Agile is great for startups and tech, but many projects require the traditional project management approach. Here’s why.
Don’t think that traditional project management is inferior or uncool because agile is the new thing. Agile is a good option, especially for software development projects. Project managers must be familiar with the traditional approach to managing projects.
Traditional project management methods can be more effective for complex, regulatory-heavy and/or sensitive projects such as replacing the financial system of a publicly traded company. This will require detailed documentation.
This article will give you an overview of traditional project management, its benefits, and the five phases of a project’s lifecycle. I’ll also discuss how to determine if an agile approach is better for your project.
This article is intended for project managers who may need a tune-up, but I’ll also explain the what and how to help “accidental” project managers.
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Let’s start with the basics.
What is a traditional method of project management?
Traditional project management follows five phases of project design and execution. It is also known as the waterfall approach. This traditional approach is very well-suited for:
Projects such as building buildings, planes, and any other physical deliverables are best managed using a traditional approach. Imagine the chaos that could ensue if the customer wanted to approve and see the work every two weeks.
Traditional project management has many benefits
In project management, the term “traditional” does not mean rigid or outdated. It refers to a well-planned and planned project before you start work, clearly defined requirements, and a clear understanding of the final deliverable.
Here are some benefits to using a traditional approach.
We’ve now covered the benefits and definitions of traditional project management. Let’s break down the linear process I’ve already mentioned a few times.
The five phases of a project’s life cycle
A traditional approach to project management has five steps that generally follow each other. Step four, monitoring and controlling, is the exception. It starts in phase three.

Let’s go over each phase in more detail.
1. Initiation
This is where the initial planning and the idea for the project’s final deliverable begin. This phase is where the requester shares their needs and wants with other stakeholders, and, ideally, you, the PM. This phase is where you will create the project charter. It will outline the business problem, the proposed solution or the business case and also define the project team.
You should be able schedule the kickoff meeting by the end of the initiation.
2. Planning
This is the most important phase and it is essential to plan and design the project properly. This phase will include the communication plan, risk management plan and requirements. It also includes the work breakdown structure (WBS), work cadence, and project schedule.
You should be able provide a Gantt chart to the project team and senior managers by the end of planning.
Pro tip: Make sure to mark time in your project plan for documentation creation, review, and maintenance. Not only must your project be ready for audits, but documentation can also help you identify process improvements that could be made for the next project. Don’t forget the importance of good documentation, even years later. Execution
The team now knows what they are expected to do and can get started. As mentioned earlier, if the requirements don’t get clearly defined in the plann, it can be difficult for the team to begin work.