Various Approaches to Project Management

As the field of project management has grown and developed, a number of different approaches have arisen. Each has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and some are more suited for certain needs than others. Below we will examine six such approaches.

Traditional Project Management

The “traditional” approach identifies five components, or stages, of a complete project:

  • Initiation
  • Planning and design
  • Execution
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Closing

The simplest version of the traditional approach goes through these components one-by-one in the order described; this is known as a “waterfall” model. However, things can be more complex than this. Although the initiation and closing stages always occur first and last respectively, of course, the middle three stages are more distinct conceptually than chronologically. A project may go back and forth among the middle three stages listed above.

Critical Chain Project Management

This approach emphasizes the efficient use of resources. The “critical chain” of the project is the longest sequence of tasks that are constrained by the availability of a resource.

CCPM is less concerned with task order and scheduling. Schedules and deadlines are seen as less important due to a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Law, which states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Ironically, it seems that a lack of deadlines actually speeds up work, as workers will complete their tasks as quickly as possible rather than waiting until just before the deadline.

Extreme Project Management

The focus here is on the human element of a project. This approach is much more open than the traditional method and is best suited for complex and uncertain projects. Large, relatively simple, one-time projects are unlikely to need this type of management.

Event Chain Methodology

This approach is most concerned with analyzing events and chains of events that might affect a project. It is best used in uncertain projects, where such events are most likely to occur.

Process-Based Management

When this approach is used, a project is seen as a collection of small, somewhat independent tasks. The project as a whole is therefore less rigidly structured than in the traditional approach. By breaking the project up, process-based approaches allow for increased flexibility and adaptation to unforeseen developments.


This is the second and current version of the Projects in Controlled Environments approach. It is process-driven, rather than reactive like Extreme Project Management. Projects are divided into numerous stages, which are carefully monitored to make sure that they are being complete on time and on budget; if not, adjustments will need to be made. PRINCE2 has specific recommended methods for all the various stages of a project.