Project management Styles and When to Use Them

Ruth Ng

Ruth Ng

9 min read

Although project management is a specialised field, it’s also incredibly dynamic. The nature of project development varies across industry, company, and even among individual clients. Knowing the right style to use will help you boost project success and satisfaction.

When you first start off in project management, you may find yourself confused by all the different styles. Some organisations even develop their own in-house methodologies!

Most of them draw from four major types of project management; Agile and Scrum are two types of the same strategy, while Waterfall and strategic project management have their own unique approach.

Whenever you’re managing a project, you can draw from these methodologies to give your team structure. This will allow you to track progress, set timetables, and adjust deliverables to meet each project’s specifications.

Why are there different styles of project management?

The simplest answer: Every project is different, and some styles work better for some people than others.

The longer answer: Projects vary in scope, design, and requirements by industry. Software developers and wedding planners may both work toward a final goal, but their deliverables, risks, and clients’ needs couldn’t be more different.

Different project management styles allow you to choose the right management and leadership approach for your team members. Even if you’re working with one other person, the right project management style can make the difference between continuous progress and constant confusion.

Also, managing a project often requires multitasking. A project management style that creates structure while allowing flexibility can be essential to success. You have to be ready for anything, open to innovation, without falling too far from your original goal.

Why Effective Project Management is so Important

There are several benefits to project management, and they’re so impactful that organisations hire PMs to achieve them. Firms use project management to run a team and project leads to provide long-lasting results. Let’s take a look at some of the project management styles.

1. Organised Plans One thing all project management methodologies have in common is organisation. No matter what style you use, project management creates cohesion throughout an entire development cycle. Whether you’re publishing a book, launching a website, or developing a mobile app, there is an innate need for organisation.

The level of organisation, however, may vary. Some projects are more open and fluid while others require a fixed schedule. Different project management styles adapt to your project’s needs and variables.

2. Defined Goals Project management ensures that team members are always on the same page, and everyone is working toward a shared goal. It aligns client expectations with in-house objectives, day after day.

Having clear goals at every stage of the project also makes it easier to delegate responsibilities. No one has to be the odd one out wondering what they’re supposed to be doing. Instead, each person has a role, and their job has a clear impact on the final project.

One potential benefit to this is higher team morale and greater collaboration. When everyone understands each person’s role, they are able to connect, create, and work together more efficiently. That means higher levels of job satisfaction, in addition to higher levels of overall productivity.

3. Efficiency With a clear outline and timetable, teams are able to create projects with less obstacles. Delays are often costly, and most of them are avoidable. The right project management style streamlines work, so everyone is doing the most meaningful task at any given moment.

4. Less Workload for the Team Without a clear style or schedule, projects can quickly become unmanageable. Team members may struggle to meet deadlines, leading to burnout. This is preventable with a strategy that is adaptive and responsive to the needs of the team.

As the saying goes, work smarter, not harder. Project management perfectly captures this idea.

5. Demonstrable Progress for Shareholders There are often shareholders involved in high-level project management. People who have invested money into a project want to see where their funds are going and how they’re being used.

The project manager offers assurance to all shareholders with visual proof of their work.

They also know how to communicate big ideas in easy, efficient language. There is no hemming, hawing, or worrying about missing key details. Project managers are quite literally paid to keep everything under control.

4 Types of Project Management Styles

Agile

Agile is a project management style designed by 17 software developers in 2000. It wasn’t perfected overnight, which perfectly represents Agile’s approach. With Agile project management, teams work toward continuous improvement rather than periodic perfection.

An interactive approach makes agile a great choice for projects that are large in scope and have a lot of moving parts. There could be many things that happen along the way that alter the final result, or modify expectations and features.

Agile encourages people to create hypotheses, akin to the scientific method; in periods of work called sprints, the team works toward a goal, tests their hypotheses, and revises it to make an even better result in the next sprint.

Scrum

Scrum is a type of development that is a bit more fixed than Agile. Scrum also embraces iterative adaptation, but on a tighter schedule. For teams that have more concrete deadlines or requirements, Scrum offers a great alternative to the broader Agile methodology.

Scrum has a hierarchical team structure led by a scrum master. This person governs the rest of the team, assigning tasks, monitoring progress, and guiding development.

Today, we can think of Agile as a philosophy with principles and values to shape a team’s approach. Scrum is the actual method that gets work done.

Waterfall

The waterfall project management style is all about smooth, linear progression. Projects are accomplished from start to finish with clear milestones throughout their development. Waterfall relies on lots of documentation and progress-tracking to ensure things are working according to plan.

There is a lot less flexibility than agile or scrum, making waterfall less responsive to change. A comprehensive analysis identifies potential risks and plans ahead for any obstacles. Instead of shaping the progress as it takes form, waterfall has a clear, defined image of what the team must produce.

You can benefit from the waterfall methodology on small projects, or large projects that have non-negotiable deadlines and features.

Strategic Project Management (SPM)

The SPM approach focuses on long-term results. Companies will use strategic project management to get a clearer idea of how their operations work as a whole. What is currently effective, and what isn’t? Are there any areas of weakness they’re overlooking? How can they improve with the fewest disruptions?

SPM relies on collaboration, brainstorming, and problem-solving exercises to develop unique solutions.

Strategic project management can help govern decision-making, build an in-house growth strategy, and even set priorities within the company.

You will use SPM to make big picture decisions, not organise singular projects. You can think of SPM as air control, and the company as the pilot. They tell them where to go, what to do when there are problems, and how to operate most efficiently.

Tips for Choosing the Right Project Management Style for You

So, now that you understand what the major types of project management are, it’s helpful to consider their applications.

Agile and Scrum are both a philosophy and methodology. They usually work best for broader, large projects with room for improvement and alteration.

Waterfall usually works best for small projects or clearly defined objectives with fixed deadlines.

The strategic approach to project management can help businesses organise and grow.

When you’re deciding on a project management style, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the focus of our project? Think tasks vs. the final product.
  • How flexible is our timeline?
  • How many deliverables will we produce?
  • How complex is this project? Are there many moving parts?
  • What project management software is available to us?
  • How many resources do we have vs. how many resources do we need?
  • Is our team large enough to be as flexible as we’d like?
  • What risks are we prepared to face, and how will we respond to them?

Learn Project Management Today

Knoma has plenty of courses in project management to take your knowledge to new heights. Check out our Marketplace for a range of project management programmes that can help you kickstart your career.

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