An Overview of the Top 4 Project Management Techniques
Why'd you have to go and make PMing so complicated? Know these 4 and nothing more.
Project management can get complicated. There's a whole host of PM certifications, tools, and terms—not to mention at least 15 different project management techniques. And while you can definitely invest lots of money and lots of time in becoming fluent in Gannt charts and getting comfortable with Microsoft Project, there's got to be something better you can do with your time. (Learn an actual language? Register to vote?)
You really only need to be comfortable with a few different project management techniques in order to accomplish your organization's goals.
Because at the end of the day, project management is pretty simple: understanding a goal and making sure you achieve it.
Whether that goal is getting a new product launched, approving next year's budget, redesigning a website, publishing a book, or throwing a work holiday party that is actually enjoyable—or quite literally anything in between—there's an approach that will best help you manage towards it.
Alan Zucker, founder of Project Management Essentials LLC, advises teams to choose a methodology that fits within the context of what the project and the team need. "New applications and significant customer interaction are well suited for Scrum. Kanban is good for enhancements to legacy applications. Teams starting their agile transformation do well with the structure of Scrum," he says.
Below you'll find an overview of the top 4 project management techniques—two overarching schools of thought and two popular techniques derived from them—as selected by PM pros, and what kind of teams they're best suited for.
Waterfall Project Management
Though this project management technique sounds extra flowery, it's probably one of the simplest techniques out there. It entails planning out project stages to flow together in sequential order, like a waterfall. Those stages include the following:
- Clarify requirements
- Analyze resources
- Design approach
As you move between steps, you'll need to get sign-off from the team that all defined goals of that step have been met.
Pros of this technique: It's straightforward, easy-to-implement, and can be managed with as little as a to-do list.
Cons of this technique: There's no opportunity to change the plan based on client feedback, adjust scope, or parallel-process steps.
Who it's good for: Industries that make physical products and don't often need to change plans as they go (like in product development or construction).
Gus Cicala, CEO and founder of Project Assistants, likes using the Waterfall approach at the beginning of his projects, even if he later switches to an Agile approach to better manage changes. "We maintain a high degree of rigor on the frontend. We place a high premium on understanding the foundations of the project: the why (benefits), how (solution approach), and what (requirements). Without knowing the fundamental basics of a project…we find many executives (especially CIOs) are just throwing money and people at a problem with no goals and little accountability," says Cicala.
Agile Project Management
The Agile approach was developed as a direct response to more rigid PM techniques (we see you, Waterfall Method) in 2001, when a group of software developers decided they wanted to focus more on individuals and interactions vs. processes and tools.
This approach has actual spawned several other PM techniques, like Scrum and Kanban, which we'll talk about below.
The Agile method is defined by constantly iterating and collaborating to create the best possible result for a client or customer, versus following a plan. Projects managed this way are broken up into several stages, all of which include interaction with stakeholders.
Pros of this technique: It's fast, wastes few resources since you're always doing what's most needed, and allows plenty of room for experimentation.
Cons of this technique: There's not often time to document decisions or processes, so it's hard to bring new team members up to speed, and it's hard to measure progress since you're constantly iterating on what you're working on. It's also harder to budget for a project managed with an Agile technique since it can easily increase in scope or time.
Who it's good for: Teams with lots of access to their customer or clients (and not a lot of bureaucracy to get in the way of collaborating and decision-making) and small-to-medium-sized organizations. It's popular in tech startups.
Olga Mykhoparkina, CMO of Chanty, a SaaS team-chat app, prefers the Agile methodology. She says it works for her team because "it favors communication over complicated processes and tools, which is suitable for a marketing team, [and because] it favors software instead of documentation, which is ideal for my team."
Scrum Project Management
This technique, an Agile methodology, gets its name from rugby, where the players start each play by joining up and trying to get possession of the ball. The Scrum approach is based on a series of short-term projects called sprints, which are continued until the project's goals are achieved.
Sprints are usually two-to-four-week chunks. Each sprint starts with a planning meeting and includes daily "scrum" meetings where teams communicate progress and issues. Sprints are managed by a ScrumMaster, whose role is to solve problems for the team, not to dole out individual tasks.
Pros of this technique: The short sprints keeps projects moving along quickly and allows for lots of client feedback.
Cons of this technique: Scrum PMing can cause scope creep, since the final deliverable is never defined, and be hard to implement in teams bigger than ~10 people. Its fast pace also makes it hard to work on multiple projects simultaneously.
Who it's good for: Small teams who work on one project at a time, like software developers preparing for a new release.
Kanban Project Management
This technique is also falls under the Agile umbrella. It was originally developed by Toyoka—Kanaban means "sign board" in Japanese—and is a visual-heavy method that focuses on improving processes.
It organizes work into three basic categories: requested, in progress, and done. Whether done on a whiteboard or a digital equivalent, like Trello or Notion, tasks are spread out among those categories in a way that lets you easily spot bottlenecks and track progress.
Pros of this technique: It's easy to get everyone on the same page and spot problems before they throw your project off track. It also works well with remote team members, since a digital board is easily shared.
Cons of this technique: Kanban is more tactical than strategic, so it can be hard to track progress against more strategic goals. It's also harder to visualize into the future, since you're very focused on what's happening now.
Who it's good for: Small teams, whether remote or working together, working in almost any industry.
Nikola Baldikov, digital marketing manager at secure instant messaging software company Brosix, says that Kanban works for his team because "the members of my team are experienced, independent, and visual." He notes that it works best for teams that can self-manage: "This method relies on a higher level of autonomy and independence among team members, so it may not be the best approach for a newly formed team. Kanban also puts a high emphasis on focused work, with little space for multitasking. This isn't always comfortable for team members who are used to balancing several priorities at once."
You Don't Have to Choose
If you like the visual aspect of the Kanban approach but the clearly-defined-outcome part of Waterfall technique, go right on ahead and combine them. Project management is about figuring out what works for helping your team reach its goals, and that doesn't have to mean sticking to one approach.
"Mature teams often develop their own hybrid practices incorporating many techniques," notes Zucker.
Have you pulled from different project management techniques to create the one PM technique to rule them all? Tell me about it in the comments!
Branwyn Baughman, recruiter at Lockheed Martin, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
Take a look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as some top-notch tips that Branwyn outlines on how you can make your application stand out.
To learn more about Lockheed Martin and their open roles, click here.
6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
Stephanie Acker, director of inside sales at Commvault, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as her own career journey.
To kick things off, Stephanie mentioned the three things that make a great inside sales professional: an independent work ethic, the ability to learn and execute on their own, and an awareness of what keeps them motivated.
Over her 12-year career at Commvault, Stephanie's greatest motivation has been helping customers to find solutions and catapult them to success. In both her past role as a sales representative and her current director position, Stephanie remains committed to ensuring her team understands what motivates them to sell and setting them up for success.
The biggest surprise during her career at Commvault was becoming the director of inside sales. Stephanie shared that she loves working for a company that listens to new ideas, thinks outside of the box, and tries new things.
Don't miss her take on what moves a candidate forward in the interview process! For example, Stephanie loves when the interviewee gets into "the zone"—showing their selling technique. She also shares her favorite interview questions.
As Stephanie says, stop thinking and apply today!
To learn more about Commvault and their open roles, click here.
When you think about strong female leadership, what comes to mind? For Tatiana L., a global client partner in Miami, it's about more than having an executive seat, being a mother, or making dreams come true. "Good leadership is about being open, flexible, and able to understand different perspectives," she says. "It's about fostering collaboration, bringing people together, and empowering them to connect."
Tatiana L. is a global client partner based in Miami.
Tatiana is part of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group and helped plan Women's Leadership Day, an annual global community summit. While the highly-anticipated event takes place over just one day, its massive impact is felt over the course of the entire year.
Amy W. is an operations lead based in London.
"Women's Leadership Day is more than an event. It's energy, and it's a movement," Amy W., an operations lead in London, says. "Moments like this can completely change the perception of women in technology."
From choosing the content and programming for the event to making it accessible for women around the globe, we went behind the scenes with seven members of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group to learn more about how women are empowered—and are empowering one another— in their career journeys at the Facebook company.
Behind the scenes with Women@
Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager based in Singapore, speaking onstage at 2019 Women@ Leadership Day in APAC.
"I've always been passionate about empowering women, but I didn't know how I could do it at work. My first Women@ experience changed how I felt at Facebook," Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager in Singapore, remembers. "From then on, I wanted to help other women feel heard, valued, and confident."
Planning the global event, which brings together women from more than 20 countries, calls for close collaboration across multiple teams, regions, and timezones. Members of Women@ also partner with other Facebook Resource Groups, such as the Pride@ Resource Group, Latin@ Facebook Resource Group, Desis@ Facebook Resource Group and Black@ Resource Group, to ensure all women at Facebook are represented and feel included.
Vivian V. is a program manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Across regions and communities, we each bring unique differences and powerful stories. When one of us moves forward, we have the opportunity to bring all of us forward," Vivian V., a program manager in the San Francisco Bay Area explains. "While planning the summit, we meet weekly to talk about what women in different regions are experiencing. From the event theme and content to planning speaker sessions and fine-tuning details, we each have items to own. Two months before the summit, we meet daily to share updates and make sure nothing slips through the cracks."
"Just like me, women in APAC look forward to Women's Leadership Day all year long," Amanda says. Planning something that's deeply meaningful to so many people can feel like a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it's uplifting. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about our individual and shared challenges, and we map out ways we can build community while empowering leadership for women across the globe."
Empowering confidence, equality, and leadership through storytelling
Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, and Amanda M. collaborate with women across the globe to plan Women@ programming and events.
Women's Leadership Day encourages women to talk about challenges like experiencing imposter syndrome, breaking through barriers, and how to manage work/life flexibility. "Storytelling is a huge part of the event," Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, explains.
Vivian says, "I've been at Facebook for nearly two years and help plan these events, and honestly, I never really understood imposter syndrome before I got here. Working with the Women@ community and hearing from our speakers—who are talented, brilliant superstars—I've seen firsthand how it affects them too."
Michelle C. is a client partner based in London.
Michelle C., a client partner in London, says that the summit's speaker sessions, which feature people from inside and outside of Facebook, are a highlight of every event. "We had a speaker from Tel Aviv who talked about the importance of balance in her personal life and how she co-parents with her husband. She shared specific things she's done, like adding her husband to the WhatsApp chat groups for mothers she's in and reminding her daughter's school that her husband is also available when their child feels sick. Her message was that we'll never be equal in the workplace until we're equal at home, and it really struck a chord."
Paris says that in APAC, Eva Chen's talk about facing challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic and how she's raising her daughter was a top-rated session because it was so relatable. "From talking about her daughter's love for dinosaurs—a "boy" thing—and raising kids to fully be themselves to opening up about what it was like to grow up with immigrant parents from China and Vietnam, Eva inspired us with her authenticity and openness. Her struggle to feel supported while working in fashion and tech, rather than medicine, is something a lot of people in APAC understand."
"Every woman has a unique story," Michelle says. "Hearing from others is inspiring, validating, and truly eye-opening. It reminds us that we're not alone."
A memorable and lasting impact
It's no surprise that with the tremendous amount of planning and careful consideration that goes into the summit, its full impact is impossible to measure.
"It meant so much to me when people shared such positive feedback about Women's Leadership Day," Paris says. "We heard that some attendees felt inspired for days and weeks."
Kira G. is an agency partner based in Berlin.
Kira G., an agency partner in Berlin, has witnessed how the summit's programming can inspire action, even helping people push past a career plateau. "We might reach a point in our careers when we think, "I can't do this anymore, I'm not moving forward'," she says. "Women's Leadership Day gives us fresh perspectives, shows us new approaches, and starts important conversations. This can unlock new paths for growth and help us move forward."
Impact is felt in other Facebook groups, communities, and across teams too, inspiring interest and allyship. Amanda explains, "I felt so proud when a male VP from the Sales team came to us after hearing about what people talked about at Women's Leadership Day. He told us he wanted to learn more because it's everyone's responsibility to be an ally."
Empowering the community throughout the year
While Amanda describes Women's Leadership Day as a "bump in energy and inspiration" and "an injection of adrenaline", Vivian says that the real magic is what happens afterwards—and takes place all year long.
"When we think about Women's Leadership Day, our focus is on making sure that the powerful messages we hear and experience serve us throughout the entire year. We ask ourselves questions like, "How can we sprinkle these themes into our programming throughout the month or quarter? How do these ideas fit with our Women@ initiatives?" Going through something awesome together is just the beginning. Our work takes place year-round and we're constantly building on it to do more."
Paris agrees: "There's no shortage of amazing stories from our Women@ community throughout the year. Women's Leadership Day is just one channel for those stories, and I love how it stays top of mind with people and empowers them to do more good. When we come together, we can do anything we dream of."
"We're building a sisterhood and a community," Tatiana beams. "It feels so good to know there's always someone there to support you."
Learn more about Facebook's Employee Resource Groups, including Women@ here.