Extreme Project Management (XPM)

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Extreme project management (XPM) is a modern approach to manage projects this method is used when managing complex and uncertain projects which has a lot of new or changing requirements during the project duration. The methodology is bordering on a tactical operation of an ongoing project with the goal of completing the project ahead of the normal timeline. Extreme project management differs from normal project management with its open and non-deterministic approach and with a larger focus on managing the stakeholders involved in the project. Extreme Project management came about as a consequence of modern situation requiring a method which allows managing constant changes and complexities in more turbulent projects. This nature has led to Extreme Project Management being one of the main methods used in the software development industry. In this article the XPM approach will explained and compared with the traditional approach additionally the leadership skills and stakeholder managements methods will be explored.


There exist many types of project management theories with different industries using different methods most suitable for their respective challenges. Extreme project management is one of the most used project management methods in the software industry due to the large changes and alterations occurring in the industry. One of the key factors leading to the popularity of extreme project management is the fact that it corresponds to extreme programming, this is a software development methodology which is used to improve the quality of software and works in iterations where the customer requirements can be adapted.

Extreme project management is fast pace working environment which allows the project teams to work in shorter timelines. For the Extreme project management to keep up the accelerated pace it is necessary to for all team members to understand what the work entails this is done by having close thorough communication in the execution of the project, this however should not affect the strategy of the project.

Extreme project management uses a of the more often used rapid application development (RAD) [1]. Rad is a development focused method made for project with fast time scale which focuses on development more than planning. Requirements for a project to be suitable for the extreme project management methodology a few areas need to fit with the methodology. The scope should be narrow and the strategic business goals should be well defined. Decisions needs to be able to be made by a small number of people working on the task at hand, since reporting to the top would take away much of the time necessary to complete the deliverables.

An often-used quote to describe extreme project management comes from Doug DeCarlo "An extreme project is a complex, self-correcting venture in search of a desired result." [2]. An extreme project is full of uncertainties but mitigates these uncertainties by using methods which allows the project to be self-correcting.


Extreme projects are an entirely different approach to project management compared with traditional project management, extreme projects are project where results drive the planning compared to traditional project management where the planning drive the result. In extreme project management the project process is iterative meaning it is separated into a lot of smaller tasks and deliverables which allows the project to make changes this minimizes the amount of work which is lost since there will be a lot of changes during the life cycle. The methods used in extreme project management are not new discoveries, but a grouping of methods which the project manager needs to keep in mind. [3]. Extreme project is focused on time-to-market in a fast-growing market this for software projects is essential for success. In this project is not possible to make a detailed timed schedule but needs to be able to evaluate the project daily in order to shape the product to the current situation.

In order to effectively manage such an extreme project it is necessary to have some methods which facilitate a way of managing the extreme project. These rules can be summarized 11 rules[4]. [5]

  1. In extreme project management the project team members are given a lot of room to improvise within the given framework of the project. Even though there is a lot of improvisation the work is not ad hoc because of the planning and review of the work. The extreme project is based on innovation, creativity quick thinking and fast passed work. For the project to work under these conditions the manager needs to establish creative working environment encouraging independent thought of the project team members.
  2. The project manager should focus on the business and organization aspect of the project and not on the technical issues. Success requires that the technical aspects of the project is integrated with the business and political aspect of the project. This management is focused on managing the expectations of the clients and making sure the deliverables match the expectations of the client.
  3. In extreme project management it is the future is more important than the past.
  4. A plan without the full participation of the stakeholders is worthless.
  5. The extreme project manager must be more concerned with the context of the project than the content of the project. This is achieved by the manager being in constant communication with the stakeholders.
  6. The success conditions of the project must be defined at the start of the project otherwise success will not be achieved by the end.
  7. Show continuous progress and results to the stakeholders.
  8. The project stakeholders can be the project managers worst enemy or closest ally all depending on the stakeholder engagement.
  9. It is impossible to predict the future and therefore it should not be planned in detail. A key aspect of extreme project management is to realize that you cannot manage the uncertain and unknown the same way you would manage the known quantities. It is a waste of time to trying to change reality to fit the project, in an extreme project no single person is in control everyone in the team will be in control of the project.
  10. If there has been no change in the project there is something wrong.
  11. In internet or IT projects, a day is a long time.

It can be observed that these methods are not unique to extreme project management, but together form a framework for how to manage the extreme project. Extreme project management can therefore be considered a collection of good and familiar doctrines which allows a project to run effectively. I can also be said that these methods make for a suitable mindset for project working with a critical time factor where business values are essential. If instead one would use traditional project management to manage an extreme project one would end up with a lot of lost time and work and would easily make coordinating the product with the primary stakeholder difficult, these factors would make it almost impossible to manage an extreme project with traditional project management.

Extreme Project Management Vs. Traditional Project Management

A main distinction between the traditional project management and extreme project management is the amount of predictability in the given project. Usually in a traditional project a plan will be made often using the waterfall method [6] describes what actions needs to be taken when and where and what deliverables there is. While the plan is often challenging to follow exactly in traditional project management it is an overview of what the project will entail. The extreme project management however will usually change rapidly during the course of the project since XPM is mainly used in cases of turbulent environment. The waterfall method works by organizing a set of project activities in a direct line when changes then occur in this line the whole project will be reset from the previous point. In extreme project management the work is divided into smaller deliverables with a timeframe of days or weeks. Because the deliverables are smaller the amount the project team has to reset when there is a change is decreased allowing the project team to review and approve thought the project.

Extreme projects is a process to discover what is truly wanted done through trial and error[7]. The Extreme project is self-correcting because the fast pace work does not allow all of the decisions to be run up the hierarchy which results in the decisions being made be the team members, thus making the project self-correcting. In case of a traditional project the goal is to produce a planned result efficiently by minimizing the deviations from the plan. A key difference then becomes the traditional projects focus on efficiency and the extreme projects focus on effectiveness.

From the methods of extreme project management and the standards explaining traditional management a couple of key point can be made where extreme project management differs from traditional project management.

Traditional project management[8]

  • Fully plan driven
  • Manages the known
  • Stable and predictable
  • Achieve planned result
  • Efficiency
  • Process driven
  • It thrives on managing

Extreme Project Management

  • Fully adaptive with short cycles of development
  • Manages the unknown
  • Chaotic and ever changing
  • Self-correcting leading to right result
  • Effectiveness
  • People and result driven
  • It thrives on leading

Managing the Extreme Project Environment

The project manager in a professional in the field of project management whose job is to plan, execute and manage a project. In the extreme project the project manager must complete these duties at a high-speed environment while following the mythology of extreme project management.

One of the key components of in extreme project management is the high focus on the project stakeholders this leads to the first step of the management is to meet with the client or stakeholders and have these people or organizations involved with the planning the project. A specific analysis which accentuates the value the client or stakeholder will gain must be made.

“Traditional project management is past oriented. Extreme project management is future oriented.”[9]. The point of this quote is that the traditional manager’s goal is to get it right the first time, while the extreme project managers goal is to get it right the last time. The extreme project most often seen in software development the focus is on the client and often the client will change the specifications of the project many times during the life-cycle of the project, therefore if the future is going to change why plan for it. This means that the manager needs to be adaptable to change by using a minimalistic approach when planning the next step.

Important to the project manager is the mindset when managing an extreme project since a lot of control will be distributed to the project team, the manager must adopt a mindset which thrives on change and innovation.

When managing an extreme project, it is not the managing that is in focus it is leadership. A good process leadership will allow the project team to discover the best solutions and to self-correct the project, this is necessary due to the minimalistic planning and fast-pace work.

The role of the project manager can be described by using four steps[10].

  • Navigating the political landscape: this step entails the communication with the stakeholders and ensuring that the stakeholder expectation align with what the project is producing. This mean that the project manager needs to continuously schedule meeting with the primary stakeholder. This will allow the project to be intermittently realigned with the stakeholder expectations.
  • Generating results: this step is about facilitating project infrastructure like tools and processes as well as decision making. In this step it is also necessary to continuously demonstrate results and track progress. Since the primary stakeholder will often be a client it is important to show progress in order to have a good working relationship with the stakeholder.
  • Manage the mood: this step is about making an environment which empowers the project team members to produce innovative and creative results. Here it is also important coach and encourage and eliminate the everyday barriers which stops the team from working effectively.
  • Ensuring business value: in this step it is important to maintain a strategic view of the project orientation. This means focusing on what the project is trying to achieve rather than focusing on what the specific task entails. A project manager should be able to eliminate tasks with the reason of the task not following the strategic goal of the project.

In traditional project management the people are servants to the process i.e. Gannt chart, status reports and other such deliverables. In an extreme project the process is servant to the people, since a good quality of life is necessary to produce the needed creativity to ensure the project’s success.


Success of the extreme project management is dependent on numerus factors and if these factors does not correspond to a project in question extreme project management will not be an appropriate tool, a few of these factors are important to emphacize.

  • In the extreme project requirements are changing all of the time, since the extreme project lives in uncertainty and often involve project with alot of changing circumstances it is important to know the methods which mitigate these proplems. In extreme project management these problems are mitigated by segregating the project into itertive steps, this enables the project team to constantly change aspects of the project through communication with the primary stakeholder, in a way wich lessens work lost.
  • Stakeholder management is key and should be a top priority for the project manager. Extreme project management is most often used in software development where the project are working on a piece of software for a client. Therefore it is vital that the project manager is in constant communication with the primary stakeholder in order to insure the expectation match the project deliverables.
  • Extreme projects are a trial and error work environment and can be highly stressfull when working with short deadlines, it is therefore important to focus on quality of life among the team members to mitigate burn-out. It is vital to know that the extreme project is people driven and not proccess driven. If the project team is motivated and able to make decisions in an creative environment it will allow the project to be self correcting saving the project time and resources.


  1. Link:https://www.projectmanagement.com/content/processes/11306.cfm
  2. Book: extreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles, and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility, by Doug DeCarlo, Foreword by James P. Lewis, Afterword by Robert K. Wysocki, First Edition, October 2004, Wiley.
  3. Quote: Paul Lysholdt Rasmussen
  4. Synopsis:Synopsis XPM – from idea to realization. Critical approach to the concept of XPM. Author: Catrine M.Jakobsen. Link: http://www.glyn.dk/download/synopsisXPM.pdf
  5. Book: Radical Project Management.By Rob Thomsett. Published by Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle Creek, New Jersey, 2004
  6. Book: Project Management: "Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2" 6th Edition (2017)
  7. Book: extreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles, and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility, by Doug DeCarlo, Foreword by James P. Lewis, Afterword by Robert K. Wysocki, First Edition, October 2004, Wiley.
  8. Book:The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)
  9. Book: Adaptive Software Development (2000) Jim Highsmith
  10. Book: extreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles, and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility, by Doug DeCarlo, Foreword by James P. Lewis, Afterword by Robert K. Wysocki, First Edition, October 2004, Wiley.
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