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The Top 7 Project Management Techniques Every Project Manager Needs to Employ

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/6/2011

According to project management experts, nearly every kind of project can be handled using one of just seven recognized methodologies. From the extremely simple to the simply extreme, each of these project management techniques will be useful to project managers at all stages of their careers.

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    1. Traditional Project Management

    In many situations, the classic approach to project management remains the most appropriate. This simple method requires little more than an assessment of the tasks required to complete a project and a process to monitor their completion. During the course of the project, managers provide coaching, feedback, and assessment of team members, on the way to an agreed outcome. This kind of simple project management strategy works best with small groups when members do not necessarily need to wait on each other’s completed tasks to move forward.

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    2. Waterfall Project Management

    Taking traditional project management to the next level, the waterfall approach assumes that individual team members rely on each other to complete tasks in sequence. As contributions to the common goal build, they enable more team members to take on larger tasks. In some cases, teams can actually get larger over the course of the project as more and more opportunities to complete tasks are created. Many waterfall style projects can be tracked using Gantt charts that symbolize project timelines and dependencies.

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    3. Rational Unified Process

    Named for the company where it was first developed, the Rational Unified Process matches the iterative style of software development projects. RUP style projects work well with cyclical projects that integrate feedback from end users for future production cycles. Although RUP projects can often resemble waterfall projects, RUP places more emphasis on the “transition" phase at the end of a cycle, where products enter the hands of end users for evaluation and future evolution.

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    4. PERT Project Management

    Challenges of the Cold War spurred defense contractors to collaborate with the armed forces on a new model for large-scale project management. Dubbed the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, this style of project management works very well for one-time manufacturing or development processes that may evolve or expand over time. Using this technique, project managers differentiate between events (that measure progress) and activities (that get things done). Carefully estimating the amount of time between events forms the basis of both timelines and budgets. Project managers track their progress using a PERT chart.

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    5. Critical Path Project Management

    Popular among scientists and manufacturers since its development in the 1950s, critical path project management relies heavily on task duration estimates and dependencies. Based on similar principles as the PERT method, Critical Path focuses on speeding up tasks through measurement and prioritization. By analyzing the amount of time it should take to complete a task, project managers can develop a clear picture of the overall timeframe for a project. By charting paths between tasks that rely on the completion of earlier tasks, managers can compress a project into the shortest possible amount of time.

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    6. Critical Chain Project Management

    An evolution of both PERT and Critical Path methodologies, the Critical Chain method helps project managers reshape their teams and goals around budgets and other constraints. Instead of using Critical Path projections to determine the shortest possible project length, project managers can use the data to model potential cost savings and benefits of changing or eliminating project elements. Critical Chain management styles have become popular among managers in highly competitive industries, such as auto manufacturing and consumer electronics.

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    7. Extreme Project Management

    Internet distribution changed project management for many companies, especially firms that focus on developing web-enabled software. Extreme project management techniques speed up the iterative cycles of Rational project management into weekly or daily processes. In some instances, project managers assign a name or number to the product at the end of each cycle, regardless of its completeness or functionality. “Nightly builds" and regular updates are hallmarks of extreme projects, which often handle user requests as prompts for future cycles. Agile programming and Scrum programming are two examples of extreme project management techniques.