Extreme Project Management: A perfect match for short-term engineering projects?

As part of our regular series of project management tools and tips blogs, in this article we're looking at the fundamentals of extreme project management and whether its principles can be applied to the Process Industry.

What is extreme project management?

Put simply, extreme project management is a more fluid planning approach, compared to traditional methods, that adapts and reacts to situations to best deliver the scope and targets of a project. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, this concept is governed by much shorter time lines, usually within a two-week cycle, with stripped back deadlines and delivery dates. This focusses project teams on the “here and now,” to deliver the key fundamentals of the short-term task at hand before the next phase of projects kick-start the process all over again.

It is a model widely used in the fast moving, ever-growing software industry. But could it be just as applicable to the Process Industry? You might already be using some of the principles of extreme project management already but just didn't realise it.

How can extreme project management be useful for the Process Industry?

Of course, exceptional project management dictates that you should have your mid to long-term goals mapped out and strategised. How else could you factor in multiple projects, make accurate profit forecasts, or tailor production schedules? But as a dovetail principle, in times of high output over relatively short time periods – perhaps to deliver a large-scale order with a demanding turnaround – could the extreme theme lead to greater success?

mapping out project goals

As we know, customer requirements can alter quickly and sometimes on a whim. Using a traditional planning model, these types of impromptu changes can throw a major spanner in the works and seriously derail a project's schedule. The consequences can be costly both in terms of time and money.

Extreme project management is centred around changing requirements. A more flexible, flatter hierarchy approach is the key to extreme success according to tutorialspoint.com. They say: “In extreme project management approach, team members collectively share the project management responsibilities. The team members are given a lot of freedom to add their variety to the project team. Whenever a team member feels making a decision that will add value to the overall project, it is allowed by the project management.”

They add: “Each individual of the project team is responsible for the management of their own assignment and the quality of the same. In contrast, the traditional approach is much more streamlined, well-defined approach where the project manager guides the entire team towards project goals.”

Project team

A flexible mindset, and willingness to embrace change, as well as the more relaxed hierarchical parameters are what makes extreme project management tick. Speaking of which, we've talked at length about the deficit of skilled young engineers entering the industry, at a time when forecasts predict a need for a massive upsurge in the coming years and decades.

Keeping bright young minds engaged and motivated is paramount to retaining fledgling personnel. Could the fast pace, greater devolved responsibilities, and accelerated management experience inherent in extreme project management be one way of retaining young talent and ensuring projects are delivered on time, on budget, regardless of whatever unforeseen events are thrown your way.

For UK-based practitioners starting out on their engineering careers, check out the IET's free and interactive Lifeskills workshops to get a taster on topics like Introduction to management, Fundamentals of project management, and Managing change. Have a look at their portfolio of workshops for more information.

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