Project Management Methodologies: Definition and Examples

Project management is a complex business process that involves planning and allocating resources, executing tasks, and achieving a predefined goal. The constantly changing project management field is fluid; it varies depending on the methodology, industry, or project manager themselves. 

From HR to IT, sales, and marketing, teams across businesses and industries consistently rely on project management methodologies to forge and deliver outstanding results. Yet, the project management methodology landscape can seem vast and overwhelming, especially if you are new in this position.

As a project manager, you must decide which project management methodology ensures the most efficient use of your team’s resources, skills, and time. Finding the proper project management methodology is not rocket science. 

Reading our guide and learning more about project management methodologies brings you closer to becoming a successful project manager.


  • Definition of Project Management Methodology
  • Top Project Management Methodologies
    1. Waterfall 
    2. Agile
    3. Scrum
    4. Kanban
    5. Lean
    6. Scrumban
    7. PRINCE2
    8. Six Sigma
    9. Critical Path Method
    10. Critical Chain Project Management
  • How to choose the proper Project Management methodology
  • Bottom line

I. The definition of Project Management Methodology

A project management methodology combines principles, techniques, practices, and tools and ensures you plan, execute, monitor, and complete a project. 

As projects differ depending on their goals, teams, KPIs, and operating methods, several approaches to managing them properly exist.   

While a methodology can be excellent for a team, it can become a nightmare for another. 

When a traditional project management methodology became obsolete and hindering rather than helping, teams needed to adapt and develop new methods to address their concerns. Soon, other teams and industries started implementing and adapting these new methods. 

This ever-evolving process has led to a wide range of various project management methodologies to choose from. 

Project managers must learn about project management methodologies to identify the one that tailors their teams' needs and ensures the project's successful implementation. 

II. Top Project Management Methodologies

While numerous approaches exist, the following ten project management technologies are the most well-known.

1.    Waterfall methodology - the traditional approach

What is it?

The Waterfall methodology emphasizes a straightforward project progression from beginning to end. 

The project is well-defined and split into several dependent stages of execution. The outcomes of each phase “cascade” on the following one, like water falling on the rocks. When using this methodology, you must complete a step before moving on to the next one. 

Once the team chooses the Waterfall methodology, it must define the actions based on the methodology sequences:

  • Requirements
  • Design 
  • Implementation
  • Verification & Testing
  • Deployment & Maintenance

When to use it?

The Waterfall method is excellent for large projects, with little to no variations and a clearly defined and solid goal. This approach is highly efficient in manufacturing and construction projects.

Who should use it?

Due to its sequential and detail-oriented nature, the Waterfall methodology works for large projects involving multiple clients and stakeholders, predictable costs, and fixed milestones. This linear approach promotes collaboration, improves communication, and helps teams focus on the tasks.  

2.    Agile - one of the most commonly used frameworks

What is it?

The Agile project management methodology is a set of principles that focus on speed, agility, collaboration, and flexibility. It was developed in response to growing discontent with the rigidity and limitations of the traditional waterfall approach. 

In our dynamic business environment, teams and companies must quickly adapt to changes, customers, and technologies. The Agile design emphasizes collaboration, encourages feedback, and allows teams to incorporate changes to the work in progress instead of waiting until the end to review and implement the amends. 

The lifecycle of Agile methodology consists of five stages:

  1. Ideation
  2. Development
  3. Testing
  4. Deployment
  5. Operations

When to use it?

The main advantage of the Agile methodology is its adaptability, which makes it the perfect choice for teams in the software development industry. Working in short sprints (2-3 weeks) allows employees to revise, recalibrate, and improve their projects while they are ongoing.  

Who should use it?

Due to its versatility, the Agile methodology is highly effective for teams working on projects where some details are unknown from the onset or might evolve during project development. It is also valuable when working on projects involving regular customer feedback. When time-to-market is crucial, the Agile methodology enables teams to deliver excellent outcomes quickly.

3.    Scrum - the most used type of Agile methodology

What is it?

Scrum methodology is more of an Agile framework than a methodology in itself. It encompasses the Agile principles and implements them in small teams (no more than ten employees), working on short sprints (usually one week). 

The project team holds daily Scrum meetings led by a Scrum master (not the same person as the project manager). After each sprint, the team reviews their progress in a “retrospective meeting” and makes any necessary adjustments.

Here are the main steps that make the Scrum methodology effective:

  1. Sprint planning
  2. Sprint
  3. Daily Scrum
  4. Sprint review
  5. Sprint retrospective.

When to use it?

While it is used extensively by teams and organizations across all industries, the Scrum framework is highly effective for projects with variable outputs, unknown solutions, frequent and faster product delivery, and regular interactions with clients or end-users. 

Who should use it?

The term scrub comes from rugby and refers to the players gathered on the field during the match to make strategic decisions to win the game. In the business environment, this method is more prevalent within small software development and engineering teams.

4.    Kanban - the visual overview of the project execution

What is it?

The Kanban project management methodology is a physical or digital representation of the Agile principles. 

This Agile framework allows teams to visualize their progress in real-time, improve workflow, reduce waste of time and material, and maximize efficiency. 

Kanban combines two Japanese words: kan - meaning sign, and ban - meaning board. The signboard was developed by an engineer working for Toyota in the late 1940s. 

A comprehensive Kanban board has the following key components:

  • Columns
  • Cards
  • Work-in-progress (WIP) limits
  • Swimlanes
  • Tags.

When to use it?

For many years, Kanban was very popular in the automotive industry. Due to its efficiency, IT managers and software development teams embrace this methodology. 

The ability to change throughout the project makes Kanban particularly efficient for businesses with a continuous and constant flow, such as marketing and publishing.  

Who should use it?

The Kanban methodology works best for stand-alone teams working on projects without too many tasks or resource dependencies. 

The Kanban framework is used at a large scale by teams who adopt Lean and Agile as the boards ensure the visibility and transparency necessary to secure business agility.  

5.    Lean - deliver more value with fewer resources

What is it?

The Lean project methodology emphasizes continuous improvement of the company’s workforce, resources, and efforts to optimize customer value while reducing waste of time and energy. 

We know that lean in the food industry refers to poultry and fish: healthier meats with less fat. In business and project management, Lean refers to a method that removes faults and defects during every phase, which keeps the project healthier. 

Like Kaban, the Lean methodology comes from a Japanese engineer who created the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS inspired John Krafcik, who introduced the Lean approach to project management.

Each principle of the Lean methodology aims to reduce waste while staying within the project scope and reaching customer satisfaction:

  1. Define value
  2. Map the value stream
  3. Develop a continuous flow
  4. Create a pull system
  5. Enable continuous improvement.

When to use it?

The Lean approach is highly effective for small teams working on software development and manufacturing products within a short time frame. This framework also helps growing businesses refine their processes and resources to produce high-quality outcomes with minimum waste.

Who should use it?

Initially used in manufacturing physical products, the Lean methodology is widely adopted for process improvement in all sectors, from retail, healthcare, and education to software development, services, logistics, construction, and maintenance. 

6.    Scrumban - the hybrid project management methodology

What is it?

The Scrumban methodology extracts the best features of Scrum and Kanban frameworks and combines them into a hybrid project management approach.

Originally designed as a transition phase from Scrum to Kanban, the Scrumban methodology has evolved into a mature and flexible framework.

The main benefit of this new method is that it incorporates the work-in-progress limits (from Kanban) into the projects’ sprints (from Scrum). The result is a flexible method that ensures flow continuity while incorporating project planning and revising. It allows teams to manage projects of any size. 

The Scrumban process consists of the following steps:

  1. Create the Scrumban board
  2. Establish the work-in-progress limits
  3. Prioritize the project and tasks
  4. Set and hold daily meetings

When to use it?

The Scrumban method ensures a consistent flow when working on long-term or ongoing projects with no set deadline. 

Who should use it?

Scrumban is perfect for teams that prefer to split large projects into smaller parts using simple yet effective visual representations. 

7.    PRINCE2 - Projects In Controlled Environments methodology

What is it?

The PRINCE2 project management framework, as its name states it (Projects In Controlled Environments), focuses on organization and control throughout every project stage. This linear and process-based methodology starts with an elaborate project plan and definition of each phase.  

This method emerged in 1989 from the UK’s government methodology: the Project Resource Organization Management Planning Technique (PROMPT).

Initially used for managing IT projects, PRINCE became popular among teams working on any project. So, in 1996, PRINCE2 was launched. 

PRINCE2 has seven steps guiding a team from initiation to project closure, as follows:

  1. Starting up the project
  2. Directing 
  3. Initiating a project
  4. Controlling 
  5. Managing product delivery
  6. Managing stage boundaries
  7. Closing the project

When to use it?

The PRINCE2 methodology is best fitted for large projects involving many stakeholders.

Who should use it?

Due to its simple yet clear-structured process, PRINCE2 is an excellent method for teams new to managing projects. 

8.    Six Sigma - more a philosophy than a methodology

What is it?

The Six Sigma approach is used for quality management and helps companies identify the root causes of complex issues. 

The Six Sigma project management methodology is a quality improvement framework that helps enterprises enhance their performance while reducing the rate of errors arising from process variations.  

Motorola first used the Six Sigma methodology in 1986, and General Motors later embraced it. The methodology consists of five data-driven stages (DMAIC).

  1. Define
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Improve
  5. Control.

When to use it?

The Six Sigma methodology is highly efficient for projects involving complex processes with many variables.

Who should use it?

Six Sigma is best suited for large enterprises with over 100 employees operating across all industries.

9.    Critical Path Method - the amplest step-by-step project plan

What is it?

The Critical Path Method (CPM) represents a project management methodology that allows teams to identify, analyze, plan, and schedule tasks crucial for project closure. 

The Critical Path Method is a roadmap that helps teams visualize the critical steps toward the end goal. It occurred in the late 1950s as a solution to reduce costs resulting from inefficient scheduling.  

There are six CPM steps:

  1. Identify each activity
  2. Define the activity sequence
  3. Create the Critical Path Analysis Chart
  4. Estimate completion time for each activity
  5. Define the Critical Path
  6. Update the Critical Path

When to use it?

The Critical Path Method is an excellent tool for teams managing complex projects with numerous dependencies. 

Who should use it?

The Critical Path Method is best suited for small and mid-sized teams.

10.    Critical Chain Project Management - a more detailed CPM

What is it?

The Critical Chain Project Management methodology focuses on project success while emphasizing the efficient use of resources (people and materials). 

The Critical Chain Project Management framework uses a structure similar to the Critical Path Method. In addition, CCPM includes time requirements for completing each task. This feature allows project managers to track activities and see which tasks exceed their allotted time. 

Here are the key steps to follow when using the CCPM methodology:

  1. Identify the Critical path
  2. Determine the amount of resources necessary to create the critical chain
  3. Create and insert buffers
  4. Establish a detailed project model
  5. Keep team members focused and eliminate multitasking
  6. Track the project

When to use it?

The CCPM methodology solves the efficiency problems of large and complex projects.

Who should use it?

Due to its detailed structure, the Critical Chain Project Management framework is excellent for all types of teams.

III. How to choose the proper Project Management methodology

Any team that works on a project basis and yearns for success should master the art of planning, managing, and completing projects. Choosing the suitable project management methodology is crucial for keeping your team members focused and motivated to achieve consistent results throughout the project.

Before deciding which methodology to implement in your organization, you must carefully consider the following factors:

The project’s needs

Collect data about the resources required to complete the project. Knowing the project's needs initially helps determine which project management methodology meets your specifications best. Gather information about the following:

  1. Budget
  2. Timeline
  3. Team structure
  4. Project complexity and objectives
  5. Customer details
  6. Flexibility
  7. Constraints
  8. Roles of team members and collaboration
  9. Stakeholders.

The project’s key variables

Once you learn the permissions and limits of the project, you can determine which variables impact your project. By doing so, you can establish your priorities and and choose the project management technique that fits them best.

Create a comparison chart

Identify the most relevant project management methodologies that fit within your resources and variables. Craft a list of pros and cons, compare the methods to the project, and make a data-driven decision.

Assess the risks and rewards

The following phase of choosing the best project management methodology is to estimate the possible risks and success rates for each approach. You should implement the method with the highest success rates and minimum risks.

IV. Bottom line

In the current fast-paced business environment, it is critical to bring different teams and departments to work together towards the same goal: a thriving company. 

By understanding the purpose of project management and learning the principles of project management methodologies, you are closer to choosing the best framework for your team. 

There is no one-size-fits-all project management methodology. While a method may work for a team or company, it may be a nightmare for others. Thus, you must first assess the risks, challenges, weaknesses, and strengths and then select the best methodology (or a hybrid approach).