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Choosing the Right Project Management Approach

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

One of the most important decisions a Project Manager needs to take is to select a suitable management approach for their projects. The decision, however, might not be required to be taken for every project as teams in an organization tend to follow one particular approach for every project but starting a few unique projects might demand the knowledge and understanding of the project requirements and deciding which approach will be most suitable. Following the same approach for every project might result in a project's success or failure. One of the first steps is to understand the uncertainty in terms of requirements (What needs to be done) and processes (How it should be done).

In this Article, we will discuss this first step to understand which approach is most suitable for a project: Predictive or Adaptive?

If you’d rather like watching a video than reading an article, we have a video uploaded on our YouTube channel (A clip from our Live training on PMP certification):

Imagine your project laid out on a map, not of geography, but of requirements and process. Requirements, what you need to deliver, sit on the vertical axis, with certainty growing nearer the origin. Process, how you'll get there, stretches along the horizontal axis, its clarity mirroring the origin's pull. This map, the Project Quadrant, holds the key to choosing the right management approach.

Quadrant 1: Predictive paradise – Clear skies, Certain steps

At the origin, where both axes bask in certainty, lies the Predictive domain. Think of well-defined bridges or standardized software updates. Here, requirements are clear, and the process well-trodden. Detailed plans guide every step, minimizing uncertainty and maximizing efficiency. It's the picture-perfect path on a sunny day.

Example: Building a hospital wing Detailed architectural plans and established construction methods guide the process, ensuring each floor, wall, and medical facility is delivered on time and within budget. The Predictive approach provides a reliable roadmap for this straightforward project.


Quadrant 2: Incremental voyage – Building ships of shifting visions

Now, picture yourself adrift a sea of changing requirements. This is the realm of the Incremental approach. The final product is constantly evolving as you gather resources and build the components of a product. The process (programming) is well-defined, but the final form remains fluid. Each completed component/feature is a valuable delivery in itself, contributing to the ever-shifting vision of the whole.

Example: Designing a text sharing application (WhatsApp): Each completed feature, like the text-messaging, image sharing, or voice/video call is a valuable milestone, contributing to the ever-evolving vision of an application that connects people across the world.

Quadrant 3: Iterative Ascent – Embracing the Unknown Mountain

But projects seldom exist in such utopian landscapes. Venture away from the origin, and uncertainty begins to cast its shadow. The Iterative approach thrives in this twilight zone. Imagine scaling a complex mountain – the goal (summit) is clear, but the path ahead is shrouded in mist. Here, we break down the journey into smaller, manageable climbs, each delivering a working portion of the ascent. Feedback from each "iteration" fuels the next, adapting the route to unforeseen challenges.

Example: Developing a revolutionary self-driving car: Each iteration hones specific skills, like obstacle detection or traffic light recognition. Driver feedback and real-world testing shape the next ascent, pushing the boundaries of autonomous driving, one step at a time.


Quadrant 4: Adaptive Jungle – Thriving in the Uncharted Wild

Finally, at the edge of the known world lies the Adaptive terrain. Imagine navigating a dense jungle, where even the destination itself might morph as you forge ahead. Here, plans are mere suggestions, replaced by rapid experimentation and continuous learning. Every twist and turn, every unexpected encounter, informs the next step. It's a thrilling dance in the unknown, fueled by agility and resilience.

Example: Responding to a global pandemic: Public health teams grapple with ever-changing information and unpredictable outbreaks. Every twist and turn informs the next step, as they adapt their strategies to contain the virus and save lives.

Adaptive approaches can also be said to be a mix of iterative and incremental approaches, and finding work that is purely iterative or incremental is rare in real-world, there is always uncertainties in both the parameters. Hence, ultimately, the project selection would need to be made between predictive and adaptive approaches, and the plot would look something like this:

By plotting your project on this map, you gain the power to choose the right tools for your journey. Is it a predictable climb (Predictive) or a thrilling expedition into the unknown (Adaptive)?

The Project Quadrant, however, is a starting point not a destination. Within each approach lies a world of strategies and resources to explore. But by understanding this framework, you can choose the perfect project management approach, turning every endeavor into a triumphant adventure.

So, grab your map, pick your quadrant, and embark on your this epic journey called Project Management.

Do let us know your feedbacks on this article in the comments below. Hope the article helped you in understanding a bit more about project approach selection.

See you on the next article!



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