Traditional project management is a universal practice that includes a set of developed techniques used for planning, estimating, and controlling activities. The aim of those techniques is to reach the desired result on time, within budget, and in accordance with specifications.
Traditional project management is mainly used on projects where activities are completed in a sequence and there are rarely any changes.
Project Management Methodologies and Frameworks
The concept of traditional project management is based on predictable experience and predictable tools. Each project follows the same lifecycle, which includes five stages: initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing.
The Beginnings of Traditional Project Management
Although project management was first introduced as a discipline during the 1950s, it has been around for thousands of years and has been used in creating some of the biggest projects, from the Great Pyramids to the Transcontinental Railroad.
Those large-scale projects changed the face of history and mankind forever. However, as time went by, business owners and entrepreneurs found it hard to keep up with the fast pace of technological development and ever-increasing demands of the market.
Business leaders realized that they needed a system that will help them manage large-scale projects. They needed a well-structured methodology that would help them bridge gaps and ensure a consistent work pattern.
As a result, traditional project management was developed. Its ultimate goal was to make sure all the tasks are carried out in a predetermined orderly sequence.
Gantt chart is the most important technique in traditional project management. Its creator was Henry Gantt, which is why he's considered the father of traditional project management.
Gantt chart gives you a simple overview of a project. It is one of the most useful ways of presenting the tasks and activities of the project on a timeline.
In the beginning, people used to create Gantt charts by hand or by using magnetic blocks and Legos. As technology progressed, we began making Gantt charts in Excel in a matter of seconds.
The left part of the Gantt chart shows the project activities and the top shows the time scale. Each activity is presented with a bar. A bar’s position tells us about the beginning, duration, and end of the activity.
By looking at a Gantt chart, we can learn:
- What project tasks are
- Who is working on each task
- How long each task will take
- How tasks overlap and link with each other
- The start and finish date of the project
Today, we mainly use the Gantt Chart to track project schedules and make project management less stressful. Gantt chart helps us understand the relationship between tasks more clearly, keep all the team members on the same page, and successfully complete the project.
Gantt Chart comes with a lot of benefits: it lets you organize your thoughts, gives you a clear layout of what you’re doing, helps you set a realistic time frame, and it’s highly visible.
However, if you are working on an ambitious and demanding project with hundreds of tasks, charts might become too complex and make you feel overwhelmed. For example, as things change, you need to update the Gantt chart. Also, the size of the bar does not necessarily indicate the amount of work needed to successfully complete the project as an activity may require more resources than you initially expected.
What Is the Project Management Triangle?
There are many project constraints and the three most frequent ones are time, cost, and scope. They are a part of every project and together they make up the Project Management Triangle.
In the initiation phase, it’s important to specify all the steps of the project development including what WILL be was done and what WILL NOT be done. If you want to keep the project under control, you need to allocate some time and carefully plan and define the scope.
Time is an invaluable resource. While we can control the processes and make necessary changes to improve them, we cannot control time. One of the biggest challenges each project manager has to face is to use time efficiently, keep the project on schedule, and reach the desired objectives.
As a project manager, you should define the budget in the early stage of the project and then compare it with the figure your customer initially offered. If the client decides to spend a certain amount of money that doesn’t match your requirements, you can prepare a business proposal that will include the estimates of the total cost of the project. This proposal helps the customer base his decision on more accurate estimates.
All three constraints are interconnected and depend heavily on one another. Once you reduce the time allocated for the project, the cost increases. Also, the scope of the project dictates the pace and the number of resources necessary to realize and successfully complete the project.
While it’s virtually impossible to keep your eye on everything, it’s imperative to maintain the balance and strive towards the equilibrium of the triangle no matter how challenging it can be.
The area inside the triangle represents the quality and it’s the ultimate objective of every project delivery. A good project manager will find a way how to control all three constraints of the triangle and produce the best quality.
The project manager's ultimate goal is to meet their customers’ requirements and live up to the quality standards. In order to do so, you as a project manager need to control both the quality and the constraints.
"Project Managers play the lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing projects. They're expected to deliver a project on time, within the budget, and brief while keeping everyone in the know and happy." — Cam Lee, Rock Agency
Building on Top of Traditional Project Management: Quality Management
In order to improve the quality of both product and project management, you should integrate the following tools:
- Continuous quality management
- Process quality management
Continuous quality management is used to analyze any gaps where certain processes and steps could be carried out to improve the quality. You can undertake any number of improvements and then check them against the targeted improvements. It is cyclical and mostly present in customer-driven organizations.
Process quality management involves factors that have a major effect on the success of business processes and is based on the assumption that the organization has documented its mission and vision.
Using a grading system, all the processes that are critical to a successful business are identified, analyzed, and related to continuous quality management. The results of the analysis help the project manager make necessary improvements for given processes and the next stage is the initiation of the project management life cycle.
Traditional Project Management in the 21st Century
The computer and the Internet have become essential parts of almost any business. The computer replaced most manual jobs and new professions such as IT engineers, programmers, and project managers started emerging.
"The key to successful project management is to adapt. If you're constantly evolving, you are perfectly suited to project management's nature, as it is a beast that is continuously unknown. Success rests on the shoulders of your ability to plan ahead and adapt." — Kalila Lang, DigiSomni
The processes became more complex and demanding, and traditional project management no longer offers the best solutions to business problems. The concept of traditional project management has been changed and extended through different project management methodologies and frameworks.
Nevertheless, traditional management is still considered the foundation of all modern approaches and is still the prevailing methodology when working on big construction projects.