An Insight into the Intricacies and Details of Project Management

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Project management involves planning and execution of specific tasks to get it completed on time. It is applicable for both long term and short term, one-time projects. It is responsible for the handling of resources, technology, finance, intellectual property and even controls time and staff management for accomplishing the task in question.

Where is project management used?

Project management is a diverse and flexible tool that can be applied by officials as well as students to complete a task within a stipulated amount of time. In the professional world, project management has a huge role to play in the following industries –

  • Engineering
  • Building and construction
  • Health care
  • Information technology
  • Publishing

It’s not just that project management can be used in the mentioned industries, it can be used in any industry where a task can be considered a project for its execution.

The common aspect of project management irrespective of the industry where it is applied to is that it is essentially used for planning, and executing a project by determining its goals and objectives. It helps keep a track of the tasks being completed and the person responsible for it and ensures to develop a quality check of the tasks being completed.

Intricacies of project management

When looked at the broader perspective, these five steps together make up project management –

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring
  • Concluding

Initiating – The first step in any project management cases is the initiation of the project. It is at this stage the feasibility and the worth of the project is assessed. The two tools used for determining if a project should be undertaken or not are –

  1. Business Case Document –

Is used to determine if the project in question has any financial return for the company or not, and if yes, how much. It also determines whether there is a need to pursue the project or not.

  • Feasibility Study –

Is a tool used for assessing the goals, time duration and costs involved in pursuing a project? It determines if there is a balance between the available resources and the requirements of the project to decide if to pursue the project.

Projects that successfully pass these two tests are the only ones that are undertaken by any company, be it of any industry.

Planning – is the next step after a project passes the two tests that determine if it should be pursued or not. Planning is the most important stage in project management as this stage determines the plan to get the work executed within deadline and within budget. A well-versed project plan helps make the following tasks easier –

  1. Obtaining resources needed for the execution of the project
  2. Getting financial aid
  3. Obtaining materials required to complete the project

The project plan achieves the following –

  1. Gives directions to achieve quality output
  2. Gives ways of handling and overcoming risks
  3. Gives instances of obstacles and ways to deal with them
  4. Gives a clear understanding of cost involved with the project
  5. Gives detailed steps to follow to complete the task within the timeline

Execution –

This is the step which is the management part of the entire five stepped process of project management where the execution of the project is carried out. Execution ensures that the output is received on time and ensures the quality of the output. Execution is directly dependent on the planning and will be affected if the project has a poor planning.

Monitoring –

This step is integrated with execution, as it is necessary to monitor what is being executed. To meet deadlines and maintain the quality of output, the work should be monitored closely to ensure no emergencies surface. This step is also essential as it tracks the actual cost against the planned cost and assesses the performances of all stakeholders involved in the execution of the project.

Concluding –

Once the project is completed, teams conclude and close the projects by handing over all resources and outputs to the clients.

What are the top areas of management knowledge involved in project management?

  • Scope and time
  • Cost and quality
  • Procurement
  • Human resources
  • Communication
  • Risk management
  • Stakeholder management

What are the different types of project management?

There are different types of project management methodologies that are implemented depending on the requirement of the project. The most common and widely used types are listed below.

  1. Agile Project Management

Used frequently, one of the most implemented types of project management is agile project management. It is implemented for duplicative and incremental projects. It involves cross-functional teams to work together in coordination with the clients to achieve the deliverables.

Agile was developed for the software industry to overcome the shortcomings of the Waterfall method of project management which could not keep up with the flexible and high output demanding nature of the software industry. Stemming from the principles of the Agile Manifesto, this method is used for finding efficient ways of software development by undertaking a clear and quantitative model based on duplicative development, team effort and recognition of change.

Agile method consists of four key values –

  • Interactions among individuals over tools and processes
  • Use of working software rather than documentation
  • Customer involvement rather than contract negotiation
  • Accepting change in plan

Though developed for the software industry, agile method of project management is well-suited for any project that demands flexibility and are complex.

Agile uses different methods within itself – like Scrum and Kanban to help deal with complex situations and give quality output.

  • Lean Project Management

Prioritizing customer value and minimizing waste, lean method of project management developed from the Japanese manufacturing industry.

According to the lean method, there are three types of wastes that need to be eliminated – muda, mura and muri, collectively known as the 3Ms.

  1. Muda –

Focusses on eliminating processes that do not add any value to the project. It can be physical resource waste or even time that is spent on a resource which has no value.  Muda recognizes seven types of wastes –

  • Transport – circulation of the product between different teams.
  • Inventory – stocked up documents and raw materials of finished projects.
  • Motion – physical movement of resources and stakeholders while working on a project.
  • Waiting – time wasted in waiting for receiving raw materials or a machine to free up.
  • Overproduction – excess production beyond demand.
  • Over-processing – implementing processes beyond need.
  • Defects – rejected goods and processes.
  • Mura –

Focusses on the elimination of variations in the workflow at the level of scheduling and operations to ensure the smooth running of the project. For example, in the publication industry, if an editor spends too much time while editing one article, the entire production process is affected as there will be less time for the other teams to complete their work within the deadline. Hence, mura will focus on reducing the time for editing so that all parties get sufficient time to complete their tasks.

  • Muri –

Focusses on eliminating overload to ensure the smooth running of the entire process. In a typical example, muri refer to the stress caused by the managers on their employees.

Lean project management is based on five principles and abide by them always –

  1. Customer specification of value
    1. Identification of steps in value stream
    1. Continuous product flow
    1. Obtaining value from next upstream activity
    1. Removal of unnecessary processes
  • Waterfall Project Management

Stemming from the manufacturing and construction industries, waterfall is a one-dimensional approach towards project management. This method emphasizes on a linear working model, where to reach the next step one must complete the current step. The different steps followed in sequential order are –

  1. Software and system requirements
  2. Analysis
  3. Design and Coding
  4. Testing
  5. Operations

Waterfall method of project management involves a lot of documentation, because in this approach it is believed that if an employee leaves a task, anyone else should be able to take up the work from where it is left by the help of the documentation.

The non-adaptive design constraints and lack of customer feedback delayed production in the software industries, and led them to choose agile method of project management over waterfall approach of project management.

  • Six Sigma Project Management

In 1986, Motorola first came up with the six-sigma approach of project management. It focusses on the identification and elimination of unnecessary and unfruitful processes to improve quality. It is based on both the empirical and statistical principles of management and involves the expertise of specialists in this field.

Six Sigma Master Black Belts are responsible for monitoring the Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts who carry out two methodologies for completion of their projects.  The two methods are DMAIC which is aimed at improving existing processes and DMADV, which aims at the creation of new processes and products.

Lean and six sigma can be implemented together by using the lean six sigma method of project management. Lean six sigma method focuses on improvement of performance by systemic elimination of waste and reduction of variation.

  • Kanban Project Management

Agile in approach, Kanban method of project management prioritizes the early release of deliverables with combined work cross-functional and self-managing teams. Developed by Toyota in 1940s, it is a potential method to be used while targeting the delivery of a high-quality product. Kanban implements visual techniques and draws out the workflow well in advance, so that any risk can be identified much earlier in the process and can be addressed with enough time in hand.

Kanban is based on six practices –

  • Visualization
  • Limitation of work in progress
  • Management of workflow
  • Making explicit policies
  • Utilization of feedback loops
  • Accepting experimental evolution

Kanban does not really function according to any pre-set rules. Rather, it works by using a Kanban board where the visual description of the workflow helps in identification of risks well ahead of time and can be addressed with lots of time in hand. A Kanban board has three columns – To do, doing and done which help identify tasks that needs to be completed, which are being done and the once already finished.

Now, that we are aware of the different types of approaches that can be adopted for project management, it is the need of the specific project that determines which method is to be used.

How does a project manager work?

Let us consider a situation, where a team leader is assigned to be the project manager for the publication of the upcoming edition of an annual magazine. The team leader along with his team is supposed to start the process by first identifying and assessing the scope of the project. They can then pool in articles from different writers and determine what else will go in the magazine depending on the customer value.

They then assign tasks to different teams – editors, proof readers, designers, typesetters and printers. The project manager then creates a schedule and deadline for each team, which should be followed so that the magazine can be published at the correct time when it will have maximum number of customers in the market.

So, in short, an entire project from its conceptualization to the delivery of the final product is planned, executed and managed by a project manager. And in doing so, the project manager can follow any of the methodologies depending which serves his purpose the best. There is no limitation that he must use a method for getting the work done. The project manager can also infuse different aspects of different types of project management, if that works best for his product or service.

Author Bio:

Nancie L Beckett is a renowned face in the world of business and management. Having completed her degree in management from Columbia Business School, ranked among the best business schools all over the world, she has an experience of more than six years serving multinational companies. With her knowledge and experience, she now has started offering help to students who are inspired by her and want to follow a similar path in their professional life.