6 Types of Project Management Methodologies and Which to Use

Last Updated: January 27th, 2023
Researched and Written by: Lexi Wood

Every company requires some degree of project management, the coordination of tasks along the production lifecycle. From planning and scheduling to quality checking and time tracking, a successful project manager is only as good as their method.

Fortunately, there are several popular methodologies ready to go for optimizing your project operations. Finding the right method and utilizing a corresponding project management software is just one way to modernize your business processes.

6 Main Project Management Methods

Every project management methodology is intended to improve the decision making process on complex projects. To start, every project manager needs to identify the resources necessary to begin. This can range from employees to equipment. Then, project goals or milestones are set to create a gauge for how the project is progressing. Project managers keep track of these goals to ensure each task is completed on time and on (or under) budget.

There are a few commonalities amongst every method; first, general tasks lists contain rows and columns listing employees, tasks, due dates, progress, priority levels, and more customizable project information. Like advanced spreadsheets, these charts are essentially highly detailed to-do lists necessary to start a product development with the best resources. Versions of these lists are found in almost all project management systems, including those described below.

Other similarities include:

  • Scheduling tools
  • Team collaboration
  • Time tracking

In short, each methodology is intended to present project-related information in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible for managers and team members alike. The 6 most popular types of project management styles include:

Waterfall Project Management

One of the oldest styles of project management, this method’s visualization resembles a waterfall by breaking down tasks to be completed in a specific order, trickling down over the course of the project timeline. This view is very popular with project managers who prefer a linear approach to completing tasks.

While the waterfall model got started in construction and manufacturing, this methodology of product management has spread to every industry. The straightforward nature of the timeline makes it popular with projects which can be completed entirely in sequential stages. However, modified waterfall models have been designed to incorporate more complex subprojects.

Scrum Board Project Management

The scrum board method is based around prioritizing short development cycles, called sprints, iterations, or timeboxes, to optimize project completion. Visually showing the task and the length of time needed for completion allows project managers to plan ahead when it comes to meeting production deadlines.

The main categories on the board include:

  • To do
  • In progress
  • Done

However, more are available based on the specifics of the project. The project manager or scrum master can update the board at any time to better meet all milestones, making it suitable for both traditional and modern project management styles. Overall, the focus of scrum project management is on time management while many of the other methods look more at project organization as a whole regardless of a specific timeline.

Often included with scrum boards are burnup or burndown charts, which are oriented to display remaining project tasks against the project’s proposed end date. The X-axis shows the total tasks necessary while the Y-axis is the timeline leading up to the end point. Most graphs also include a line indicating where the remaining work line should be, in order to show how close the project is to completion. The goal is to monitor real-time performance to identify areas of improvement and catch any issues before they delay the estimated end point.

Jira Project Management
Project management software like Jira provides many ways to organize workflow.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management, usually shortened to agile PM, is a popular and growing option for business across every industry. An agile project management system is an adaptive method for prioritizing tasks to-do based on completed and remaining work. Agile PM solutions are made for addressing real-time issues frequently encountered during software development.

The agile methodology is ideal for fast-moving teams, businesses, and industries in need of a project management method which can handle change easily during the production cycle. This is a popular alternative with fast moving project teams which lack predictable timetables and consistent project outcomes for their work.

Asana Project Management
Agile project management software like Asana use highly visual calendars to provide clear oversight on your project timeline.

Lean Project Management

Lean project management, like the agile method, follows a certain set of principles to streamline operations. However, these are drawn from the world of lean manufacturing rather than traditional project management, which places an emphasis on identifying waste and eliminating it completely from the production process.

Waste can be applied to anything which misuses resources during the development process, such as labor, materials, and equipment. Even waiting around for other tasks to finish can add up to bottlenecks. By removing waste from the project lifecycle, more focus can be given on overall process improvement.

Kanban Board Project Management

A Kanban board helps visualize project work through cards and columns. Each card or column represents a stage of the project, and provides an easy way to visualize work both in-progress and completed. Kanban project management itself has similarities to the lean method by managing work through the use of human systems to prevent bottlenecks and other production delays.

Kanban project management uses boards to break down visual signals (cards), columns, work-in-progress limits, employee assignments, and delivery points. The cards visualize tasks for teams and create a path showing their overall project workflow. From there, your cards will be arranged to show the ideal path to completion. Kanban boards even let you establish work-in-progress limits which is simply a cap to how many cards can be in one column at a given time.

Trello Project Cards Project Management Software
View your cards in Trello.

Six Sigma Project Management

The Six Sigma methodology is designed to improve the customer experience by better understanding what they want. By focusing on customer satisfaction, the actual project timeline is highly fluid to incorporate real-time feedback into deliverables. While on the surface this method appears to be more of a quality management system, it includes beneficial side effects such as the reduction of defects, unwanted features, and product waste.

Project Management Methods by Industry

Fast-paced organizations are more likely to need an agile PM to successfully keep up with the competition. In fact, different types of project management approaches can be brought together based on the project goals.

For example, IT project managers tend to prefer Kanban boards because they can accommodate so many interconnected cards, a necessary element of working with information technology. Six Sigma is ideal for companies looking to do a complete overhaul of their current operating system while agile project management is ideal for fast-paced industries like marketing, construction, or food distribution.

Other options are preferred in different regions. PRINCE2 is a project management system used by the United Kingdom, Australia, and the countries of Western Europe in place of a Project Management Professional (PMP) preferred in the United States. As such, international corporations will need to carefully consider their project management options to ensure cohesion amongst team members in different countries.

Modern vs Traditional Project Management

The first mainstream form of project management tools came in the form of Gantt charts. The impact of these bar charts are still visible in modern methods, as the visual format eases communication and encourages teamwork across tasks.

ProjectManager.com Gantt chart project management software
A gantt chart in ProjectManager.com

Over time, the need for an agile approach became necessary to handle growing project scope and streamline increasingly complicated processes. Gantt charts evolved into “critical path methods” (CPM), “responsible, accountable, consulted, informed” (RACI) and “program evaluation and review technique” (PERT). This in turn led to the scrum and Kanban methods before arriving at the current methodologies. Regardless of origin, all methodologies use the same set of principles to show project schedules and the interwoven relationships between various tasks.

Visual Project Management Options
There are many ways to visualize project timelines and tasks with scrum project management.

Project management software has become a game changer in streamlining production. Instead of relying on members of your development team to physically check on a physical board, they can log in to see a virtual, continually updating board online. Everyone on the team, including stakeholders, can get instant, real-time updates on progress.

This visual view of project tasks lets you and your staff see what work is scheduled at varying times of the day, or further out into the production calendar. A modern methodology encourages teamwork and cooperation by detailing which employees are available to complete tasks in order to avoid interruption to project workflow.

While more traditional methods have fallen out of favor compared to more flexible solutions, there are still some advantages to using linear steps which cannot be rearranged once the project starts.They are particularly useful in certain circumstances, like managing small projects with limited scopes. Some of the older methodologies, such as the waterfall method, have managed to adapt and become more customizable to better fit in with shifting project dynamics.

Modern project management software provides one major advantage over old methodologies: retrospective analysis of past projects through historical data. Project managers can easily review what works, what doesn’t, and make changes to ensure future project success.

Selecting a Project Management Method

The right project management process is determined by both the company and individual development team. Sometimes this can even change throughout the phases of the project. As described above, what works for one project manager may not be right for another, and different team members may respond better to different methods. It’s not uncommon for companies to mix and match various types of project management solutions to fully optimize their business processes.

Fortunately, there are hybrid options out there to make it easier to utilize different methods. For instance, Scrumban is a combination of Scrum and Kanban methodologies. Other custom styles have been developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) by professional project managers from around the world. Different types of project management software makes it possible to personalize your methods to best serve your preferred project plan.

Talk with a software advisor
Talk with an advisor
Get a free consultation from an independent software expert.
Or, call toll-free: (800) 827-1151
Talk with a software advisor
Talk with an advisor