7 Essential Project Management Techniques In 2024 – Forbes Advisor

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Top project managers use proven project management techniques to successfully manage a project. A project management technique is a framework or tool that helps plan, organize and execute a project. There are many project management techniques available. The best one for you depends on the size, complexity and objectives of your project as well as the makeup of your team.

In this article, we discuss the top project management techniques so you can choose the best one for your needs.

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Work breakdown structure (WBS) is a project management technique that segments larger projects into more manageable deliverables. WBS organizes your project by tree-like hierarchy, with your overall project objective at the top. From there, dependencies of the parent objective are identified, and at the bottom, these dependencies are broken down into specific tasks.

For example, let’s say you’re developing a new mobile app. The level one project or parent objective could be to “launch new mobile app.” The primary level two dependencies would be to create the database, develop the back-end logic and design the user interface. From there, some level three tasks for the user-interface dependency would be hosting a creative brainstorming session, creating a mood board, building the wireframes and more.

WBS is a visual project management technique that typically uses workflow management software or Kanban boards to manage the dependencies and tasks of a project. WBS is great for defining a project’s scope, identifying dependencies, estimating timelines and costs, assigning tasks to team members and tracking the project’s overall progress.

The WBS project management technique is therefore best for larger, more complex projects that need to be broken down into smaller parts. This is because complex projects typically have many dependencies and subtasks, and WBS is great at identifying and planning for them.

The critical path method (CPM) is a project management framework used to identify the longest sequence of critical activities necessary to complete a project on time. This “critical path” represents the shortest time possible for completing a project. Each activity on the critical path is sequential, meaning that any delays in a critical task will delay the overall project.

The CPM method is used to identify the most important tasks of a project, uncover sequential task dependencies and calculate a task duration for each critical activity. From there, you can calculate an overall project timeline based on the duration of each critical task. The critical path is typically represented as a visual diagram that includes all sequential task dependencies and their time estimates, helping you manage the overall project.

The CPM project management technique is great to use when you’re managing a complex project where time is the most important or limiting factor. It’s also a great technique to use if you’re managing a project with a lot of linear task dependencies. This differs slightly from the work breakdown structure technique, which is better when you have a project with separate sets of dependencies you can work on at the same time.

The Waterfall project management technique is a leading methodology that helps you manage a linear project. With this technique, a project is broken down into sequential stages, with each stage needing to be completed before moving on to the next step. The Waterfall method provides a clear plan from the start and identifies dependencies before the project begins. However, it’s a rigid technique that may prove challenging if your project scope or objectives change over time.

There are six stages of the Waterfall method, which include the following:

The Waterfall project management technique is best for projects that aren’t expected to change over time and need clear direction from the start. However, projects that need flexibility throughout the project timeline should consider another technique such as Scrum, below.

The Scrum project management technique is an Agile framework that helps you manage a project in short cycles called “sprints.” Each sprint lasts roughly one or two weeks, with daily stand-up meetings to keep team members on track. At the start of each sprint, the team commits to completing a certain amount of tasks. At the end of each sprint, the team meets for a longer retrospective and then plans for the next sprint based on the completed tasks.

Scrums are led by a “product owner” who keeps track of an overall project backlog of tasks using a Scrum board. A Scrum board is a visual representation of your project broken down into specific columns: Project Backlog, Sprint Backlog, In Progress, Review and Done. Tasks are represented as cards that move through these columns.

Each sprint, tasks are moved from the Project Backlog to the Sprint Backlog. When a team member starts a new task, it’s moved to In Progress. Once it’s completed, the task is reviewed and moved to the Done column.

The product owner will conduct periodic backlog grooming to ensure the project backlog remains up to date based on the work completed. For this reason, Scrum is a great technique for projects that may change over time and need shorter feedback loops, as with software development.

Kanban is a lean project management framework that helps project managers and team members manage their workflow and eliminate waste. Kanban boards are used to visualize your workflow with columns. Tasks are represented as cards on your board. As tasks are completed, your cards move through the various columns of your workflow to mark them done.

Kanban boards are essentially simpler versions of Scrum boards and often use the same project management software. Typically, a Kanban board is broken down into three columns: To-Do, Doing and Done. This helps project managers and team members limit the number of tasks they’re working on at any one time to increase focus.

Kanban is a great technique for visualizing your workflow, managing tasks and identifying work-in-progress limits. Similar to Scrum, it’s a flexible project management technique that’s great for projects that require flexibility and may change over time.

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used by project managers to visualize project tasks and the timeline required to complete each one. Gantt charts consist of three components: the tasks of a project, the start date of each task and the end date of each task. These tasks are then organized on the X axis sequentially, with a bar for each task representing its start and end date on the Y axis. Gantt charts are typically created in a tool such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Gantt charts are helpful for tracking the progress of a project, ensuring that you can complete it within budget and on time. These charts are great for visualizing your project timeline and spotting any dependencies. It’s a project management tool you can use alongside most techniques, especially for projects with a lot of dependencies. However, it may not be right to use with a lean or Agile technique such as Scrum where the project may change over time.

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The program evaluation and review technique (PERT) is a project management technique and tool used to estimate a project’s timeline. It’s seen as a more complex version of a Gantt chart or the critical path method (CPM). The PERT technique first identifies the tasks of a project and calculates three time estimates for each task: the optimistic time, the pessimistic time and the most likely time.

From there, the three time estimates are used to create a weighted average estimate for each task. Then, a critical path of necessary tasks is identified and the weighted average time estimates are used to calculate the overall project timeline. Once the critical path is identified, a flowchart is created to show the relationship between tasks rather than sequentially.
PERT can be more accurate than a Gantt chart or the critical path method (CPM) when assessing a project’s timeline. However, it’s more complex than both techniques and should only be used for projects with a lot of uncertainty where multiple time estimates are necessary to come up with an average.

Project management techniques represent the top frameworks and tools to help you manage a project successfully. There are many project management techniques to choose from, each with benefits and drawbacks. When choosing the right technique for you, ensure you’re accurately assessing your project scope, complexity, requirements and team.

A project management methodology is a guiding set of principles that help you manage a project. Meanwhile, a project management technique is a framework that gives you specific processes or tools to implement your chosen methodology. Some methodologies, including Waterfall, provide both principles and techniques, while others such as Agile simply provide the principles and have separate techniques that others have created.

The top project management methodologies include the Waterfall, Agile and lean methodologies. Lesser-used methodologies include PRINCE2, Six Sigma and more.

Basic project management techniques include frameworks or tools based on the lean or Agile methodologies. These techniques include Kanban and Scrum, most helpful for projects that require flexibility and shorter feedback loops.

Advanced project management techniques include the Waterfall method, critical path method (CPM), program evaluation and review technique (PERT) and more. These techniques are best suited for complex projects with numerous dependencies or those where time is the limiting factor.

Evan is a writer and entrepreneur with a background in technology and content marketing. He is currently the Head of Growth at Sagetap.io. Previous to Sagetap, he was was co-founder & CEO of the online publication Selling Signals, which was acquired in 2022, and served as General Manager for the online publication Fit Small Business.