Project Management Methodologies Comparison (11 PM Methods)
There are so many project management methodologies to choose from. Some are formal, traditional and rigid, while others are modern, lean and agile. Which PM technique is best for you? We offer a project management methodologies comparison here.
Find out with our ultimate comparison of the best project management methods.
What is project management methodology? Our definition
A good project management definition describes how project managers and their team plan, execute, test and complete projects. The meaning of project management changes depending on whether the project has hard deadlines and budgets or if there is a more open and agile approach.
You can read the official agile manifesto to get an idea of this overall approach, which is a fun text. But the short definition of agile project management is one that allows teams to be open and flexible when it comes to pinpointing areas of work and reacting to issues, as well as allowing for greater independence for every team member or department working on a shared project.
Project management methodologies are distinct from project management techniques in scope. Methodologies are big-picture meta strategies that are process orientated, and exist independent of digital tools. Techniques tend to deal with the means of accomplishing specific tasks. That said, the meanings of “methodology” and “technique” have blurred in recent years.
Another thing to note is that project management methodologies are not the same as project management tools. Tools mostly refer to project management software, which are dedicated apps that can offer features for doing various different project management methods. These tools can include things like digital boards, shared inboxes, to-do lists, team collaboration tools, and more.
What are the different types of project management methodology?
This article has got one great list of different project management methodologies. The following rundown of PM methods will go over basic descriptions and offer some insights into how they work. We’ll discuss pros and cons and also give examples of each of these types of project management.
Six Sigma methodology
Critical path method (CPM)
Critical chain project management (CCPM) methodology
Extreme project management methodology
Project management methodologies comparison chart
Below’s table of our project management approaches gives you a quick overview of our 11 top project management techniques. We highlight some of the benefits and drawbacks of each PM method, or best and worst use cases.
Lean project management
Flexibility, software development
Agile, IT projects, product development
Resource management, enterprise
Agile, software development, backlogs
Long term projects, resource management
Risk management, cost analysis, sequential iterations
High-level management, research and development
PMBOK by PMI
Project scope planning, stakeholders
Agile methods, flexibility, remote teams
Large business, construction
Lean projects, agile methods
Critical path (CPM)
Dependency planning, milestone planning, construction
Lean projects, agile methods, small projects
Critical chain (CCPM)
Risk management, lifecycle planning, resource planning
Agile teams, extreme workflows
Large teams, clear planning stages
Scheduling, task dependencies
Scrum methods, Kanban boards, sprints
Team collaboration, task dependencies
Extreme project management
Research and development, creative projects, agile teams
Scheduling, budgeting, stakeholders
Project management methodologies list (with examples)
Enough of the vestibule chatter, let’s enter the house of the most popular project management methodologies. This is the thorough and detailed list of our favorite PM techniques, where we’ll also try and give some project methodology examples in action for better illustrative purposes.
The lean project management methodology means pretty much how it sounds: Reamingin light and nimble and not weighed down by fixed schedules, phases of production, or job roles. Above all, the lean methodology is great for reducing waste, whether actual material waste or wasted time which results in wasted money.
Lean project management comes from the Toyota method, which emphasized “just in time” production. This amounted to smaller inventories and fewer steps between phases of production. Lean methodologies are also good for producing regular deliverables for clients, and are therefore one form of iterative project management.
When to use a lean project management approach
Research and development
Remote project teams
Lean project methodology example
Some lean project management methodology examples can include things like software development where teams of coders are working on different iterations of a similar app or tool. Lean methods are also useful whether working on projects in controlled environments or not.
The Kanban board system is another project management method that is considered lean and more importantly, it is an agile project management system. This means that it also allows small teams to remain flexible and be highly adaptive during the project. As one of the main agile approaches, Kanban boards are among the most simple to learn and implement.
The Kanban project management system is based on the Kanban boards and cards. Cards represent specific work tasks, while boards are the states that each task must pass through, most commonly being: to-do, in progress, completed. Kanban can also make use of horizontal lanes to specify things like department.
When to use a Kanban board project management approach
Enterprise level projects
Kanban project methodology example
One great example of when to use the Kanban methodology is for creating creative content, like blog posts that combine texts and art. One lane can be for the writing, editing, approval of the text, while another lane can be for the concept, design, approval of the art. These two lanes can merge at the final stage which is the layout of the blog piece.
Like Kanbans, the Scrum project management system is another agile methodology. Scrum emphasizes short work bursts called sprints. A sprint normally deals with a small stage of the entirety of the workflow that can be completed in a short time and independently of other tasks. What’s more, many Scrum boards can have overlaps with Gantt charts.
The agile framework that is the Scrum methodology is great for smaller teams. Aside from sprints, Scrum project management makes use of other protocols, like daily Scrums, or stand-up meetings, and sprint retrospectives. Scrum also functions with specific roles, which are Scrum master, product owner and development team.
When to use Scrum project management approach
Agile product development
Dependent development cycles
Scrum project methodology example
The most common example of the Scrum project management methodology in action is for IT departments and more specifically for issue tracking and bug fixing, although Kanban boards are also very popular for these purposes.
PRINCE2 stands for projects in controlled environments. PRINCE2 is one of many project management processes which structure workflows in stages which are easy to manage and control. It is very popular in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and some Western European countries. As a methodology, it was partly designed by factions within the UK government.
With PRINCE2, a project life cycle is divided into stages which have a strong degree of dependencies on one another. There are six main aspects of PRINCE2’s development process, which are sometimes called goals. They are project scope, timescale, risk, quality, benefits and cost.
When to use a PRINCE2 project management approach
Project managers overseeing large teams
Sequential project progress
High-level project management
Experimental project management
PRINCE2 project methodology example
Many very large tech corporations use the PRINCE2 methodology regularly, and these include companies like IBM, BAE, HP, Phillips and Siemens.
PMBOK stands for project management body of knowledge, which might refer less to a specific methodology of project management. Instead, PMBOK lays out a standard set of terms and roles which help team members stay on the same page throughout a project lifecycle.
PMBOK was designed by PMI, or the Project Management Institute. This is a nonprofit organization which offers certification for project managers who master methodologies like PMBOK. The common stages set by the PMI for PMBOK are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closing the project.
When to use a PMBOK project management approach
Many varieties of projects
Team member and stakeholder collaboration
Detailed project scopes
Disparate departments or team members
Repeatable projects with unchanging needs
PMBOK project methodology example
There are many examples of the PMBOK methodology as it is more a set of shared terms and roles than an actual protocol. One great example is when you have remote team members with different roles, tasks and specialties, but who all need to communicate on the same page with the same terms.
Six Sigma methodology
The Six Sigma method dates back to the 80s when it was first developed by teams working at the Motorola Corporation. The strong focus of Six Sigma is about pinpointing errors or areas where problems may occur, and rectifying them before they become too embedded in the process and will require an entire project halt to fix.
This focus has made it a popular construction project management methodology. One which works best when paired with construction project management software, of course.
Six Sigma can be divided into two categories. The first focuses on identifying and resolving problems, and helps analyze and improve the process. The second one is more for defining ultimate project goals and allows for verification and testing.
When to use a Six Sigma project management approach
Open ended product development
Six Sigma project methodology example
To give a great example of Six Sigma project management, perhaps it’s best to turn to things like heavy duty repairs or replacements, for example in the construction or plumbing industries. Because of its strength in avoiding errors, Six Sigma is great for material infrastructure where mistakes can be costly or even harmful.
Critical path method (CPM)
CPM, or critical path methodology, is a project management method that allows you to envision and plan the entire project scope. It’s very useful when your project is very dependency heavy. One of the main priorities of the critical path method is organizing timeframes and scheduling.
When project order is what maily needs optimization, project managers turn to CPM. It avoids wasted time between project phases and helps prevent backlog waits and other logistical setbacks toward the final product.
When to use CPM project management approach
Timeframes and scheduling
Critical path project methodology example
A primary use case of CPM is also in construction. For example, many structures need foundations built before scaffoldings or final facades. Likewise, one must manage the timing of material delivery, labor allocation, and equipment rentals. This is an advantage of CPM.
Critical chain project management (CCPM) methodology
CCPM, or the critical chain methodology, is quite similar to CPM. Both of these are the right project management methodology for planning total project lifecycles and in stages. One of the main differences is that CPM is more about timeframes while CCPM is more about stages, or links in a chain.
While CPM is great for scheduling, CCPM is a great project management method for risk management. It’s more flexible in terms of time which allows teams to spend extra effort in verification and quality control to ensure continuous improvements are not made alongside lingering uncertainties.
When to use a critical chain project management approach
Critical chain project methodology example
CCPM is one example of project management that stakeholders can insist on if they want deliverables at many iterations. One place where CCPM is useful is in setting up new departments, which can include planning their locations, hiring, equipping, and organizing teamwork structures.
The waterfall project management method is perhaps the most straightforward of all the stage-dependent based PM techniques. The waterfall model keeps team members working on the same stage of the project which needs to run through several phases before everyone moves on.
These stages can vary, but some of the more regularly seen breakdowns go something like this: you analyze the goals or problems, you design the solution, you create an iteration, testing and feedback, and finally, repairs and improvements; from there you can skip back to the implementation stage. One disadvantage is that work can get held up between departments regardless if the tasks are dependent or not.
When to use a waterfall project management approach
Setbacks and delays
Waterfall project methodology example
The waterfall approach is commonly used with some form of software development which includes both front-end and back-end programming, for example, creating a new website, marketing campaign, as well as for online or IRL event planning.
As you could probably tell, the Scrumban technique is a combination of Scrum and Kanban. Unlike Scrum, which is usually done in short bursts of around 2 to 4 weeks, Scrumban is more useful for longer project lifecycles.
You can’t make use of Gantt charts as well with Scrumban even though normally it takes as its starting board the Kanban model. What sets it apart is that you can still add sprints if any aspect of your project needs to be expedited, and this will not upset the rest of the project’s continuous flow.
When to use a Scrumban project management approach
Long term projects with sprints
Teamwork and communication
Scrumban project methodology example
Scrumban can be ideal for software maintenance which happens alongside the slow rollout of new tools and features. What this also means is it allows teams to progress while also handling backlogs.
Extreme project management methodology
XPM, or extreme project management is a bit of a wild card on our list here, and it’s not too commonly applied. Still, it has its advantages. Extreme PM is for when teams do not have clear milestones or goals in mind, but are adaptive to new developments as they come up.
For this reason, XPM is great for R&D or creative processes. This is not the most useful project management methodology if your stakeholders are very involved in the process, or if you have to deliver working iterations on deadlines.
When to use an extreme project management approach
Research and development
Scheduling and timeframes
Projects on a budget
Extreme project methodology example
Extreme programming is a great example of when it’s suitable to use XPM. As a very agile methodology, it lets team members respond to problems or other user issues like suggested improvements in novel and inventive ways. Other examples are for use in end-of-day integration testing.
Deciding which project management methods and techniques to use
When choosing your project planning methods, there is a good list of questions you should ask yourself, and it's a smart idea to pose them in the right order. Having all your terms laid out is well advised, as it will help you land on the right methodology and the right project management techniques for knocking down tasks.
What are the project goals
The first thing to know when deciding which project planning methods are right for you and your team is setting milestones and goals. What are the ultimate aims of the project? A new product? A construction? A digital asset?
Who is the project team
Next you need to understand your team. Do you work together in an office or remotely? Is this a one-department project or interdepartmental? How dependent will each team member be from the others?
What are the project timeframes
Not only do you need to know when the project should end, but you should have a good idea of the optimized scheduled dates for some of the main stages of a project, even if those are simply going from nailing down the concept, to making it happen, to rounding up testing and feedback. This leads to the next step.
Are there project phases
Here's where you’ll eventually need to make the decision how agile your project will be throughout its lifecycle. If you end up using the waterfall technique or CCPM, for example, you’ll want to know exactly what kind of stages your project will require before completion.
What is the project budget
Perhaps it’s not so much a question of what the project budget is, but how important it is to make one and stick with it. Is there room for experimentation? Or how much budgetary slack is there in case a mistake is made and the project stalls? If you have less slack, you might want something more like PRINCE2 or CPM.
Do I need a professional
This might not be one of the most obvious questions when picking a project management methodology. However, there are official project management certification programs from organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI), associated with the PMBOK method. Many agile project management approaches like Scrum, Kanban and lean do not require any certification.
Integrating project management methodologies and tools
Implementing a good software project management methodology is key to project success.
PM methodology apps perform tasks like scheduling, issue tracking, project portfolio management, document management, resource management, costs and budgeting, as well as offering many teamwork tools for collaboration and communication. Many of these PM tools offer Kanban boards, Scrum boards, Gantt charts, calendar views, and even task and to-do lists with dependency workflows.
We've done a thorough project management software comparison elsewhere. Here we’ll touch on a few apps and talk a bit more about general strategy.
There are some notable PM software that most people already know. Trello is one example of a great Kanban board app. You can also easily set up triggers and rules for automations. Trello is made by Atlassian, which also makes Jira, a fantastic issue tracking project management tool.
Wrike is also worth mentioning. It’s really useful for total project management overviews and also has great analytics and project reporting. LiquidPlanner, meanwhile, is amazing for timeframes and scheduling and has some decent Gantt chart functionality. Asana also mixes up dashboards like Kanban, Gantt and calendar views. Finally, some special shout outs go to Monday.com, Zoho Projects and Teamwork.
When choosing a project management system you need to have some basic questions ready to answer. For software, you’ll need to know how much you are willing to spend. Who will be the main user of the software and how big their team will be. Some PM tools have free plans or just free trials, which is a great way to test out an app to see if it’s right for your project management needs.
However, as is always the case, if you like the software you are using, you’ll probably want to eventually invest in a more premium package with the better features. They often include advanced automations, analytics, roles and permissions, and integrations.
Once you’ve chosen a project management solution, integrating it into your team requires both good data cleaning as well as training and onboarding sessions for all its users. The more time you spend in advance feeding the system good data and letting everyone learn its tools and processes, the more time you’ll save later on when your projects are underway with the management help of great PM software.
What is the best project management methodology for me? Our conclusion
Clearly, we cannot dictate to you, dear reader, which project management technique will be optimal for your project needs. But here are a few quick key takeaways. If you have strict scheduling and budgeting or stakeholder involvement, you should think about something like the waterfall method or one of its more complicated cousins like the critical chain or critical path method.
Then again, if you are a light and nimble team facing down more unknowns in your project lifecycle with more flexibility, Kanbans, Scrums or lean project management methods might be a better place to start.
We’ve come to the end of the road along this project management methodology comparison journey. Has it been worth it? Did you learn something new?
No? Well then, pat yourself on the back for being so knowledgeable. For the rest of us who have learned some great things about project management methods, it’s time for a break. Let's plan a project that puts happy hour as its goal.
FAQs on PM methodologies
What are formal project management methodologies?
A formal project management methodology is a technique that is based on simple and traditional project management. This entails being clear about planning, scope, milestones and goals, as well as what materials, labor and timeframes are required. Formal PM techniques can be either agile or something like the waterfall method.
What are the most modern project management methodologies?
There are many more modern project management techniques beginning with the Kanban board system and Scrum methodology. Modern PM is often lean and agile as opposed to more traditional rigid project management. A very modern example of project management is extreme project management or XPM.
Is project management philosophy and methodology the same thing?
Project management philosophies are not exactly the same as project management methodologies whereas the latter dictate processes and protocols for planning and executing projects. A proper project management philosophy can use different methods because it's more focused on high level values like company beliefs, best practices or even employee experience.