Project Management Methodologies Comparison (11 PM Methods)

Friday, June 3, 2022
Michael Scheiner
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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. 

  • Lean methodology

  • Kanban methodology

  • Scrum methodology

  • PRINCE2 methodology

  • PMBOK methodology

  • Six Sigma methodology

  • Critical path method (CPM) 

  • Critical chain project management (CCPM) methodology

  • Waterfall methodology

  • Scrumban 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.

Methodology

Advantages

Disadvantages

Lean project management

Flexibility, software development

Dependencies, manufacturing

Kanban (agile)

Agile, IT projects, product development

Resource management, enterprise

Scrum (agile)

Agile, software development, backlogs

Long term projects, resource management

PRINCE2

Risk management, cost analysis, sequential iterations

High-level management, research and development

PMBOK by PMI

Project scope planning, stakeholders

Agile methods, flexibility, remote teams

Six Sigma

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

Waterfall method

Large teams, clear planning stages

Scheduling, task dependencies

Scrumban

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.  

Lean methodology

The lean project management methodology means pretty much how it sounds: Remaining 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

Advantages

  • Software development

  • Research and development

  • Remote project teams

  • Product development

Disadvantages

  • Task dependencies

  • Heavy manufacturing

  • Traditional approaches

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.

 

Kanban methodology

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

  • IT projects

  • Small teams

  • Creative teams

  • Product development

  • Content marketing

Disadvantages

  • Manufacturing

  • Enterprise level projects

  • Resource-heavy work

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.

 

Scrum methodology

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

Advantages

  • Task backlogs

  • Bottlenecks

  • Small teams

  • Agile product development

  • Software development

Disadvantages

  • Dependent development cycles

  • Rigid scheduling

  • Heavy manufacturing

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 methodology

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

Advantages

  • Project managers overseeing large teams

  • Risk management

  • Cost analysis

  • Sequential project progress

  • Iterative deliverables

Disadvantages

  • 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 methodology

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

Advantages

  • Many varieties of projects

  • Team member and stakeholder collaboration

  • Detailed project scopes

Disadvantages

  • Disparate departments or team members

  • Repeatable projects with unchanging needs

  • Agile methods

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

Advantages

  • Construction

  • Large companies

  • Big business

  • Enterprise

Disadvantages

  • Lean projects

  • 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

Advantages

  • Dependencies

  • Milestones

  • Timeframes and scheduling

  • Backlogs

Disadvantages

  • Agile methodologies

  • Lean methodologies

  • Short projects

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

Advantages

  • Risk management

  • Lifecycle planning

  • Resource planning

  • Dependencies

Disadvantages

  • Agile methods

  • Extreme workflows

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.

 

Waterfall methodology

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

Advantages

  • Large teams

  • Clear stages

  • Minimal risk

Disadvantages

  • Setbacks and delays

  • Dependencies

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.

 

Scrumban methodology

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

Advantages

  • Long term projects with sprints

  • Task prioritization

  • Backlog management

Disadvantages

  • Task dependencies

  • 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

Advantages

  • Agile methods

  • Research and development

  • Creative processes

  • Experimentation

  • Extreme programming

Disadvantages

  • Stakeholder involvement

  • 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. 

 
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