Traditional and Agile Project Management Approaches

Traditional and Agile Project Management Approaches


This paper critically analyses and contrasts the traditional and agile project management approaches with regards to how the project planning process is c conducted.   The project management tools, techniques and models and the project life cycle model are also discussed here. There has been a shift from the traditional project management to the use of software owing to a wide variety of pressures and challenges. This is particularly due to realization that the traditional approaches can no longer respond to the current dynamic times and circumstances. As such, the agile approach which is responsive is being adopted by all and sundry.

Overview of Traditional and Agile Project Management Approaches

The traditional project management approach makes use of methodologies which engage the management in exhaustive, cumbersome planning, controlling and measuring. The methodologies employed in this traditional kind of approach are overly complicated and in many instances very costly. The traditional approach by its very nature is not able to respond to the feedback of the customer in a timely fashion and do not take into account the reality of technical development process.  The approach assumes a tall organisation structure where decision making has to follow a step-by-step procedure which is often lengthy and cumbersome indeed (Wysocki, 2011). Furthermore, the structures of the organisation are very rigid and rarely respond to change. In the process of project planning, in organisations that adopt the traditional approaches, change is seen as a potential threat.

The agile project management approach is one that makes use of the modern software to make the process of project planning and management effective, prompt and efficient indeed. Agility is the ability to respond to and adapt to change. As a result, the organisations that have adopted the agile project management approaches do not see change as a threat but rather as an opportunity.  It makes it possible for the project planning and management team to new and unforeseen situations. With this perspective, the project planning and management process no longer relies on the control by the managers; the shift is made towards the manager’s skills in communication, co-ordination and facilitation within the project management team. The three major attributes of the agile approach include the following:  it is incremental and evolutionary, that is the process allows for both internal and external adaptation to possible events (Cobb, 2011). Further, it is modular and lean, meaning it allows the components of the process to come and pass in accordance with the specific needs of the stakeholders and participants. Lastly, it is time based. The implication of this is that the processes are built upon concurrent and iterative work cycles which ensure that there are customer feedbacks and also allows for the assessment of progress through check points.

Differences between Traditional and Agile Approaches

In terms of the project planning process, there are many differences that can be seen between the two approaches: the traditional and agile project management processes. These differences are discussed below:  First and foremost, the traditional project management approach assumes that rigid procedures are necessary in the regulation of change. As s result, the project planning process must follow a given predetermined specified procedure. This indeed slows down the planning process since the rigidity is highly likely to result in time wastage and it’s also very cumbersome (Korkala, Pikkarainen, & Conboy, 2010). The Agile approach, on the other hand makes use of software and therefore there is high flexibility. The aim is to respond to any given situation. This is something that the traditional approach cannot guarantee due to its rigidity. It therefore cannot adapt to situations as with the agile approach.

Moreover, the traditional project management approach is manifested by hierarchical organisation structures which become the ways of establishing order. The project planning decisions therefore have to move from one hierarchy to another. The structures are very tall thereby reducing the pace of decision making. This, in turn, delays the entire process of project planning. There are a lot of bureaucracies making this kind of approach very cumbersome indeed (Krishna, 2005). On the contrary, the agile project management approach has adopted what is referred to as flattened organisational structures where the project planning is simplified as opposed to the tall structures where decision making on matters regarding the project planning has to move from one stage to the next. The bureaucracies witnessed in the traditional approach are not seen here.

In the traditional approach, increased control results into increased order. As such, there is likely to be a lot of control by the top management over the project management processes including planning. This control commences right from the inception of the project and continues to its completion. While this control is very heavy in the traditional approach, the agile approach does not experience any such control. It makes use of information systems to make reliable, informed and tested decisions which are seen to be ideal to the organisational situation.

For the traditional approach, the organisations must be rigid and have static hierarchies. This is not the case with the agile approach where the organisation’s flexibility is a standard and ideal definition. The flexibility comes about as a result off the use of project management information systems to solve problems and make decisions affecting the entire process of project planning. For this reasons, many argue that this project management approach is the one that is ideal for today’s management especially in the wake of globalization. It is expected to lead to higher profitability, productivity and competitiveness of the organisation that has adopted it.

The traditional approach of project management visualizes the employees as interchangeable parts of the organisational, machine. The employees are seen as machines in the organisation. As a result, an issue of motivation of employees in planning the projects is not usually taken into account. The problem solving arising from the organisational employees is equally very rigid since they are considered as machines. As opposed to this approach, the agile approach considers the employees as very fundamental part of the organisation without which the organisation cannot move forward (Aguanno, 2005). Consequently, a lot of efforts are often made to ensure that there exist very favourable working conditions for the employees and that the environment is conducive enough to ensure that they all have a positive contribution to the success of the organisation. The organisation is seen as a system and employees are very important part of the system that can propel it to greater heights.

In the traditional approach, projects and risks are usually adequately predictable to be managed through complex up-front planning. Such tasks and risks are usually done on a routine basis and must follow that specified and usually complex order. Similar means of solving problems are seen every day in this approach. They hardly adopt a new and unique way of carrying out the project planning process. It is always that same old method. However, this is not the case with the agile approach which has recognized the need to test different solutions to different project planning situations. It is true that a given project management style cannot suffice all situations (Lock, 2007). There is need to acknowledge, recognize, understand and appreciate the fact that each situation requires a unique way to tackle it. The same old, routine methods of project planning may not be applicable especially at a time when information and communication technologies have changed the way tasks are performed.


Project planning tools and techniques

In the contemporary society, there are several project planning tools and techniques available for the teams to use to guarantee the success of a project. The project planning infrastructure which consists of resources such as the human resource, i.e. the personnel that is tasked with the entire project planning process should be in a position to utilize these tools and techniques. There should also be the information system which consists of the organisational policies and procedures, the computer software and hardware and the decision makers who make the project planning a success.

Some of the available tools, models and techniques used for the process of project planning include brainstorming, Fishbone diagrams, Critical path analysis Flow Diagrams and Gantt Charts. These tools are very fundamental in gaining approval, estimating the time requirements for the project and even the resource requirements (Anantatmula, 2010).  The two techniques that are discussed in this paper are the brainstorming and the Fishbone Diagrams.


This is usually the very first critical and creative process of the project management planning process. It is usually a free thinking and random kind of technique. As a result, it can be overlooked as it is not natural for so many people. The justification of this technique comes about as a result of the fact that it is responsible for the generation of ideas that are likely to guide the entire project planning process. The brainstorming sessions should usually be initiated and guided by a team member. It should allow the team members to think creatively and randomly focusing on the project at hand.

Fishbone Diagrams

The fishbone Diagrams are also very fundamental tools used in the project planning process. The main reason for adoption of these tools is because of their benefit in quality management, fault detection and also in the business improvement particularly in the production and manufacturing sectors. The diagrams are useful for early planning, especially when organizing factors during the brainstorming sessions. They help in identifying factors that can be very crucial in enabling larger activities, parts of processes and resource areas. They are also called cause and effect diagrams.

Project planning life cycle model

The project planning life cycle consists of a series of events that are expected to take place in the entire project planning process. This cycle is a rigorous application of the sound management and project management principles and best practices. The life cycle model provides the context for governance of processes and provides a description of interdependencies between the project management, capital management and investment management components. The model is heavily dependent on very clear, efficient and effective solution specifications, the design, development and implementation (Westland, 2007). It ensures that the project is subjected to a continuous and constant process of review and approval. The seven major phases of project planning model are illustrated below:




Illustration of the Project Planning Life Cycle Model

The life cycle is a very major component of any organisation with respect to project planning and management processes. It enables effective integration of the project and its outputs with the architecture of the organisation, the information technology security, the management of the information systems acquisition and the processes related to capital management. A very fundamental objective of the project planning life cycle model is to ensure the provision of flexibility which then allows for the tailoring of the methodology to ensure that it is compatible with the characteristics of a specific solution effort.


Project management is a very critical process in any organisation and the planning team ought to be well informed about the techniques, tools and project planning models. Depending on the needs and size of an organisation, a decision should be made on whether to use the traditional project management approaches or adopt the use of the agile approaches. The traditional approaches, though seen to be ineffective, are still safe for many projects. After all they have evolved and matured well enough. Besides, some organisations may not have adequate infrastructure and personnel to acquire and effectively implement the agile project management and planning approaches. The changing times may call for the use of the agile approach which is ideal to the times and circumstances. However, the organisational project planning and management requirements should guide the choice.





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