using any of them. The first decision that the project team has to make is to decide what methodology to use, and when to use Extreme Project Management. Projects that have a well understood outcome, have requirements that won’t change – or will change incredibly slowly – or have a strict set of rules governing the product are usually best run using another process, such as Waterfall. Think of building a skyscraper, or constructing a nuclear power plant. Getting the requirements correct and delivering exactly to specification is critical to the project’s success. Indeed, not doing so could be disastrous.

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    Types of Projects for Extreme Project Management

    However, there are certain classes of projects that don’t have this constraint. The project team (or project sponsor) is able to define and redefine success along the way. This can be because of market changes, new information, or simply the passage of time. Features and functionality can be reprioritized or simply dropped from the list of things to do. In many cases, this is what software projects are like. Software is easy to change, and can change usage as more and more customers start using the product.

    Another class of project that fits XPM very well are ones that are highly complex. If you find that you have many more requirements then you can possibly deliver, or there are several choices about what to deliver, then you may need the ability to change your mind in the middle. Also, the more requirements you need to gather, the more work you’ll have to do up front in documenting them, perhaps causing a huge delay in the project start. If your team wants to get started, and wants to make progress, then this methodology works very well.

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    When to Use Extreme Project Management

    This kind of flexibility comes with a cost, however. In other methodologies, the demands on the project sponsor are much lower. They need to be involved in the beginning to help gather requirements, and show up at the end to receive the project (and hopefully like the result.) If you have decided to use XPM, then the business owner must sign up to stay involved with the project from start to finish. In order for the list of priorities to be flexible, they must know what’s on the list, how progress is going, and be able to make intelligent tradeoffs in the moment. Additionally, the project manager has a task that doesn’t exist in other methods – human or client management. It’s a luxury to be able to get the requirements and disappear for six months or more while you build the project. In this method, the interaction between PM ad business owner and other stakeholders is not only constant, but doing it well is vital to a well run project.

    In determining when to use Extreme Project Management, you need to factor in all these considerations. You need to consider how complex the project is, how likely the requirements are to change, and how involved your business owner is going to be in the process. If the goal is progress – or speed to market – and you want to provide flexibility about what to deliver, then XPM may very well be the way to go.

    Image Credit: Francesco Marino /