Extreme Project Management: Methodology & Examples

Instructor: Farah Newmarch
In this lesson, we'll explore the key concepts of extreme project management to understand what it is, how it works, and why it makes sense in certain situations. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Extreme Project Management

There's more than one way to reach the finish line. In project management, these ways are known as methodologies, or processes and behaviors that guide how teams collaborate and projects get delivered. Extreme project management is increasingly popular with leading organizations to 'get them over the finish line.'

Think of it this way: a 1,000-piece puzzle couldn't be put together using extreme project management because every one of those pieces needs to be joined together before anything useful is created (i.e., the completed puzzle). In other words, there is a high degree of certainty as to the finished product and what it will take to get there. Furthermore, the entire project scope must be delivered at the same time to get a result. However, if you had a 1,000 pieces of toy building blocks you could create any number of finished structures quickly and independently of one another.

With extreme project management, work can be built in increments, as if you were using building blocks
With Extreme, work or ~

Throughout the project, structures could also be reworked as required. Furthermore, it is not necessary to use all of the 1,000 pieces of toy building blocks to complete the project - the team could meet its objectives with any number of pieces, provided that the desired outcomes are achieved. This is the essence of extreme project management.

Key Concepts in Extreme Project Management

With traditional project management (i.e., waterfall methodology), the plan is built up front and followed by all through to completion with little deviation. In contrast, extreme project management is a methodology that is used to handle projects with a high degree of uncertainty and complexity. Extreme project management has become very popular in software development; however, the concepts can apply to any project for which the scope can be delivered in increments. This incremental approach is best suited to projects that need to move quickly but also need to allow for a margin of error due to uncertainty - this uncertainty is particularly high in the project's initial stages.

How Extreme Projects Reach the Finish Line
How Extreme Projects Reach the Finish Line

Extreme project management is suited well for these projects for the following reasons:

  1. Flexible & Adaptive - This enables the project team to innovate and remain responsive to changes throughout the project. Rather than planning every single detail up front and sticking to that plan, extreme project management involves guiding the team through the collaboration needed to turn uncertainty into certainty and achieve results.

  2. Emphasizes Brevity in Scheduling - Work is scheduled in short cycles to enable projects to deliver results early and often. Generally, increments are broken into 2-4 week durations. Waves, consisting of 2-to-3 increments, are planned together to enable the team to see the planning horizon toward which they are working. This is sometimes referred to as rolling wave planning.

  3. Leverages Lean Processes - In order to deliver work in short cycles, extreme project management foregoes hierarchy in favor of self-managing teams that can perform work, make decisions, and resolve issues without the need for lengthy approval processes or complex project governance. Thus, projects that leverage extreme project management are people-driven rather than process-heavy; limiting their use of processes to only those that are necessary to achieve the result.

  4. Strives for Continuous Improvement - Self-correcting processes enable the team to take the learnings from successes and failures in earlier activities, and fold them into the next phase; continuously improving in a trial-and-error fashion as the project progresses. After each cycle, the team collaborates to review and realign in order to keep the project on track.

  5. Succeeds through Collaboration - Business stakeholders should define goals, functionality and quality, and prioritize them accordingly. Technical team members decide how things will get built. All must collaborate together and communicate extensively to achieve outcomes.

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