Remember those horrible group projects you had to do in college where someone (probably you) ended up doing all the work? And then your classmates would smile and nod during your presentation as if they’d been contributing the entire time?
This experience might have taught you exactly what not to do at your company. And even though there’s no grade up for grabs, you can make your work life less stressful with project management techniques. Let’s dive into the finer points of what project management is and which project management techniques might be right for your team.
What Is Project Management?
Bear with us — we’re going to get a little “textbook” for a moment to explain the history of project management and how it evolved into what it is today.
First, let’s cover the definition of “project management.” The Project Management Institute is the official organization governing the standards of formal project management. They define project management as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”
Here’s how this looks on a day-to-day basis. Projects don’t always follow a linear path. Many things can happen between the beginning, middle, and the end. That’s why, without organized project planning, the entire team can flounder. Projects go off track, stakeholders get frustrated, and there’s a general sense that no one knows what’s going on.
That’s also why you need help. Especially when your team works on complex projects, you need a strategy that helps you account for updates in project scope, project progress, project tasks, and the project schedule.
Enter project management. Project management techniques help teams and stakeholders know what’s going on. They include guidelines for timeline, team members, budget, stakeholders, and resources. The goal is to build a clear, shared understanding of what makes a successful project and plot the systems and people to have in place for your project timeline.
Why and How to Choose a Project Management Method
A great PM technique can feel like your motivation to finally bring your old skillets to Goodwill — elusive. However, improving your workflow systems will make your life so much easier. Let’s talk about how to find your top project management techniques. This will be your secret sauce for managing workflows.
Here’s why: The best project management technique can make it easy for your team to create and manage the key tasks for every project. You can consider a hybrid of two techniques when it makes sense, but it’s best to start with one method so you can see what it looks like in action.
When choosing a project management technique, consider:
Typical project budgets for your team
How many stakeholders or customers are typically involved
How many teams will work on any given project
Whether your term is resistant to change or prefers structure
How complex your typical projects are
Start and end dates for projects
Now, you’ll learn how to connect those specific factors to four of the most popular project management techniques.
4 Best Project Management Techniques
You’ll know best which tools and techniques fit your team. Here are four different project management techniques to consider:
1. Critical Path Method
In the critical path method, the task itself is the driving force. As explained in an article in the Harvard Business Review, the critical path technique “provides a means of determining which jobs or activities…are ‘critical’ in their effect on total project time, and how best to schedule all jobs in the project in order to meet a target date at minimum cost.”
To decide if a project is a good fit for the critical path technique, you need to know which tasks are critical. Here’s how to do this:
Define all project tasks and jobs in advance
Be able to start and stop project tasks without causing other delays
Perform the tasks in a predetermined sequence
2. Waterfall Technique
In Waterfall, once the appointed project manager completes a task, the process flows into the next phase. Think about how in a waterfall, a river flows to lower levels. The water can’t flow back up, and it takes time for it to carve a new path through a landscape. Well, the Waterfall management technique is similar — sequential and less flexible.
Traditionally, the Waterfall technique goes from requirements to design to implementation, verification, and maintenance. Tasks happen in a predetermined, sequential manner rather than iteratively.
3. Critical Chain Project Management Technique
With the critical path method, the focus is on future tasks. However, in critical chain planning, the primary focus is on the resources needed to complete the project. The most common resources here are people, but physical space or equipment might also factor in. Processes are prioritized based on the resources at hand.
With a critical chain approach, start times can be somewhat flexible. This helps distribute resources throughout the project before deliverables are due.
4. Extreme Project Management
Another option for your project plan is extreme project management. Don’t worry — we’ll leave extreme sports out of this. Personally, bungee jumping isn’t exactly for us either.
In this work breakdown structure, the needs of stakeholders or end-users might change over the course of the entire project. This means you can’t plan everything right away. Sure, you can estimate team member allocation or the amount of time a milestone is expected to take, but extreme project management calls for flexibility. This means a team might have to be ready to pivot quickly in the middle of a project.
No matter which method seems to align with your industry and team needs, you need tools to help you keep track of every project’s status. Let’s take a look.
Choose Tools That Support Your PM Techniques
Task management and communication are the cornerstones to successful project management because projects can fall apart or go over budget without them. Get the right software and other tools to help.
Track your project activities in a project management software that can incorporate calendars, Gantt charts, PERT charts, or Kanban boards. Your project team can coordinate and stay up-to-date with time estimates and the project schedule with project management tools like Asana or Trello.
Calendars give you a visual of what’s due when for different projects. Some projects get delayed or take longer than expected, so a calendar listing all the main details can help you tell when two priorities or projects are bumping up against one another.
Gantt charts use horizontal lines to show the most important information for a project at a glance. These usually include visual cues for the overall project status so an outside party could tell quickly if something is falling behind or at risk. A designated team member updates the charts. These are used alongside Waterfall methodology since the task order must be predetermined in order for them to work.
PERT charts prioritize milestones and tasks. These can also be called “network diagrams.” These are popular with project managers because they can help illustrate possible scenarios if something throws the project off track.
Kanban boards are part of the Kanban method, which encourages companies to evolve their existing system. This method and the corresponding boards rely on strategies like feedback loops, clear instructions, and visual tools to explain the workflow and business risks.
Stay on Top of Projects with Meetings Notes
With great project management techniques, you can finally (and gently) remind your coworker who has “shiny object syndrome” to stay on task during meetings. Your boss will love you for staying on budget, too.
It’s time to pick your project management technique, find task software to support you, and get to work. From notes about project statuses to action items for follow-up, you need the right approach to grabbing the important information from meetings.
At Anchor AI, we help you stay on task during meetings. That’ll help you quickly and easily update your project management software post-meeting with deliverables and action items discussed. Use our software to transcribe your meeting notes so don’t miss a thing. Sign up for Anchor AI today!