An in-depth, illustrated guide to 20 of the best project management methodologies and how to choose the right one for your projects.
There is an abundance of project management methodologies. Oftentimes, choosing the right one is a difficult task. Which project management methodology should you use? Which PM methodology is best for your industry, budget and project size?
In this guide, we’ll explain 20 of the most popular project management methodologies, as well as they’re advantages and disadvantages. We’ll also show you how to choose a project management methodology.
What is a Project Management Methodology?
Before we explore the best project management methods, let’s make sure we understand exactly what they are.
A project management methodology is a set of principles and processes that are used to plan, implement and manage projects. They usually include a number of steps or phases that should be followed while managing projects.
In simple terms, a project management methodology is a roadmap and system used to effectively manage and deliver projects.
Project Management Methodologies
1. Waterfall Methodology
The Waterfall methodology breaks down the steps of projects into linear, sequential phases. These phases cannot be moved around or overlapped.
As the name suggests, the phases of the methodology simulate the flow of a waterfall, flowing from beginning to end.
The Waterfall methodology follows these steps:
- Requirements Gathering
If you have a clear understanding of your project’s requirements and the project is not overly large and complex, the Waterfall methodology is a good option.
What are the advantages of the Waterfall methodology?
Easy to Follow - The clear steps make the methodology easy to follow and ensure all necessary phases of the project are implemented.
What are the disadvantages of the Waterfall methodology?
Little Room for Change - As the methodology is based on following structured steps that are defined from the start, there is little opportunity to go back and implement changes.
Lack of Client Engagement - The Waterfall methodology doesn’t involve clients throughout the project, focusing instead on project efficiencies and the successful delivery of each stage of the project. This may lead to more cases of displeased clients.
2. Agile Methodology
Unlike the Waterfall methodology, the Agile methodology enables projects to change and adapt as they progress.
With Agile, projects are broken down into speedy, iterative cycles. Managing small segments of projects at a time allows for the regular evaluation of performance, testing, collaboration with stakeholders and response to change.
Agile was originally introduced to make projects more responsive to change. When using the methodology, project managers could operate with a product mindset, as opposed to a project mindset.
The Agile project management methodology's responsiveness to change, collaboration with stakeholders and focus on continuous improvement make it a great methodology for project managers of all kinds. This is especially true for those managing projects in unpredictable environments.
The development of the Agile methodology has spawned numerous offshoots – new methodologies based on the principles of Agile. We will cover those methodologies in this guide.
What are the advantages of the Agile methodology?
Quality – Testing and continuous improvement of project teams are key aspects of the Agile methodology, contributing to significant improvements in quality. The methodology’s flexibility and responsiveness to change also allows for the speedy resolution of problems to meet customers’ needs and improve overall quality.
Client Satisfaction – The Agile methodology provides a greater platform for client satisfaction, as it involves clients throughout projects and ensures their expectations are met.
What are the disadvantages of the Agile methodology?
Weaker Planning – As Agile projects are open to change and have ambiguous endings, planning is not comprehensive. For project managers, especially those heading larger projects, this can cause significant issues when it comes to planning budgets, resources and costs.
Lack of Documentation – Agile involves much less documentation than other popular project management methodologies. This can lead to confusion and a lack of understanding among project teams.
3. Scrum Framework
Scrum is a framework that is based on the principles of Agile. The framework got its name from rugby (a scrum is a formation of players in rugby) because it indicates teamwork and collaboration. Scrum focuses on short, time-boxed sprints, with daily ‘scrum meetings’.
The Scrum process begins with the product backlog, a list of the product’s requirements. These requirements are used to create the sprint backlog, a list of tasks the Scrum team will complete during the sprints. After each sprint, Scrum teams perform ‘sprint reviews’ to inspect the results of the sprint and ‘sprint retrospectives’ to identify process improvements.
Scrum teams are comprised of a Scrum master, a product owner and the Development/Project team. The Scrum master leads and coaches the Scrum team, who carry out the project tasks. The product owner is a representative of the stakeholders or customer, responsible for conveying the project vision to the team.
What are the advantages of the Scrum framework?
Responsiveness to Change – As Scrum projects are executed in short iterations, they can easily be adapted and improved.
Customer Satisfaction – As customers are consulted at the end of each sprint, Scrum projects are more likely to be delivered in line with customer expectations.
What are the disadvantages of the Scrum framework?
Strong Collaboration Required – If teams are not cohesive and collaborating effectively, there is a greater chance that projects won’t be successful.
Unsuitable for Large Teams – While Scrum has been used on large projects with over 1,000 people involved, the framework is generally for small teams of 9 people or less. When not scaled, large teams using the Scrum framework are usually inefficient.
4. Kanban Methodology
Kanban is a framework used to improve workflow and provide teams with a visual view of projects. With Kanban, all aspects of projects are visualised on a ‘Kanban Board’. This includes the backlog, tasks to do, tasks in progress and tasks completed.
Kanban makes use of WIP (Work in Progress) limits. WIP limits enable teams to focus on their existing tasks before commencing new work. Once Work in Progress is marked as complete, teams can move on to new tasks. Limiting Work in Progress optimises efficiency and ensures attention is spread adequately across the most important parts of the project.
Implementing Kanban can improve project productivity, minimise wasted time and enhance project teams’ focus.
What are the advantages of the Kanban methodology?
Improved Focus – Limiting Work in Progress (WIP) encourages teams to focus on existing project work before moving on to new tasks, ensuring they don’t lose focus.
Transparency – The use of Kanban boards provides project managers and teams with transparency, allowing them to instantly monitor the progress of projects.
What are the disadvantages of the Kanban methodology?
Timescales – There are no time parameters associated with each phase of projects in Kanban, which may slow progress and cause project managers to miss targets.
Confusion – If Kanban boards become too convoluted, teams may find themselves confused and lost in a maze of information.
5. Scrumban Methodology
Scrumban is an Agile methodology. It’s a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban, incorporating the benefits of both methodologies. By combing the structure of Scrum with the flexibility and process improvement principles of Kanban, project managers can enhance the efficiency and performance of their projects.
Teams using Scrumban work in two-week iterations. Unlike with Scrum, team members can choose their own tasks and Work-in-Progress (WIP) limits can be implemented during sprints to help them remain focused on the task at hand. Scrumban also utilises on-demand planning; planning is based on demand and only performed when the ‘planning trigger’ goes off.
Scrumban is an ideal methodology for those who value the structure of Scrum but require the flexibility of Kanban (or vice versa).
What are the advantages of the Scrumban methodology?
Flexibility and Structure – Scrumban provides project managers with the flexibility of Kanban and the structure of Scrum.
Improved Efficiency – Scrumban’s adaptive features, such as the elimination of regular sprint reviews, save time and improve efficiency. The use of Scurmban boards also enables teams to identify bottlenecks in workflows.
What are the disadvantages of the Scrumban methodology?
No Best Practices – As Scrumban is a new methodology, there is a lack of best practices and official guidance on how to use it.
6. Six Sigma Methodology
Six Sigma is a methodology and set of principles that focuses on quality and process improvement. It’s geared towards eliminating the causes of defects and reducing variability by making use of empirical and statistical quality management. Ultimately, the methodology focuses on optimising quality.
Six Sigma projects have been known to lead to significant cost savings and business improvements. After implementing Six Sigma processes, Johnson & Johnson reportedly generated 600 million dollars in cost savings.
Projects that use the Six Sigma methodology adhere to the DMAIC process (to improve existing processes) or the DMADV process (to create new products or processes).
DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control. DMADV stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, Verify.
Six Sigma is usually used by large organisations with over 500 employees. The projects are delivered by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts, who are led by Six Sigma Master Black Belts.
What are the advantages of the Six Sigma methodology?
Quality – Six Sigma is a fantastic methodology to drive quality throughout organisations, leading to improvements in profitability, customer satisfaction and efficiency.
What are the disadvantages of the Six Sigma methodology?
Often Unsuitable for Small Businesses – Due to the costs involved in implementing it, Six Sigma is often unsuitable for small businesses.
7. Prince2 Methodology
Prince2 is a project management methodology that provides projects with a controlled, organised start, middle and end.
The methodology was initially developed as a standard framework for IT projects by the UK government. Today, it’s used by project managers in all industries and sectors across the world.
Prince2 consists of seven principles, seven themes and seven processes. Prince2 project managers utilise these principles, themes and processes to manage and deliver projects effectively.
The seven processes of Prince2 project are:
1. Starting Up a Project
2. Initiating a Project
3. Directing a Project
4. Controlling a Stage
5. Managing Product Delivery
6. Managing Stage Boundaries
7. Closing a Project.
Prince2 is a versatile methodology that can be adopted by companies and teams of all sizes.
What are the advantages of the Prince2 methodology?
Business Justification – Prince2 projects must provide tangible benefits and value. To ensure the projects remain feasible and beneficial, business justification is re-evaluated throughout Prince2 projects.
Communication – As Prince2 is a globally recognised methodology, the vocabulary and terminology are widely understood. As such, using Prince2 can improve communication between project teams.
What are the disadvantages of the Prince2 methodology?
Documentation – Prince2 involves large volumes of documentation, which some project managers believe hamper the flow of projects.
8. Critical Path Method (CPM)
The Critical Path Method (CPM) involves identifying all of the key tasks required to complete projects, determining the timescales involved and developing a critical path to provide you with a roadmap to deliver your projects efficiently.
The ‘critical path’ is determined by identifying the longest string of tasks and evaluating the time required to complete them.
In simple terms, the critical path method is a way of sequencing a project’s key tasks and finding out how long they will take in order to determine the project’s completion date.
Project managers using the Critical Path Method (CPM) develop network diagrams, which are visual representations of project tasks.
What are the advantages of the Critical Path Method (CPM)?
Efficiency – When using the Critical Path Method, project managers can identify the most important tasks and evaluate the associated timeframes. This enables them to effectively organise projects and allocate resources efficiently.
What are the disadvantages of the Critical Path Method (CPM)?
Potential Inaccuracies – As the Critical Path Method relies on estimates for the time required to complete tasks, there is the potential for inaccuracies to undermine the entire process.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a methodology that identifies the critical tasks and timeframes required to deliver projects, while focusing on project resources. It also offers enhanced scheduling, which minimises costs and the need for changes.
‘Buffering’ plays a key role in improving scheduling with the Critical Chain Project Management methodology. Buffers are implemented into the critical chain to ensure projects continues on their path and are not disrupted by problems.
For example, a project buffer is situated between the final task and project completion. Any setbacks will be rescued by this buffer and project completion will not need to be delayed.
CCPM has helped companies reduce project times by up to 40%, achieve major cost savings and implement more projects with less resources. Companies that have used the methodology include NASA, Mazda, Boeing, Siemens, Louis Vuitton and Texas Instruments.
What are the advantages of the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)?
Time – The Critical Chain Project Management methodology can help deliver projects more quickly by improving scheduling and enabling the use of buffers.
Reliable Completion Dates - Buffer consumption also provides an indication of weather projects are on track, which helps to ensure project completion dates are reliable.
What are the disadvantages of the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)?
Requires Commitment – Implementing CCPM requires a lot of commitment to ensure project teams don’t encounter any problems. Adapting teams to CCPM from other methodologies can be very challenging.
10. eXtreme Programming (XP) Methodology
eXtreme Programming is an Agile software development methodology that enables developers to produce high-quality software and smoothly respond to change. The methodology involves regular releases in short development cycles, which optimises quality and enables the regular adoption of new customer requirements.
With eXtreme Programming, standard development practices are taken to extreme levels. Software developers usually work in pairs when using the methodology.
The methodology includes four key activities that are performed during the development process. These are coding, testing, listening and designing. eXtreme Programming also focuses on four key values that are in place to optimise teams’ performance and efficiency: communication, simplicity, feedback, courage and respect.
What are the advantages of the eXtreme Programming (XP) methodology?
Lower Costs – eXtreme Programming’s short development cycles allow changes to be implemented at regular stages throughout the project. Eliminating the need to go back and make sweeping changes can lower costs.
Customer satisfaction – As eXtreme Programming gathers new customer feedback and requirements at the end of short development cycles, there is a greater chance of customer satisfaction.
Improved Productivity – The principles and values of eXtreme Programming enhance the productivity of software development activities.
What are the disadvantages of the eXtreme Programming (XP) methodology?
Lack of Focus on Design - eXtreme Programming (XP) places more emphasis on code than design. The lack of focus on design can have a negative impact on applications’ saleability.
11. Rapid Application Development (RAD) Methodology
Rapid Application Development (RAD) is an Agile software development methodology. It provides developers with a flexible approach to software development that enables them to complete projects more quickly.
Instead of lengthy development cycles, RAD focuses on rapid prototyping and adaptive processes. The methodology involves rapid iterations and it allows for regular changes to software to ensure developments meet requirements. Client feedback and changes can easily be implemented during the development process.
Rapid Application Development (RAD) consists of four key phases:
1. Requirements Planning
2. User Design
RAD is a sound methodology for developers who want their projects to be completed quickly. It requires a team of adept, efficient developers who are capable of swiftly testing and changing applications.
What are the advantages of the Rapid Application Development (RAD) methodology?
Faster Delivery – RAD’s rapid iterations and prototyping enable developers to deliver projects more quickly.
Flexibility – RAD is flexible and responsive to change. Problems and errors can be resolved quickly and efficiently, leading to improved customer satisfaction and quality.
What are the disadvantages of the Rapid Application Development (RAD) methodology?
Unsuitable for Large Teams - The methodology is unsuitable for large teams, and it requires developers who are highly skilled and committed.
12. PRiSM Methodology
PRiSM (Projects Integrating Sustainable Methods) is a project management methodology that focuses on sustainable development. It provides project managers with the tools to deliver projects efficiently and effectively, while minimising negative environmental and social impacts. Many people think of PRiSM as a green methodology.
PRiSM is a principles-based project management methodology. The six principles that PRiSM follows are in place to enhance corporate responsibility. These principles are:
1. Commitment and Accountability
2. Ethics and Decision-Making
3. Integrated and Transparent
4. Principal and Values-Based
5. Social and Ecological Equity
6. Economic Prosperity
Environmental and social issues are more important than ever. With this in mind, the PRiSM methodology is a great tool to deliver projects that mitigate negative environmental and social effects.
What are the advantages of the PRiSM methodology?
Environmental and Social Issues – PRiSM enables project managers to reduce negative environmental and social impacts. The focus on environmental issues can also lead to reductions in waste and cost savings.
What are the disadvantages of the PRiSM methodology?
Company-Wide Adoption – With PRiSM, the entire company must adopt the methodology’s principles. The methodology should not be used as a ‘one-off’.
13. PMBoK Methodology
The Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a set of best practices, terminology and guidelines that are widely accepted as standard in project management.
While PMBoK is not exactly a project management methodology, it’s a highly beneficial source of knowledge, best practices and guidelines for project managers.
PMBoK states that there are five processes that comprise all projects. These are:
- Monitoring and Controlling
Project Managers who want to utilise the PMBoK framework can consult the PMBoK Guide, a book that covers the standard terminology, guidelines and principles of project management.
What are the advantages of the PMBoK methodology?
Industry Standard – The PMBoK framework is accepted as industry standard, enabling project managers to deliver projects in line with best practices and to high standards.
The PMBoK Guide is updated on a regular basis to ensure the processes, guidelines and standards are in line with best practices.
What are the disadvantages of the PMBoK methodology?
Generic – PMBoK offers a set of standards for all types of projects. However, PMBoK needs to be adapted to each projects’ size, budget, type and other factors. Following the framework to the letter and using it as a template can lead to negative consequences.
14. Adaptive Project Framework (APF) Methodology
As its name suggests, the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) is an approach to project management that facilitates responsiveness to change. With this methodology, everything can be adapted as projects progress.
The Adaptive Project Framework (APF) works on the belief that nothing is fixed and that customers' requirements are unique. Customers are involved throughout projects and they determine the project’s direction.
Adaptive Project Methodology (APF) follows a five-step process:
1. Project Scope
2. Cycle Plan
3. Cycle Completion
4. Client Checkpoint
Adaptive Project Framework (AFP) is a good choice for a project management methodology if you’re anticipating significant changes and want to place your client front and centre of your project.
What are the advantages of the Adaptive Project Framework (AFP)?
Client-Centric – Adaptive Project Framework (APF) places great importance on clients, even enabling them to make project decisions and determine the next steps of projects.
Responsiveness to Change – The methodology allows projects to be adaptive and responsive to change as they progress.
What are the disadvantages of the Adaptive Project Framework (AFP)?
Changing Requirements - While the flexibility offered by Adaptive Project Framework (APF) is highly beneficial in many ways, it may result in clients regularly changing their requirements, simply because the methodology enables them too.
This can cause projects to miss deadlines and run over budgets.
15. Lean Project Management Methodology
Lean Project Management involves applying the principles of Lean to project management. Originating from the Toyota Production System (TPS), Lean is a manufacturing methodology that is designed to minimise waste and improve value.
Lean recognises three types of waste that should be eliminated. Known as the three Ms, these are Muda, Mura and Muri.
Muda - Muda refers to activities that use resources without generating tangible benefits for customers.
Mura - Mura refers to unevenness in operations.
Muri - Muri refers to the overburdening of team members or equipment.
There are five key principles of Lean that help project managers achieve perfection, or at least near perfection. These are:
1. Identify Value
2. Map the Value Stream
3. Create Flow
4. Establish Pull
5. Continuous Improvement
Lean Project Management is a great methodology for project managers who want to streamline processes and reduce waste. As well as eliminating waste, utilising the principles of Lean can help you lower costs, improve lead times and maximise quality.
What are the advantages of the Lean methodology?
Reduced Waste – Lean focuses on reducing waste, which in turn lowers costs.
Efficiency – Implementing the principles of Lean can streamline processes, optimise efficiency and improve lead times.
What are the disadvantages of the Lean methodology?
Inventory Issues – With Lean, inventory is kept to a minimum. This leads to a reliance on suppliers. If suppliers can’t keep up with demands, projects may be derailed.
Resources, Equipment and Labour Backups – As Lean allows for only the most necessary resources, operations can become less efficient if things don’t go according to plan. For example, equipment breakdowns or labour shortages can lead to delays and missed targets because backups may not be in place.
16. New Product Introduction (NPI) Methodology
The New Product Introduction (NPI) methodology is used to develop and launch new products or improve existing products. The methodology provides project managers with a step-by-step plan to manage all stages of new product initiatives, from concept to launch.
Following the principles of New Product Introduction (NPI) can help businesses develop products faster and at lower costs. As such, the NPI methodology can be a great way of giving companies a competitive advantage.
While New Product Introduction (NPI) is tailored to individual projects, budgets, sizes and objectives, there is typically a six-step process that should be followed. The six steps of New Product Introduction (NPI) are:
1. Definition of Scope
2. Feasibility Analysis
3. Prototype Development
What are the advantages of the New Product Introduction (NPI) methodology?
Faster Times to Market – The methodology speeds up the development process and helps bring new products to market faster.
Reduced Costs – New Product Introduction (NPI) minimises the need for redesigns and the development of unnecessary prototypes, which leads to lower costs.
What are the disadvantages of the New Product Introduction (NPI) methodology?
Requires Widespread Collaboration – Collaboration across organisations and internal departments is vital when using the New Product Introduction (NPI) methodology. If teams and stakeholders don’t collaborate effectively, NPI projects may be unsuccessful.
Package Enabled Reengineering (PER) is a methodology that enables project managers to reengineer processes and designs. The methodology is a good choice for those who are committed to innovation.
In order to be competitive in their industry, businesses often need to redesign their processes and make changes to the way they work. And Package Enabled Reengineering (PER) provides them with a blueprint to do exactly that.
What are the advantages of the Package Enabled Reengineering (PER) methodology?
Improvements – Package Enabled Engineering (PER) focuses on reengineering processes and systems, allowing businesses to generate improvements.
What are the disadvantages of the Package Enabled Reengineering (PER) methodology?
One-Dimensional - The methodology is unsuitable for projects that don’t involve the improvement or reengineering of processes and systems.
18. Crystal Methodology
Crystal is an Agile software development methodology. According to the principles of Crystal, team size, project priority and project criticality are all key factors in terms of impacting project performance. As such, the methodology should be adapted in line with these factors.
For this reason, Crystal sets out different methodologies for different project requirements. These are categorised by colour.
Crystal Clear – The Crystal Clear methodology is for teams of 8 or less people.
Crystal Yellow – The Crystal Yellow methodology is for teams of 10 – 20 people.
Crystal Orange – The Crystal Orange methodology is for teams of 20 – 50 people.
Crystal Red – The Crystal Red methodology is for teams of 50 – 100 people.
With Crystal, there is much more focus on people and teams, as opposed to processes. The methodology encourages strong communication and inclusive environments. Documentation is kept to a minimum and processes can be adapted to individual team members’ requirements.
What are the advantages of the Crystal methodology?
Improved Communication – The Crystal methodology focuses on the people involved in projects and improving the communication between them. This helps projects run smoothly and improves efficiency.
What are the disadvantages of the Crystal methodology?
Potentially Unclear – Unlike many other project management methodologies, the principles of Crystal vary in line with the size of project teams. This may make Crystal difficult to understand as there is not a single set of rules to follow.
19. Spiral Methodology
The Spiral methodology was developed in the 1980s in response to weaknesses in the Waterfall methodology. As well as improving on the Waterfall methodology, it also provides a risk-focused approach to project management.
The Spiral methodology follows a four-step process, which is as follows:
1. Determine Objectives
2. Identify and Resolve Risks
3. Develop and Test
4. Plan the Next Iteration
These phases are completed multiple times, following a similar pattern to the flow of a spiral.
The Spiral methodology is generally only suitable for large and expensive projects. The methodology is highly complex and involves large amounts of documentation. It also requires project personnel to be proficient in risk management and risk analysis.
What are the advantages of the Spiral methodology?
Risk Management – The focus on risk management makes this methodology a good choice for high-risk projects. Due to the risk management processes and repeated development, Spiral projects are less likely to fail.
What are the disadvantages of the Spiral methodology?
Expensive – The Spiral methodology is expensive to implement and suitable only for large, complex projects.
20. Hybrid Methodology
Many project managers use a combination of different project management methodologies. Rather than following the principles of a single methodology, they take the best of various methodologies to develop a model that works perfectly for their project.
As each project is unique, with different requirements and expectations, it’s often beneficial to adopt a model that is tailored to individual projects.
Traditionally, hybrid project management refers to the combination of the Waterfall and Agile methodologies. According to the Hybrid Manifesto, this hybrid methodology combines ‘the thoroughness of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with the speed and lean benefits of Agile’.
How to Select the Best Project Management Methodology?
When it comes to selecting a project management methodology, it’s important to consider a number of important factors. These include budget, team size, project size, timescales, stakeholder involvement, industry and project complexity.
Do you want a project management methodology that is responsive to change? Do you want a project management methodology that is highly structured?
When you have a solid understanding of these issues, it will be much easier for you to choose the right methodology for your project.