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4 project management approaches

This article seeks to understand different approaches and principles to managing projects due to different settings.
A man and a woman sitting down in the forest looking at something together while smiling.
© Luleå University of Technology

A suitable project management approach depends on the project being goal-oriented or goal-seeking.

1. Goal-oriented project

A goal-oriented project implies that the goal can be specified early in the project. Hence, the project team knows what to achieve and have the prerequisites to specify project scope, cost- and time limits. An example of a goal-oriented project is to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The focus is on problem-solving

In goal-oriented projects, the focus is on problem-solving, i.e. how to achieve the goal. This kind of project also many times implies relatively sparse interactions with stakeholders (due to the clearness in what to achieve and how to get there).

Understanding the root causes of problems and knowing how to improve processes can be difficult tasks in a goal-seeking project.

Hence, such a project is usually initiated based on an overall aim, where time has to be devoted to understanding the problem area and what should be achieved, i.e. problem structuring.

2. Goal-seeking project

In a goal-seeking project, the goal is unclear at the beginning of the project, often due to the unclear needs of different stakeholders. Hence, such projects have to be planned based on an overall aim/objective and vision.

The project becomes more explorative and detailed planning of the project can only be done in smaller steps (“iterations”).

An organisational change project

An example of a goal-seeking project can be an organisational change project, for example, to change the way of working (new processes and methods) in an organisation.

In a goal-seeking project, the team and the governance function strive to make the project more and more goal-oriented (i.e. to understand the needs of stakeholders), to make it easier to control and manage the project.

3. Stage-gate project management

When the project goal is clear/specified in an early phase together with requirements from the stakeholders, a stage-gate approach can be used.

The project team can manage the project without much involvement from stakeholders (such as customers and society). During the project, the steering committee follows up on project progress based on different tollgates, i.e. follow-up meetings.

4. Agile project management

In a goal-seeking project, the team has to put a lot of time into structuring and understanding different stakeholders’ needs and expectations.

This requires that the project is usually managed in smaller iterations, i.e. where the project team frequently presents and discusses sub results with the customer and other relevant stakeholders.

In that way, the project direction is changing due to the response from the stakeholders, which makes the project approach more agile compared to the stage-gate approach.

© Luleå University of Technology
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