Best Practices

Ultimate Guide to Different Project Management Methodologies

Jonathan Friedman
March 30, 2021
Ultimate Guide to Different Project Management Methodologies

Did you know that only 2% of all businesses reported having completed 100% of all their projects on time? And among those surveyed, 27% reported going over budget, some by as much as 200%, and fully 70% reported going over schedule. If your projects could use some more organizing, then you need to leverage one of the many different project management methodologies.

Don't worry if you're not sure what that means, and we're going to break it all down for you. We'll analyze the different project management methodologies and show you how they can help our team complete your projects on time and under budget.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What is project management methodology?

With project management (PM) methodologies, you can stop feeling like you're putting out fires and reacting to everybody else as you complete your projects. Instead, different project management methodologies give you a structured roadmap to follow to better complete your projects on time and under budget.

Project management methodologies provide you with the framework to plan your projects. This will help you and your team better manage expectations, plan your time, and work optimally. The right method will give you a tried and true system to follow as you complete your projects.

When you start to plan your work better, you will be set up to complete that work. Additionally, everyone on your team can see what is expected of them and how their tasks help achieve the overall goals.

Now, your cross-functional team can feel like a cohesive unit working together and understanding their roles within the workflow. No longer will everyone look to you to tell them what to do next. They can check the project management tools and see what they should be doing next.

There are several different tools and frameworks you can use to plan and develop your projects. We'll dive into each of these in the next few sections.

10 Different project management methodologies

First, let's dive into the many different project management methodologies you could use in planning your projects. There are hundreds of methods. However, we'll focus on the top ten project management methodologies and their pros and cons.

There isn't one cookie-cutter planning method that works best for every team across every industry. As you look at this list, use the information provided to help choose which one is best for your team.

Ten different project management methodologies

1. Waterfall

If your team completes the same steps repeatedly as they complete each project, this is the best project management methodology. This works best if you're consistently creating the same product or similar type of products, and you can reliably predict the steps you need to take each time you create them. 

In this methodology, your project manager will create several phases that must be completed in order. Your team can't start the next phase until the current one is complete, and you don't return to old phases once you meet them and move on. If this seems too rigid for your team, there are great alternatives for your team's similar paths to follow.

The waterfall method is excellent for large teams that don't need to make changes to their production process once they start. This can be construction or large manufacturing projects that follow the same linear path from start to finish across all projects.

Waterfall pros:

Waterfall cons:

2. Agile

The agile framework came about from frustrations of software developers tired of the confines of more traditional project management methodologies, but other designers can benefit from this model. This framework doesn't have any set requirements or phases that need to be followed. Instead, it follows a set of guidelines or cultural-shifts that your team and clients will need to buy into.

Within the agile framework, your team will complete a series of sprints, or iterations, in which they will deliver small increments of the final product to your client. The client will offer feedback, from which your developers will take the new information and continue with the next sprint.

Each sprint usually consists of two to four weeks of intensely focused work. Each day your team will meet for a short, standup meeting in which everyone will report their status and any problems they may be having. The team members and scrum master will help solve those problems, and everyone will continue working.

Agile pros:

Agile cons:


This acronym stands for Projects In a Controlled Environment. As the name lends itself, it works best for teams that can control their project ecosystem. If you value flexibility, this might not be the best choice for you.

Within the PRINCE2 method, your team will have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and strict phases to complete the project. The focus is always on quality control and delivering the best final product to your customer or client. Finally, each project can have some flexibility, depending on the unique needs as presented to your team.

As mentioned, there are clearly defined and distinct phases that need to be completed in sequential order. These phases are requests for starting the project by the customer, directing and assigning the project to a project manager, initiation, and planning of the project, the project is subdivided into stages with can be planned and tracked, and finally, delivery and closure of the project.

There are more documentation and structure to this method of project management than some of the following methods.

PRINCE2 pros:

PRINCE2 cons:

4. Critical Path

As mentioned, if your products are created similarly every time, then you could benefit from the critical path method. This is one of the many different project management methodologies that is less rigid than waterfall and more like a series of completed steps on a predefined timeline.

In this method, you usually know all the steps that will need to be completed before starting the project. And you can generally have a relatively good idea of how long each step will take because it's reasonably similar across projects. So, before you begin, you create your list of steps along with their estimated duration length and then design your timeline accordingly.

This method is an excellent choice for construction teams. You can't start the roof until the foundation and frame have been completed. However, you can return to the frame after you've started the roof. Additionally, you know that you need to fully complete all the ductwork, pipes, and electric work before you can start putting up the walls.

There is a specific workflow that needs to be followed in the critical path, but it isn't in strict phases as the waterfall method. However, you can't start many of the steps until the previous step is finished. 

Critical path pros:

Critical path cons:

5. Critical Chain

If you like the idea of using the critical path, but you don't like having a predefined timeline, the critical chain is an excellent option for your team. As you start to plan your project with the critical chain methodology, you will have your series of events defined, but you will create small buffers between the steps.

This is a great option to allow for unforeseen circumstances that might get your team off schedule. If you know the steps you need to follow but don't want to set specific milestones, use the buffers to choose the critical chain instead.

This is a great option for research and development teams who need to worry more about resource allocation than timelines. Critical chain is much less technical and offers more flexibility than the critical path method. 

Critical chain pros:

Critical chain cons:

6. Rapid Application Development (RAD)

Another one of the many different project management methodologies is the Rapid Application Development (RAD). RAD is an agile-based framework. It is best for software development teams who work in a very fast-paced environment. If you work on a team that makes frequent updates and deliveries, this is an excellent option for you.

There are four phases in the RAD delivery system. These phases are: requirements and scope planning, user design development, rapid construction, and delivery or launch of the finished product.

RAD pros:

RAD cons:

7. Six Sigma

Six sigma is a data-driven project management methodology that aims to reduce defects and thus control costs. This method focuses on increasing customer satisfaction by decreasing errors.

Within the Six Sigma framework is the acronym DMAIC which uses data to improve upon the delivery of your products or services faster and better meet your customer expectations. The acronym DMAIC stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

Follow these five steps to reduce errors and deliver a better product to your clients. This method works great for manufacturing teams that need to gain a competitive edge by delivering a better product faster.

Six sigma pros:

Six sigma cons:

8. Lean

Lean manufacturing focuses on lean principles that reduce waste. You can have several different kinds of waste. Of course, there is the waste you physically have to throw out in terms of unused raw materials or defective final products. However, there are also other kinds of waste, such as unnecessary downtime for your employees when there is a backlog of broken equipment.

The lean process focuses on finding the value proposition that your product or service offers your customer. Then you map out your value stream, or process, for how you'll create and deliver the product. Finally, you'll analyze the value stream to determine any waste and how you can eliminate it.

With the lean process, you'll never be fully satisfied with your current situation or project map. You and your team will continually analyze every part of your project and process development to determine any waste that can be eliminated. Then you'll work to solve the problem and eliminate the waste further.

Lean pros:

Lean cons:

9. Kanban

Another one of the many different project management methodologies is Kanban, which is a visual version of the lean process. Kanban also originated in Japan and focused on eliminating waste in the production process. This method first began with physical cards on the manufacturing floor that signaled different teams when they needed to start their next part in the production process.

However, today's digital teams have adapted this method to producing everything from digital content marketing to media production companies. As the project manager, you will determine all the steps needed to complete a project and then create cards for them on your digital kanban board.

If you like physical visual reminders, this is similar to creating sticky notes on a whiteboard and moving them along the process as each step is completed. This method is best for teams with a continual backlog of projects or tasks that need to be evaluated continually, so you know what is coming next.

As the project manager, you will limit the number of tasks or projects in the process at any given time. Then you'll move items out of the backlog as there is room for them in your production process.

Kanban pros:

Kanban cons:

10. Scrum

Scrum is a spin-off of the agile methodology. This method gives more structure and systems to the agile culture. If you like the agile culture but need more of a system to follow, then the scrum method could be very beneficial to you and your team.

The scrum system consists of a series of incremental and iterative sprints in which you complete one part of your final product and deliver it to your customer for feedback. After you receive feedback from the client, you adjust your next steps and pivot accordingly. This system gives you maximum flexibility and provides the customer with much more input along the process.

Scrum is mostly associated with software developers. However, today's savvy project managers across all industries are adopting scrum for its flexibility and rapid development. If you deliver products to customers and want to speed up your delivery process while also improving customer satisfaction, this is the method.

As mentioned, the scrum process provides a much-needed structure for many teams who like the agile ideology but have difficulty implementing it. Within scrum, you will have several sprints that can be anywhere from one to four weeks long. Your team will consist of the scrum master and the production team, which can be cross-functional across your organization. The scrum master is not always the project manager, and it is better if it's not.

Within each timed sprint, you will have three phases: planning, implementation, and review. Within the implementation process, your team will have daily standup meetings to review everyone's progress and solve any presented problems. These meetings are purposefully short, so your team can get back to work; hence the idea of everyone standing so the meeting doesn't drag on unnecessarily.

Scrum pros:

Scrum cons:

Short cycles, rapid product development, and a commitment to flexibility make up the scrum projected management methodology's ideals.

Overall, it doesn't matter which one of these methods you choose as long as you choose your team's right one. Let's jump into how you can ensure you chose the best one for your type of industry, project, and team.

How to choose the right PM methodology for your team

One key to being a good leader is to equip your team with the right tools properly. And taking the time to choose the best project management methodology for your team will give everyone the advantage they need to do their jobs well.

Take the time to answer these questions now. And then, use the information in this article to compare each PM method, so you choose the best one for your team. Additionally, remember that there isn't one answer to every project or every team. Depending on your team members and the type of project you're undertaking, you might choose several different types, or a hybrid combination of two, for each team.

Business executives across all industries agree that time limitations and ineffective collaboration, and cross-functional team communication are the biggest obstacles to completing projects on time.

However, with the project management methodology and the best tools, you can bridge the barriers between these limitations and start delivering your products to your clients on time and under budget.

Properly manage your projects with the right project management methodology today

You want to move your company into the 2% that completes their projects on time and budget. So, take the time to choose the best one each time rather than forcing the same method every time.

These different project management methodologies all have their pros and cons; we set out to give you the best resource to make the best decision for your team. So the next time you're working on a project, bookmark this article and return often. Compare each of the different project management methodologies and choose the best one for your team and project.

If you're ready to equip your team with the best cloud-based project management software, then check out TrueNxus. We help teams like yours maximize their productivity and efficiency to deliver quality products to your clients faster. Sign up for your free trial today.