February 27, 2020

6 Project Management Techniques Every PM Should Know

By Brian McHale

The beginning of a project is the most important phase. How you choose to divide work and set up the processes will define your ultimate success.

Now, if you haven’t managed a lot of projects before, you might feel confused. You’ve heard of some techniques, but you’re still not sure which ones suit your project best.

Fear not!

We’re here to show you 6 project management techniques you should consider, and help you choose the best one for your next project.

Let’s take a look!

Why Do You Need Project Management Techniques (and what’s the difference anyway)?

At the beginning of your project, there are so many unknown variables that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

And this is where having a procedure helps.

Project management techniques are your procedure. They are your roadmap.

When you use a PM technique, you’ll organize all the moving parts of your project into a logical set of tasks, leaving nothing to chance.

When you follow it step-by-step, you’ll ensure that you complete the project successfully.

However, not all PM techniques were made alike. Depending on your project type, as well as your team, you’ll choose some of the following.

You may not opt for the same technique every time you manage a project, and that’s completely fine!

Your chosen technique should adapt to your project – not the other way around.

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

6 Helpful Project Management Techniques

Before we dive in, you should remember that all of these methods will help you organize and structure your project. There’s no right answer.

Your chosen method depends on you and your project.

 

1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Work Breakdown Structure Diagram

 

A WBS transforms big project activities into chunks of manageable tasks you and your team can easily understand and complete.

So if you were constructing a house, like in the example above, you’d divide the work into segments such as: internal work, external work, and building the foundation.

From there, you’d break down the work further into work packages, based on levels and task dependencies.

Who should use WBS? WBS can be used as a project management technique, but it can also be a tool, regardless of the technique you end up choosing. It will help you understand all the tasks and resources that go into producing the final deliverable.

How to get started? Start from the final deliverable defined by the project, and then define the tasks you and your team will need to complete in order to finalize the project.

Divide the tasks into work packages. Stop only when you’re sure that you can’t break down the lowest-level work packages into smaller chunks of work.

 

2. Gantt Charts – One of the First Project Management Techniques

Excel Project Management Template

Source

Gantt charts have been around for a very long time, and they’re still a great project management technique for beginners and pros alike.

It’s another technique that emphasizes visuality.

It’s a visual representation of all the tasks your team has to complete in order to wrap up the project, visualized together with time spans.

You’ll be able to see task dependencies, how long each task will take, as well as how its duration will affect the start dates and deadlines.

Who should use Gantt charts? While you can use Gantt charts as a standalone project management technique, you can also use them as an organizational tool, regardless of your chosen method.

How to get started? The majority of project management tools offer Gantt chart views, so all you have to do is enter the data, and you’ll get a visualization immediately. It’s good to have a Work Breakdown Structure prior to that, so you can accurately define tasks you’ll add to your Gantt chart.

You can get started with Gantt Charts by signing up to a free trial of Project Central here.

 

3. Critical Path Method (CPM)

Critical Path Method

 

The Critical Path Method is one of project management techniques used to accurately schedule all project activities.

What you’ll be actually doing is calculating the critical path – the shortest route to project completion, and arranging tasks accordingly. It’s also a great way to establish task dependencies.

You can combine CPM with PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) to create three task completion time estimates:

  • Shortest amount of time
  • Realistic amount of time
  • The longest amount of time

Who should use the Critical Path Method? CPM is best suited to more complex projects with a lot of task dependencies. However, just like with WBS and Gantt Charts, you can use them as tools, not just as project management techniques.

How to get started? Define all the tasks that have to be completed. Then, establish task dependencies (Task B can’t be completed until Task A is completed), and create diagrams for different duration estimates.

 

4. Waterfall / Linear

Waterfall model

Waterfall is one of the oldest project management techniques.

If you use this project management technique, activities and tasks will linearly flow through 5 phases:

  • Requirements (Get all the necessary documentation)
  • Design (Use a WBS to create a list of tasks)
  • Implementation (Complete tasks)
  • Verification (Review the deliverables)
  • Maintenance (Maintain and modify if necessary).

Who should use the Waterfall method? Waterfall works great for projects with distinct phases that require very few iterations throughout the project life cycle. If you think you’ll need to modify certain things and re-discuss the scope or the budget of the project, Waterfall is not for you.

How to get started? Make a list of all the resources and deliverables you’ll need in each phase. Preparation is key – make sure you have everything covered in the first, project initiation and requirements, phase.

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

5. Kanban – The Simplest Project Management Technique

Simple Kanban Board

Kanban is one of the easiest project management techniques for first-time project managers.

The whole philosophy is in creating three columns:

  • To-do
  • Doing
  • Done

Then, you and your team can simply shift tasks from one column to another as you complete them.

Who should use Kanban? Anyone. It’s great as a tool, or as a stand-alone project management technique. It’s particularly successful for simpler projects, or project teams that are prone to multitasking.

How to get started? We recommend getting visual project management software which offers Kanban boards. Then, make a list of tasks, and assign them to different team members. When you complete a certain task, move it to the ‘Done’ column.

 

6. Scrum – Best Agile Project Management Technique

Scrum Process

Finally, if you want to make sure every project deliverable comes out phenomenally, you should consider using Scrum, one of the most popular Agile methodology techniques.

With Scrum, you’ll be working in sprints.

During each sprint, you’ll work on a particular deliverable/feature.

Sprints shouldn’t last longer than 2 weeks, and you should hold daily status update meetings.

After the sprint, you should hold a review meeting, make suggestions for improving the next sprint, and keep going.

It’s as simple as that!

Who should use Scrum? Primarily, software development project teams, and project teams that work on complex projects requiring multiple iterations throughout the project life cycle.

How to get started? Break down the project into specific deliverables / features. Work on one deliverable at a time during your sprint, and schedule them with task dependencies in mind.

And there you have it!

Which project management technique are you going to use on your next project?

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