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In this fast-paced technological era, where deliverables must meet high expectations and stringent deadlines, project management methodologies play a crucial role. Project management methodologies are the set of rules that guide the team to work effectively to achieve the desired goal. Different industries use methodologies that suit the specific requirements of their projects. So, it is imperative that the project managers meticulously understand the project and then opt for the appropriate methodology that matches the project’s needs.

What Is a Project Management Methodology?

different types of project management methodologies

Project management methodology refers to a set of rules and processes to plan, manage, and execute any project. You can consider a methodology as the framework that assists you in managing your project in the most efficient manner.

There are various methodologies that come with their own rules, principles, and working structures. Since every method comes with certain pros and cons, managers should choose methodologies based on the requirements of the project.

Top 10 Project Management Methodologies

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most popular project management methodologies that you can choose when you embark on a new project.

1. Agile

In the agile methodology, projects are completed in short bursts of time, known as iterations. At each iteration’s end, the team must provide the stipulated deliverables. Agile is popular as it allows the team to make necessary changes as they proceed without having to wait for the end of the project.

The agile method has short phases of work that call for frequent testing, reassessment, and other adaptations. All the tasks to be performed are listed in the backlog , and the project managers prioritize the work in the backlog before each cycle.

This methodology comes in handy when the project may undergo a lot of fluctuations. Agile allows teams to make alterations or redefine priorities if the client or stakeholder wants specific changes made while the project is still in progress. This feature has been adopted by other sub-frameworks like kanban and scrum as well.

When implementing the agile manifesto, teams often use agile alongside other methodologies like scrum, kanban, crystal, or scrumba to produce the required deliverables. Apart from the software industry, it is used in construction, advertising, and pharmaceutical industries too.

Use this methodology if:

1. You are not sure about the deliverables or how the output will look like.

2. The stakeholder or client is involved in the project’s progress.

3. The project is likely to change frequently during the process.

Avoid this methodology if:

1. Your project requires a lot of documentation and needs predictable deliverables.

2. You cannot afford to make changes to the project after it has begun.

2. Waterfall

As its name suggests, in the waterfall method , progress of a project flows in one direction like a waterfall, and there is no going back to the former stage once it is completed. A waterfall is a linear approach in which each set of tasks or phase needs to be completed prior to the beginning of the next phase. In other words, you can move to the project’s next stage only after successfully completing the current stage.

The waterfall technique works well when you are clear about the deliverables to be expected and the project direction. This methodology calls for planning everything in advance – including budget, schedule, scope, and deliverables – and identifying risks so that the chances of encountering impediments are reduced.

This methodology is most often used in the construction and manufacturing industries, where the specifications are already set before the project begins and the deliverables are clearly defined.

This traditional approach features stringent team roles, set timelines, and infrequent change requests. The waterfall methodology uses Gantt charts for scheduling and planning. Steps involved in this method are requirements, analysis, design, construction, testing, and deployment.

Use this methodology if:

1. Your stakeholders know exactly what they want as a deliverable.

2. The end goal is clear, with no alterations required in between.

3. Extensive project tracking and documentation are required.

4. The project is large and involves multiple stakeholders.

Avoid this methodology if:

1. The requirements of the project are vague.

3. Critical Path Method

Critical Path Method (or CPM) calls for determining and scheduling all critical tasks in order to complete the project with the least slack. In this methodology, project managers create a roadmap that consists of four rudimentary steps:

1. Enumerate all major tasks required to complete the project

2. Estimate the amount of time each task will require

3. Identify any dependencies among the tasks

4. Map out the final deliverable

This information is used in determining the critical path, which is the longest sequence of tasks for completing the project. This is the path that the project team must follow to complete the project within the timeframe available.

Different milestones are set along the critical path; each milestone marks the completion of the current phase and indicates the next phase to be embarked upon. This methodology is popular in the construction, aerospace, defense, and software industries.

Use this methodology if:

1. You have a mid-sized project.

2. Your project tasks have a lot of dependencies.

3. You can determine which tasks are most critical so that you can allocate resources accordingly.

4. The project has a tight deadline.

Avoid going for this methodology if:

1. The project has ambiguity regarding deadlines, timelines, etc.

4. Scrum

Scrum falls within the agile methodology, so it can be considered more of a framework for executing an agile project rather than a methodology in itself.

Scrum is one of the most flexible approaches for project management, as it allows the team to respond to the changes effectively and rapidly.

Tasks in scrum are split into short cycles known as sprints. The team develops a backlog according to the priority of the tasks and distributes these tasks into the sprint period. Each of these sprints spans 1-2 weeks at most and requires particular tasks to be completed. After the completion of a sprint, the project’s scope is reformulated before gearing up for the next sprint.

In most organizations, a scrum master is hired who assists the scrum team in following the principles and rules of the scrum. They also conduct daily standups, also known as daily scrum meetings, where the team gives updates on what they worked on the previous day, what they’re going to do today, and discuss their impediments if any. After each sprint, a sprint retrospective is conducted to analyze team performance and to examine if any changes are needed for the next sprint.

Because it’s flexible, the scrum methodology works well with projects that lack a well-defined scope. Due to its ability to quickly adapt to changes, this methodology is used frequently in the software industry, but it can be used in any industry that requires flexibility, like retail logistics or event planning.

Use this methodology if:

1. The project’s team is small, typically no more than ten members.

2. The project requires the flexibility to make constant improvements.

5. Kanban

The kanban methodology originated in the manufacturing industry. It involves analyzing project flow using a tool called a kanban board. A ‘Kanban board’ provides a visual chart that includes a set of columns, each column representing one stage of the process. All the tasks are initially stacked in a backlog column. When the project begins, each team member picks a task from the backlog column to work on. When they complete a task, they choose a new task from the backlog until all tasks are completed.

The main selling point of kanban is that it provides a visualization of how each piece of the project is progressing at any point in time. Plus, it visually highlights columns that are getting clogged with tasks. Hence, the kanban methodology not only provides a view of project progress but also weeds out the bottlenecks.

In the past, the kanban methodology was limited to the manufacturing and software industries, but slowly it has expanded to human resources, marketing, organizational strategy, executive processing and accounting.

Use this methodology if:

1. Whether your team is large or small; kanban is suitable for teams of any size.

2. Your team works remotely. The kanban board keeps everything on track, irrespective of where team members are located.

6. Lean

Originating in the manufacturing industry, the lean methodology was first developed and implemented by Toyota. This methodology has a core aim of maximizing value and minimizing wastage. In other words, it focuses on utilizing the minimum resources to complete the project so that resource wastage can be reduced.

Initially, lean’s scope was limited to the manufacturing industry, but now it’s extending to education, construction, and software development, to reduce cost and wastage in those industries.

Lean reduces wastage by optimizing technologies, assets and verticals. It addresses a set of common industry issues known as the 3Ms: Muda, Mura, and Muri:

  • Muda refers to consuming resources without producing significant outcomes and without adding value to the customer.
  • Mura refers to overproduction in one product area while ignoring other areas, which contributes to excess inventory and wastefulness.
  • Muri refers to the overburdening of resources, whether humans or machinery, that may lead to a severe breakdown.

By addressing these issues, lean can mitigate the problem of wastefulness while assisting in developing a better workflow.

Use this methodology if:

1. You are consistently trying to improve the product and want to add value to the customer.

2. You have a small project for a brief timeframe.

3. You want to decrease costs and wastage in your project.

Note: This methodology reduces overall wastage, but it is costly to implement.

7. Six Sigma

Six Sigma methodology emphasizes providing consistent, quality output while tuning out bottlenecks or defects. Two paradigms are used in the six sigma methodology:

  • DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, which is used to refine existing business processes
  • DMADV – Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify; which is often used when an organization is working on new processes to fulfill their customers’ needs.

Six sigma is sometimes applied with other methodologies like lean and agile to reduce wastage and utilize resources efficiently.

Use this methodology if:

1. You are working in a large organization with a sophisticated work paradigm.

2. You’re working in an industry where improvement in manufacturing projects is required.

Some Other Popular Methodologies


PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. This methodology doesn’t require any prerequisites and follows seven principles, seven themes, and seven processes.

The seven principles of PRINCE2 are: continued business justification, learning from experience, defined roles and responsibilities, managing by stages, managing expectations, focusing on products, and tailoring the work to suit the project environment.

The seven processes of this methodologies are: embarking on a project, directing a project, initiating a project, controlling a stage, managing product delivery, managing stage boundaries, and closing a project.

Use this methodology if:

1. You have a large enterprise project with several project stakeholders.

2. You are looking for a certification that gives you an advantage over others.


PMI and PMBOK are acronyms for Project Management Institutes and Project Management Body of Knowledge, respectively. They are a set of guiding principles and practices that help ensure projects meet high standards.

PMBOK is a framework comprising a set of processes, standards, guidelines, and practices. PMBOK refers to the five-step process, which is initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. It works well for small-sized teams that use a standard approach when managing projects.

10. Extreme Programming (XP)

When there’s a chance that project requirements may change frequently, then XP methodology is a good option. Specifically designed for software development, extreme programming is another form of agile programming management.

This methodology works well for dynamic individual projects with stringent deadlines as it creates short development cycles with many releases to adapt to fluctuations. XP works on the core principle of simplicity, communication, feedback, respect, and courage.

How to Choose a Project Management Methodology

Agile Project management methodology under a lens

Every industry and project has its own requirements to fulfill. Therefore, selecting the methodology that resonates with the project’s requirements becomes crucial, as it may determine the success or failure of the project. Since there is no one-size-fits-all methodology available, it’s suggested that some effort should be made to assess and pick the correct methodology for your project.

These are some factors to consider when assessing project management methods:

1. Type of Industry

The kind of industry you work in has a direct correlation with what methodology to use. If your industry is ever-changing, like a technology-based organization, then you need to opt for a flexible methodology that can easily adapt to changes. While if you are working on a project with fixed requirements and resources, then linear methods like waterfall will do the trick.

2. Degree of Complexity of the Project

Your project’s level of complexity should impact which methodology you choose. You can enumerate the constraints, resources, timelines, and other factors and label them according to their complexity and then decide which method will work best. For example, if your project is complex and may witness dynamic changes, then extreme programming is the right fit, but if your goal is defined and the project seems linear with no contingency, then waterfall can do the trick.

3. Size of the Organization or Team

The size of any organization plays a vital role in determining which methodology is the best fit. For example, a method like scrum works well for small teams, while kanban can be implemented in any organization irrespective of team size.

4. Nature of the Deliverables

Understand the needs of your client, such as what deliverables they want and if they are subject to frequent changes, then select the methodology that can nurture those needs. For example, if your client or stakeholder requires constant changes or improvements, then a methodology like scrum will serve best.

infographic of popular project management methodologies

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three commonly used project management methodologies?

The three most widely used project management methodologies are scrum, waterfall, and six sigma.

What are the four types of project management?

The popular four types of project management are waterfall, agile, scrum, and kanban project management.

What is the most popular project management methodology?

Waterfall and agile are the most widely-used project management methodologies.

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Sonika Malviya


Sonika Malviya

Sonika is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Deltek | Replicon, specializing in covering topics related to time tracking and workforce management software. With her in-depth knowledge of these topics, she translates technical details into understandable and relatable content to empower businesses to optimize their productivity, improve their workflows, and achieve greater success in managing their time. Beyond her professional role, Sonika finds solace and inspiration in her travels. She also practices meditation and has a flair for culinary experimentation, always eager to try her hand at cooking new cuisines.

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