Project Management Methodologies All PMs Should Know – Forbes Advisor

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A project management methodology is a set of guiding principles that help you manage a project successfully. There are many methodologies available, but some might be better for you than others. In this article, we take a close look at some of the most popular methodologies, including why they work and which ones you should choose.

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A project management methodology is a set of principles that project managers and team leaders use to plan, execute and manage a successful project. One of the most common is the Agile project management methodology, which focuses on flexibility and speed as its guiding principles. Others, such as the lean methodology preaches waste elimination as the primary principle.

Project management methodologies like these will often have an associated framework that gives project managers processes, procedures and tools based on the principle. For example, the Scrum project management framework is based on the Agile methodology. The Kanban framework is based on the lean project management methodology.

However, other project management methodologies, such as the waterfall method include all the principles, processes and tools without a separate framework. For this reason, when discussing the common methodologies and determining which is best for you, we’ll also discuss the relevant frameworks that help you best implement your chosen principles of management.

The best project management methodologies help you complete a project on time and under budget while exceeding quality standards. With that in mind, let’s look at the most common methodologies and their frameworks so you can choose the best one for you.

Arguably the most common project management methodologies are the waterfall, Agile and lean methods. However, there are many other helpful methodologies available, including the PRINCE2, critical path and Six Sigma methods. Let’s look at each of these methodologies and their related frameworks.

The waterfall model is a traditional, linear project management methodology developed in the 1950s. The model typically includes five or six dependent phases, with each phase relying on the deliverables of the previous one. For this reason, you need to complete each phase before moving onto the next. The six phases of the waterfall methodology include:

The waterfall model offers a clear plan from start to finish and identifies requirements early in the process. An emphasis on documentation at every stage supports continuity no matter who works on the project.

However, this methodology is rigid and doesn’t account for factors that are unknown early but become relevant later. The linear process doesn’t leave room to iterate when new requirements or constraints become known. This could lead to an inefficient process with an ineffective outcome. For this reason, the waterfall methodology is only good if you’re managing a project with few unknowns.

Originally developed by Toyota for auto manufacturing, lean project management is focused on delivering value and eliminating waste, which it identifies in three categories by their Japanese names:

The lean project management methodology specializes in creating a culture of continuous improvement by eliminating waste and empowering employees. It helps reduce costs, increase efficiencies and improve quality and employee morale. One of the primary frameworks for implementing its principles is the Kanban framework, which we discuss below

Kanban is a method of lean project management that gives a visual overview of the project process from start to finish. This helps you manage workflow by showing exactly who is working on what and the status of each project component.

People using the Kanban method rely on a Kanban board, which is a digital project management tool that offers columns for various steps in a project workflow and “cards” for each project component moving through that workflow. Cards are moved from one step to the next as they progress through the process.

Agile project management methodologies developed as a response to the rigidity of the waterfall model and were inspired by the speed and flexibility of lean methods. They’re intentionally iterative and collaborative, and they put emphasis on creating good products for customers.

Agile isn’t just a methodology but a set of principles that underlie several methodologies, which sprung from the need for adaptive project management. Core Agile principles, as laid out in the Agile Manifesto penned in 2001 by a group of renegade software developers, include:

These principles allow for quick iterations that increase productivity and efficiency and can address changing requirements throughout the project lifecycle. However, eliminating documentation and relying on individual interaction can impede scalability and continuity across teams, especially within larger organizations. Therefore, Agile is best for small teams where developers and stakeholders are on the same page about business needs and constraints.

There are several Agile frameworks people use to implement this set of principles. The most common is the Scrum framework. Let’s look at the most popular Agile frameworks.

Designed for small teams, a Scrum framework guides a simple process of communication, planning, execution and feedback.

Scrum teams work in “sprints” of two to four weeks. The team first plans the goals of the sprint and agrees on deliverables to complete in that period. The team then meets daily for a 15-minute “scrum” or “stand up,” where each team member shares progress and impediments toward the goal.

At the end of each sprint, the team holds a longer meeting for sprint review to present completed work and get feedback and suggestions for future work.

Scrumban is a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban methods. It follows a scrum workflow and visualizes work on a Kanban board with three columns: To Do, Doing and Done. To avoid being overwhelmed, team members pull tasks from To Do as they have bandwidth, rather than committing to timeboxed sprints.

Practitioners of Scrumban keep a daily standup but don’t hold an end-of-sprint review. Instead, they conduct planning and review on an as-needed basis as tasks are completed.

Focused squarely on software development, XP project management emphasizes communication, simplicity, feedback and testing. It relies on “feedback loops,” where coding is happening continuously—without waiting for comprehensive design or planning upfront—and iterations follow feedback from testing.

The method is best suited for teams where programmers are in sync with stakeholders because the lack of formal management and documentation raises the risk for miscommunication and never-ending changes. However, this framework can create scope creep and it can become costly over time.

PRINCE2 stands for “projects in controlled environments” and was created by the United Kingdom government in 1996 as a version of the waterfall project management methodology. PRINCE2 is based on seven principles that start with a clear business case and include stakeholder management, initiation, planning, control, progress monitoring and acceptance criteria.

PRINCE2 is a well-structured and proven methodology that’s widely used. It’s also considered more flexible than the traditional waterfall method. However, PRINCE2 can be time-consuming with a lot of processes that can slow down a small project. Therefore, it’s best for more complex projects where quality standards are high.

Six Sigma was developed by Motorola to improve business processes by eliminating any defects or errors in the process. It uses statistical models to continuously improve quality management so the project’s outcome is successful. Six Sigma uses the following process to eliminate defects and errors:

The Six Sigma framework helps improve quality, eliminate waste, increase efficiency and reduce costs. However, Six Sigma is complex and requires a knowledgeable manager to implement it. For this reason, it’s only right for larger organizations who are looking for efficiency gains in existing processes.

The critical path method (CPM) is a methodology that identifies the critical tasks within a project, including the dependencies and timelines to completion. It then outlines the longest sequence of critical activities that must be completed to deliver the project on time.

The critical path method is great because it identifies a specific duration of time for each task. It even tells you how much allotted time you can go over for each task. This helps you manage project timelines and spot dependencies as you complete tasks. However, the methodology can be tough to manage and is therefore best for complex tasks with a lot of dependencies.

Critical chain project management (CCPM) methodology is similar to the critical path method. However, CCPM focuses on the resources required to complete a project rather than time. It assumes that resources are the project’s limiting factor and therefore stresses efficient resource utilization.

CCPM bases its measure of success on how seldom you’re using your buffers. If you aren’t tapping into your buffer of resources, it’s a sign your process is running efficiently. CCPM can help you save time and money on a project by efficiently allocating resources. However, it can be complex to manage and should be used when resources are the limiting factor of a project.

With so many project management methodologies available, which one do you choose? The best way to decide is to assess factors, such as your budget, team, project complexity, required flexibility, timeline, risk and stakeholder collaboration.

Let’s take a brief look at each to help you make the best decision possible:

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing a project management methodology. It may be a good idea to test a few out or even blend a few together to find an approach that best suits your needs. Ultimately, use the one that best helps you manage projects successfully.

Project management methodologies are the guiding principles that project managers and team leaders use to manage projects successfully. When combined with frameworks, they offer processes and tools to help plan, execute and manage a project. Choose the best methodology and framework for you to improve your project’s chance of success.

To determine the best project management software, we ranked several tools based on ease of use, cost to your organization, each company’s customer support, as well as special features.

Our top choice is ClickUp, which is best for teams that use the Scrum framework to manage complex projects. Included are prebuilt project management templates with robust automation options available. ClickUp even offers over 1,000 integrations to seamlessly fit into your workflow.

Other highly ranked project management tools include Asana and

A project management methodology is a set of principles, values and processes that determine how a team will complete a project. It dictates factors such as level of planning, design and documentation; methods of communication within and outside of the project team; timelines; and modes of assessment.

Which model and method will work best for you depends on the unique characteristics of your team and project. Consider typical methods in your industry, your team’s competencies and the project’s complexity to choose the best methodology.

A project’s lifecycle is the full span of a project through each phase of the process, from planning through delivery. Project lifecycle models are various project planning methodologies that dictate what happens in each phase and how a team moves through the process to complete the project.

Project managers should be familiar with the common project management methods and tools, including agile and waterfall. You should also have necessary soft skills needed for leadership, communication, time management, adaptation and critical thinking on projects.

Evan is a writer and entrepreneur with a background in technology and content marketing. He is currently the Head of Growth at Previous to Sagetap, he was was co-founder & CEO of the online publication Selling Signals, which was acquired in 2022, and served as General Manager for the online publication Fit Small Business.