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How to choose the right project management method?



The mother of all project management issues is the following:

How to choose the right project management method? Which method is the right one? One more question: Is there a clear answer? Definitely not. Unfortunately, but otherwise it would be too easy. Nobody could blaspheme about Berlin Airport, Stuttgart 21 or the ERP projects at Liqui Moly or Lidl.

But blasphemy is always dangerous!

What is the saying in the bible: He who is free from all guilt, cast the first stone. No company has completed all its projects on time, on budget and with the planned quality. Or has it? Then please report.

Which method fits the company culture and the task?

Sabine Frömling, an expert in project management, writes about it in her article on Whereby, and I think that’s good, she first lists 15 project management problems. At the top of her list is “insufficient capacities”. This point is also right at the top of our experience.

What is a definition of project management?

She quotes a definition: “The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as the process of applying “knowledge, skills, tools and techniques” to meet project requirements. The project management process deals with different phases of a project, such as initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and completion.”

In practice, a distinction is made between “the classical method” and the “agile method”. What is the difference? Let’s start with the classic method: “It follows the waterfall model. In a waterfall model, the development is linear. The management team plans the entire project and divides it into different phases. Once a team completes one phase, it moves on to the next.”

What is the definition of the agile method?

“The agile project management approach focuses on teamwork and customer feedback. Rather than defining the end product from the beginning, a more iterative approach is used. Customers are more involved in the entire development process.” When we talk about customers, we are talking about both internal customers (colleagues, other departments or project teams) and external customers.

What is the difference between the two methods? – A comparison.

In the diagram, Ms Frömling describes the differences in detail. She compares the two methods using various criteria such as organization, procedure, involvement of the customer, employee, process flow, project scope, project costs or design.

Agile method does not completely replace waterfall (classic) method

Although the agile method is on everyone’s lips, it does not completely replace the classical method. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this:

  1. One is the uncertainty of the method. The personnel who manage projects are often not trained for it.
  2. Both methods are often mixed up.
  3. An unclear description of requirements and goals can only be cured to a limited extent by the agile method.
  4. Even agile projects fail. Only this is not seen as clearly as with the classical method. You stay agile until the problem is solved.

How to choose the right project management method?

Conclusion and recommendation by Mrs. Frömling:

“Agile project management ensures better teamwork, customer satisfaction, speed and adaptability. Projects run more efficiently, which leads to cost reductions. Conventional methods, however, have a structured, strict hierarchy that can deliver faster results for shorter projects with clear and fixed goals. However, as these projects grow, traditional methods have a higher risk of failure. So if you know that your project has the potential to grow larger and more complex, it is better to start with agile project management methods”.

My personal conclusion – a different statement:

  1. First of all, reduce the number of projects running simultaneously. Your organization probably has a maximum capacity for 25% of the projects currently running.
  2. Relieve your employees who are supposed to create value for the company within projects. Important projects require a 100% release.
  3. Formulate clearly and unambiguously what the goal should be. As written earlier, management cures ambiguity with an agile method or employees have to pay for this ambiguity with the agile method.
  4. Train both methods, get to know both methods well. This is the only way you and your employees can distinguish which method should be used when. Additionally the slogan is: Practice, practice and practice again.
  5. The vast majority of projects fail because of a lack of communication, not because of the method.

Picture source:

Note: This is a machine translation. It is neither 100% complete nor 100% correct. We can therefore not guarantee the result.


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