QUICK SUMMARY

  • Take Stock of Your Environment
  • Determine Everyone’s Roles
  • Evaluate How Often You Need to Deliver

Project management is much more than making a to-do list, and choosing the wrong project management system can derail your progress. That said, there’s really no right or wrong system — your team should use the one that suits your work style and environment. 

When I got my start in theatre, I was part of a community theatre group. While we encouraged everyone to learn new things, we had to occasionally put the brakes on efforts that would have hurt the overall production. One time, our board’s president decided that she’d like to try her hand at lighting design, which requires a nuanced understanding of color theory, physics, and the equipment itself. She proudly unveiled her “lighting plot,” which was nothing more than a piece of paper listing when the lights would go up or down. Needless to say, we couldn’t use it.

Don’t let your project management methodology fail to take your equipment and design needs into account. An efficient system is much more than the “up and down.” Here’s how to choose the correct project methodology for your team.

Things to Think About

Take Stock of Your Environment

Are you in a flexible, creative workplace where team members wear multiple hats, or are you working within strict brand identity, workflow, or hierarchy? Your project methodology shouldn’t be an attempt to reinvent the wheel. I’ve worked in places where the managers attempted to use Agile even though we were subject to internal regulations and restrictive identity standards. Your choice of project methodology should empower your team to be effective and efficient, not shove square pegs into round holes.

Determine Everyone’s Roles

You may have people working in multiple roles in your organization, but are those people going to fulfill multiple roles within the project? Do you need to bring in team members from other departments? Do you need freelancers? Your project management methodology will need to handle this complexity and provide effective communication routes for everyone involved. A team collaboration tool such as Brief can help because it provides a centralized hub that avoids the hierarchical nature of email and directly connects to the tasks you’re assigning to your team.

Evaluate How Often You Need to Deliver

“Deliverables” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. If you have clients who want them in chunks, be sure you choose a project methodology that encourages iterative production and frequent check-ins. If you only need to deliver at the end, a linear methodology would likely be more suitable.  

Now that you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have a better sense of which project methodology will work for you. Here are some pointers.

Three Major Project Methodologies to Consider

Agile

This methodology includes practices such as Scrum (daily check-ins about task assignments and project updates), Sprints (spurts of activity to meet deadlines), and Kanban (organization of projects by status, with multiple projects happening at one time), and is best for teams that have more of a collaborative approach to clients. However, remember that Agile emerged from a software development process: it’s designed to be executed on an iterative basis, and that doesn’t work for some projects. Or some team members, for that matter!

Lean

This methodology is centered around reducing waste, whether that’s excess reviewers, long paper trails, or cumbersome approval processes. Like Agile, Lean is better for teams who have some flexibility in their workflow. If you’re required to make everything public record, run everything by the board, or incorporate feedback from multiple sources, Lean is probably not for you. However, if you’ve got projects that would benefit from a streamlined approach and a team that can share a lot of the workload, Lean would likely benefit you.

Waterfall

This methodology focuses on the plan of action. If your team needs to deliver a big package of deliverables or if you’re bound by internal regulations and reporting requirements, Waterfall is the way to go. Or, if your projects tend to be sequential (e.g., copy needs to be written before design can be started, and design needs to be fully completed before approval), Waterfall can help the work “flow” through different stages. 

Wrapping Up

There are other methodologies, some of which are variations or subsets of the ones listed above, but in general, which one is best for your team revolves around these three aspects:

  • The flexibility or rigidity of your work environment
  • How often you interact with clients and whether or not you collaborate with them 
  • Whether or not your project phases depend upon the previous phase

By keeping these principles in mind, you can choose the correct project methodology for your team. Remember to gather feedback from your team as well and fully communicate your expectations to them! In this way, you can co-develop an effective, empowering project management system rather than just giving them the “up and down.”

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