Project Management Methodologies

Team using different project management methodologies

Every day, thousands of projects are created and completed across different teams, companies, and industries. With so many different types of projects and processes, it’s no wonder that there are many different ways to manage those projects. To choose a project management methodology, you must first understand the advantages and disadvantages of each methodology.

Take a product tour

What are project management methodologies?

Project management methodologies are a set of guiding principles and processes used plan, manage, and execute projects. The project management methodology you choose determines how work is prioritized and completed.

With its roots in engineering, construction, and military defense projects, project management activities have taken place on an ad-hoc or informal basis for thousands of years. However, it wasn't until the 1950's that formal, disciplined project management methodologies began to be defined and used in a widespread fashion among organizations. These approaches to managing work are all about specifying the best way to initiate, plan and execute projects.

With the rise of so many different types of management processes, it soon becomes obvious that few can agree on which methodology is best. Often, that depends on the type of organization itself. Here are a few defined project management methods that are popular today.

Agile methodology

At a very basic level, Agile allows your company and teams to work in short bursts on very particular deliverables. At the end of the short burst of time—called an “iteration”—teams are expected to have those specific deliverables completed. This allows teams to adjust their focus, pivot when a customer changes their mind in the middle of a product build, and change priorities as expectations and feature requirements change.

Learn more about agile project management

Kanban methodology

Unlike other Agile methodologies that focus on a cyclical process, the Kanban methodology focuses on an optimized workflow. Kanban looks to improve the flow of work by visualizing it with a Kanban board, setting a limit on the amount of work that can be in progress, and analyzing the flow to make continuous improvements.

Learn more about Kanban methodology

Waterfall methodology

Waterfall is a top-down approach to project management. During the early stages of a Waterfall project, project managers outline all the steps to the project upfront, including the schedule, scope, and budget. Waterfall involves investing a significant amount of time planning at the beginning stages of the project to set requirements and minimize the risk of problems arising later on during the process. With Waterfall, the current phase of the project must be completely finished before moving to the next phase.

Learn more about Waterfall methodology

Scrum methodolgy

Scrum, like other Agile frameworks, is organized around sprints. Under the Scrum methodology, teams create a backlog of tasks with realistic deadlines and organize their tasks around the sprint duration. During a Scrum sprint, stand-up meetings are held daily where each team reports on what they accomplished the previous day, what they will be working on that day, and any roadblocks preventing them from completing a task. When the sprint is complete, a sprint retrospective meeting is held to review performance and accomplishments.

Learn more about Scrum

Agile vs. Waterfall

The success and nimble nature of Agile in the software development realm has led to a rapid rise in marketing groups to also adapt Agile over other project management methodologies. Agile-driven marketing and creative teams indicate that it frees them from the endless development cycles that often occur with more traditional task management methodologies, while giving their creativity a major boost.

Learn more about Agile vs Waterfall

Hybrid methodologies

Such dramatic results might lead some to believe that they should completely abandon Waterfall, or other more traditional project management methodologies, in favor of the Agile approach. The truth is you can't successfully rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. Waterfall and Agile each have their advantages in different types of scenarios. Those considering moving from Waterfall to Agile might want to consider implementing a hybrid approach instead, using Agile where its dynamic nature can shine and Waterfall where its more deliberate approach makes sense.

While implementing a mixed methodology approach will have its challenges, it can be greatly simplified by using an Agile project management software that can handle both Agile and Waterfall, or even Scrum and Kanban in Scrumban, including integrating and enabling the communication flow between the different styles.

Whitepaper:  The Manager's Guide to Mixing Agile and Waterfall

Whitepaper:  The Advanced Guide to Agile Marketing

Other project management methodologies

Critical Path Method (CPM)

With the Critical Path Method, project managers create a model of the project using four elements: a list of all tasks required to complete the project, the amount of time each task will take, dependencies between tasks, and milestones or deliverable goals. Project managers decide which items are critical and which ones have “total float” (or can be delayed without pushing back the final project deadline) by taking into account the earliest and latest a task can be finished without delaying the finish time for the entire project.

Lean Project Management

The goal of Lean Project Management is to maximize value and minimize waste at all steps by continuously improving processes related to product and task delivery. Initially used in manufacturing, the Lean philosophy has been adopted into many business sectors as a way to effectively manage projects and reduce costs.

Six Sigma

This common methodology focuses on the financial returns of projects and encourages decision making based on data. It holds that: projects are most successful when variation in processes is reduced; process features can be defined, controlled, measured, and improved; success is dependent on buy-in from the entire organization.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

This method is similar to CPM, but it focuses more on the resources needed for each task in a project. Project managers identify resources—people, space, and equipment—that each task is dependent on. CCPM involves creating a chain of tasks based on precedence and resource dependence. This strategy is ideal when there are limited resources.

Event Chain Methodology (ECM)

With ECM, the emphasis is on events that have an impact on project schedules. This takes into account the idea that tasks are affected by all kinds of outside factors, called “events.” This methodology aims to manage those events so that plans are updated as needed and projects stay on track.

XP (Extreme Programming)

This methodology has teams working toward regular, frequent releases of deliverables. The theory is that short cycles of work increase productivity and regular releases allow for continual feedback on products, so things are always being improved. XP users plan for changes and don’t confine themselves to one set of unchanging requirements. This methodology is commonly used in the software development world.


Crystal methodology actually uses many parts of the Agile methodology as it focuses on team members—instead of tools and processes—and how they interact. This is a good fit for teams that want something they can customize and that is “lightweight.” Work is done in defined time spans, after which feedback is taken and used as the project moves forward.

FDD (Feature Driven Development)

Another methodology that uses parts of Agile, FDD strives to implement things the client is looking for while working in repetitive rotations. There are five steps in this methodology: develop an overall model, build a feature list, plan by feature, design by feature, and build by feature. After feedback is given, the steps are repeated to improve on the final product.

DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development)

DSDM also borrows from Agile, but defines the cost, quality, and time required for a project before it is started. Then, it prioritizes tasks into categories (“musts,” “shoulds,” “coulds,” and “won’t haves,”) as the project progresses to meet deadlines.

Adaptive Software Development

With this methodology, users recognize that processes need to be continually adapted to fit the work that needs to be done. It has three steps to its cycle: speculate (plan), collaborate (balance work with changing external factors), and learn (implement changes based on feedback).

RUP (Rational Unified Process)

RUP relies on three foundational elements: roles (who is involved), work products (what is being produced), and tasks (a unit assigned to a role). Project managers organize everything into four phases: inception phase, elaboration phase, construction phase, and transition phase.

PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments)

The PRINCE2 methodology relies on seven principles, seven themes, and seven processes. The seven principles are: continued business justification, learn from experience, defined roles and responsibilities, manage by stages, manage by expectation, focus on products, and tailor to suit the project environment. These are reflected in the seven processes used by project managers: starting up a project, initiating a project, directing a project, controlling a stage, managing product delivery, managing stage boundaries, and closing a project.