What is a project and how to manage it?
Definitions of the project usually describe it as a set of actions linked with complex relations, having their beginning and end in time and leading to a common goal. The undertaking of this type is of one-time nature and its effect is unique. Although it may lead to development of a new model of a product manufactured on a mass scale, the project approach is usually employed by enterprises oriented at supplying specialised solutions to their clients. This can be seen best at the example of the IT industry that so many work organisation methodologies originate from.
They define the specific task comprising the project, their distribution among employees, supervision over execution and control of their interdependencies. Below you will find brief descriptions of the most popular project methodologies implemented successfully by various enterprises.
Most popular project methodologies
The Agile in project management means iterating and incremental work organisation. Production of the order object is carried out in an agile and interacting manner, involving frequent interaction with the client and reacting to its suggestions. Agile focuses on the client’s satisfaction to a much greater extent than in the original project assumptions. Therefore, it is a perfect tool whenever the client is unsure at the beginning about the desired effect or wants to have an option to order and accept changes. Agile works well also if revision of assumptions based on later difficulties is necessary.
The Lean is intended to optimise production, minimising the need for use of buffers and accumulation of resources. It helps reduce the costs of business and the negative environmental impact of the enterprise as well as helps increase productivity and improve product quality. It is, however, sensitive to standstills, unpredicted supply difficulties and imperfections of project assumptions – and these are difficult and expensive to eliminate at the production stage.
The Waterfall (also referred to as cascade) management model consists in break-down of tasks into the following linearly consecutive phases. Their specifications depend on the results achieved in the previous once. Its consecutive phases are: concept, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, implementation and maintenance. In particular, Waterfall is frequently used in the manufacturing and construction industries and wherever changes of the concept or design at a later stage are impossible or very difficult to make. For this reason, any potential difficulties encountered at the production stage or any corrections from the client may generate delays and a significant increase in costs.
Kanban (meaning a “signboard” or a “billboard” in Japanese) is a methodology of work organisation in the project used for the first time in Japanese factories of Toyota to reduce the need for storage of subassemblies and to optimise repeatable production cycles. Currently, it is used also for flexible project management. Specific tasks are organised in the form of “post-it notes” in three groups: “to do”, “in progress” and “completed”. Each of them has assigned performed, requirements and deadline assigned, making identification and elimination of problematic areas easy.
Scrum is one of the main agile methodologies. It is distinguished by division into sprints – maximum one-month project development iterations after which the next operating version of the project is delivered. Changes made in each sprint should bring changes noticeable for the users and, thus, planning of works to be performed in it by priorities is very important. No changes affecting the sprint itself should occur during its execution.
As indicated by the name, Scrumban is a Scrum and Kanban hybrid. The specific tasks are organised in sprints in which a standard or modified board is used, dividing them into categories. Scrumban allows also for long-term – bucket size – planning. It is based on the system of three “buckets” through which the specific work elements must go through before they sprint to the board. Usually, an annual division is applied (e.g. new market penetration, deployment of another product). When the company decides to launch the plan, it goes to the semi-annual bucket where the requirements and assumptions are determined. After movement to the three-month bucket, it is broken down into transparent unit tasks.
The eXtreme Programming methodology is intended for efficient implementation of small projects based on high risk – when the things to be done and how to do them are not fully known. Event thought the program is created in iterations, they are so dependent on their unpredictable results that only one iteration forward is planned. The advantage of eXtreme Programming is only general specification or the complete lack of it – this, however, requires continuous contact with the client or end user.
PRINCE 2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is based on products manufactured in a standardised and repeatable manner. It allows to improve employee’s competences within the enterprise and develop a common approach, terminology and documentation for similar orders. However, PRINCE 2 supports only cascaded work organisation and, therefore, interaction with the client is limited and introduction of any project changes becomes difficult and expensive. The requirement of detailed documentation may also lead to excessive bureaucratisation.
PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) assumes that each project has its lifetime – a series of stages between initiation and closing. In the current version, we differentiate 49 types of processes divided into five interacting groups: initiation, planning, implementation, monitoring and control as well as completion processes. Furthermore, the processes are assigned to ten knowledge areas, such as time, quality, cost or HR management. Despite high formalisation, PMBOK allows for certain flexibility in project work organisation.
The Six Sigma approach was applied for the first time in the 80’s in Motorola. The main goal of the method is reducing the chance of a defect to 3.4 per million chances which translates into the distance of six sigma (standard deviations) from the central value of the adopted probability distribution. The method was largely criticised for lack of innovativeness, reduction of profits and orientation at creation of a project that will be commercially successful.
Which project methodology will work best?
Pinpointing one ideal methodology that will definitely work in the given enterprise in implementation of a specific project is impossible. Each of the specified (and tens of other) approaches has its pros and cons. Their proper implementation also often requires incurring significant costs on staff training and may result in a temporary decline in productivity in the transitional period. Therefore, well-thought use of these solutions is crucial.