At the core of any project manager’s success is a series of principles, strategies, and organized techniques to guide a project from start to finish. These all combine into a comprehensive project management methodology, which can then be implemented by a project management tool.
As a project leader, it is the project manager’s responsibility to choose a set of these strategies which will mesh effectively with their clients, stakeholders, types of projects, and team members. Where do these techniques come from? A number of methodologies have been developed by visionaries over the years who aimed to streamline and improve the way projects and teams of all types are managed.
What Are Project Management Methodologies?
Before diving into the specifics of a project management methodology, it can be useful to step back and consider the importance of these methodologies overall.
What is a methodology?
A project management methodology is a combination of practices and methods which are continually implemented throughout the entire process of any particular project. From conceptualization to completion, a methodology will dictate the way that a project is managed and how a team approaches and works on the project itself.
One might say that a methodology in and of itself could be considered a project management tool.
The 7 Existing Methodologies
With the popularity and necessity of methodologies in mind, it’s no surprise that there are just as many project management methodologies out there as there are management styles. While this may be a tad overwhelming for newer project managers searching for the perfect methodology to meet their needs, it’s actually a good thing to have so many methods to choose from!
By examining, understanding, and applying aspects of each of these methodologies to their individual goals, project managers can empower themselves to better implement successful methodologies into their own management style and work better with team members.
Without further ado, take some time to dive into seven of the most popular project management methodologies below.
Agile project management methodology prioritizes communication and collaboration with clients and anyone else with a stake in the project’s success. During this process, a project manager and their team will divide the project into stages. During each stage, stakeholders are updated on progress, and their opinions are taken into account for the project’s later stages.
This leads to consistent improvement through a process of planning, working, collaborating, and adjusting. At its core, Agile methodology is all about responding to change and monitoring what aspects are a work in progress. These frequent check-ins make Agile perfect for complex projects involving any amount of uncertainty, or for projects with a lot of flexibility.
Technically, Agile is a term used broadly in the world of project management to refer to the values emphasized by Agile methodologies or to reference the frameworks which embrace these principles. These Agile methodologies are incredibly popular. In fact, two of the methodologies listed below (Kanban and Scrum) are frameworks often established to implement the values which are core to Agile.
The Kanban Method is an incredibly adaptable framework, though it lends itself particularly well to knowledge work. Why is it so flexible? Organizations and teams can implement Kanban without disrupting their existing workflow.
“Kanban,” for which this method is named, is the Chinese word for a signboard which indicates the available capacity of something. In other words, Kanban is a visual cue that can be utilized by team members to manage work and change the way they look at workflow.
By using a Kanban board to visually organize tasks into “to do,” “doing,” and “done,” teams can better understand when they should limit their amount of work in progress. Shifting tasks from column to column not only manages flow and keeps things moving, but it eliminates the stagnation that arises when there’s too much to do and not enough completed.
This maximizes productivity by improving delivery times without the necessity of adapting to major changes to a team’s established workflow.
Scrum is another popular methodology and Agile framework, similar to Kanban. Most efficiently utilized by smaller teams (think less than seven people), Scrum stands apart from other Agile frameworks by relying on particular team roles and work events in order to carry out the production and completion of a project.
The three roles embraced by team members using Scrum are the product owner, who represents the stakeholders and eventual customers, the team developing the project or product itself, and, most notably, the Scrum master. It is the Scrum master’s duty to hold the team accountable by ensuring that the principles and events at the core of the Scrum methodology are followed.
These events include sprint planning, sprints, and sprint review, wherein a sprint is typically a one-month period during which a single goal, increment, or stage of the project is accomplished.
Also unique to the Scrum methodology is a 15-minute meeting held at the same time each day called the “Daily Scrum,” in which team members discuss the past day’s worth of progress on the current sprint and set expectations for the next day.
Notably, Scrum methodology relies less on the leadership of a single project manager. As a result, it’s most appropriate for smaller teams full of mostly self-sufficient and driven participants.
Popular among software developers, Waterfall is a methodology based entirely on a pre-planned, sequential workflow. Unlike methodologies that function within Agile core values, Waterfall is a much more rigid and unforgiving approach to project completion. However, it retains some similarities to previously discussed methodologies since it can be broken down into distinct stages.
On the plus side, teams tend to find Waterfall easy to understand and implement. Its straightforward approach is both structured and documentation-dependent, simplifying the process of onboarding new talent during the project if necessary.
Project managers often choose the Waterfall Method when working on smaller, lower-risk projects with a short timeframe. This method is also ideal for teams who have been provided with clear requirements for a product or those working on a project with no room for modifications or adjustments.
The PRINCE2 methodology is an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. The “2” is present to indicate PRINCE2’s role as a sequel to the original PRINCE method. Whereas PRINCE was originally developed for use by the UK government, its second iteration PRINCE2 is still used by governments across the world but is also more widely applicable as a general project management methodology.
PRINCE2 balances a team’s need for dividing a large project into smaller chunks while still allowing for change and flexibility throughout the completion of the project.
It is an excellent choice for project managers directing a large-scale project. Because projects of a governmental scale are often bigger and more demanding than other types of projects, PRINCE2 emphasizes the importance of heavy structure and organization. A plan must be set in place before beginning, but PRINCE2 has more room for later change than, say, Waterfall.
Define, measure, analyze, improve, and control—these are the five steps followed in the Six Sigma process, often abbreviated as DMAIC.
More specifically, managers using these steps will define their customer and the product requirements, measure the current performance in order to collect data and discover shortcomings, analyze the data collected from these measurements, use analysis to improve on areas in need of work or adjustment, and then control these improvements to ensure that they remain in place.
Six Sigma is unique from other methodologies discussed in this article because it is often used as a way to perform quality control and provide more uniform products in large-scale production. Six Sigma and the DMAIC methodology within it focus on analyzing and perfecting preexisting systems or original specifications.
It makes sense, then, that Six Sigma is largely data-driven and works best within larger organizations hoping to increase their efficiency and optimize their production processes.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
The Critical Path Method relies on project mapping based on core tasks that are essential to the project. Project leaders using this methodology will create a structured list of tasks necessary to complete that project, then estimate the time necessary to complete each task. This information will be used to determine an expected completion date for the project.
Similarly, managers may use the CPM to estimate a project’s budget based on a breakdown of funding the individual tasks which comprise its completion.
The CPM is named for the idea that, without the completion of any component critical to the project, the project itself cannot be finished. These core tasks create a “critical path” toward project completion and eventual success.
Project managers who are fans of popular project management software will be happy to know that most of these programs include a critical path project management tool for mapping projects and using these maps to estimate overall project parameters like budget and timeline.
Choosing the Best Methodology for Each Person
At their simplest, these methodologies are all about application.
Sure, any project manager can read and understand the theory behind these methodologies’ principles, but the theory alone won’t lead to successful project completion or progress. Without the ability to apply the principles or frameworks of these methodologies, a project manager won’t get far.
This is why it’s critical to choose a methodology that can be successfully implemented by a team for a particular project.
So, how can team leaders choose the methodology which will be most effective for their team and their project? When deciding which popular methodology to adopt, project managers should:
Analyze their team members.
One of the responsibilities of project managers is understanding the working styles of their team members. Without having a finger on the pulse of each project’s team members and the way that the team works together, a project manager will be clueless when it comes to choosing a successful methodology.
Project managers should ask, for example, if their team is more self-driven or if they need structured direction, which will help inform which methodology they use.
Assess personal leadership style.
Whereas some methodologies require specific leadership from a project manager, others need only an overseer to keep the project on track. Project managers with quieter, background management styles will become better leaders in the context of some methodologies such as Scrum.
Overly ambitious project leaders who tend to take on too much at once and overwhelm their team could consider implementing Kanban techniques to assess their organization’s current workload.
Take a good look at the project requirements.
Project management experts don’t have to be told the importance of dissecting a project to understand its requirements and parameters, but they may not understand how this intimate knowledge of a project can lead to an ideal choice of methodology.
Projects still in need of development will thrive with more flexible methodologies, whereas projects with strict requirements and deadlines can benefit from rigid approaches without room for change along the way.
Take the client into account.
Sometimes, the project isn’t everything—the client can have just as much (or more) sway over how a project is overseen than the project itself! Project managers should foster open lines of communication with their clients to better understand the client’s personal goals, flexibility, timeline, and any other factors which may affect the way a project is completed.
Finally, the best news is that project management pros don’t have to choose a single methodology. A 2019 survey found that 89% of project managers who were interviewed revealed that their organizations use a hybrid methodology.
In other words, the vast majority of project managers are picking and choosing aspects of different methodologies that will best serve their project, then implementing them all at once in a custom blend. This hybrid approach is exactly why project leaders need to have working knowledge of the most popular methodologies (like the ones discussed earlier). Without this understanding, managers will be unable to adapt to their current team’s needs.
With numerous methodologies available and the added option of implementing a hybrid methodology, it’s important for project managers and their teams to understand that there’s no singular, “correct” answer when it comes to choosing a project methodology. It’s also helpful to implement these strategies with the help of a project management tool. Hive is our favorite 😉
At the end of the day, as long as team leaders and managers are conscientious of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as how the various project management methodologies play to these characteristics, you can’t go wrong.