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Project Management Methodologies 101: The What, Why, How, & Types Explained

Project Management Methodologies

Project management is one of those things that appears to be a relatively easy thing to accomplish — until you get started it

As organizations grow, their ability to consistently manage and deliver projects starts to play a much bigger role. 

Top organizations know that project management covers a lot of aspects, including:

  • Ticking off every task in the project management calendar
  • Meeting project deadlines in time, budget, and scope. 
  • Bringing together teams and clients
  • Creating a winning formula for efficiently implementing business processes
  • Developing a similar vision of what’s needed to stay on track

When projects are managed effectively, they accomplish a winning mindset.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes. They can vary, right from relatively simple ones that require little time and effort, to complex, multi-faceted enterprises involving large teams, joint ventures, and vast amounts of money. 

In order for successful project completion, you need to have some kind of plan in place. 

Before you start planning your project execution head-on, it is really important to keep in mind a few other factors, such as: 

  • Clearly defining potential project risk factors & KPIs
  • Strategies to manage your resources efficiently
  • How will you test each iteration

The one way you can keep everything in line and ensure you have taken everything into consideration is by choosing the ideal project management methodology. That’s exactly what we are here to talk about.

This article focuses on introducing the most common project management methodologies that exist and eventually helping you choose the winning approach every time. But before delving into that, let’s take a step back and understand what the term “methodology” is really all about, and how it can implement project management more efficiently.

What Is Project Management Methodology?

A methodology is a framework of processes, methods, and practices that project managers employ for the design, planning, implementation and achievement of their project objectives.

Project management methodologies help in streamlining a number of aspects for organizations, including:

  • Continuously drive projects in the right direction
  • Bring teams together and work in an organized manner
  • Define a smooth and structured process for project execution
  • Streamline project collaboration and keep things transparent across teams

Now that we know what a “methodology” is, let’s dive into the various benefits of implementing a project management methodology in your organization.

Benefits of Project Management Methodology

Implementing project management methodologies can streamline project execution and enhance overall organizational performance. All in all, with the right project management methodology, you can:

  • Adapt to new project challenges easily and quickly
  • Enhance the skills of managers
  • Build a project management culture 
  • Reduce project risks considerably
  • Increase team productivity
  • Understand how to invest all your resources efficiently
  • Meet project deadlines effortlessly in the time and budget

Yes, there are many benefits of project methodology, but there are different methodologies that could be applied to a given project. So, it’s important to understand the differences between them and to determine which is the right methodology to use in a given situation.

Let’s begin with an overview of the most commonly utilized and modern project management methodologies and their pros & cons. Along with the pros and cons of project management methodologies, we’ll also cover how you can implement the right one in your organization.

1. Waterfall Methodology

If you have been managing projects of any sort, you have probably worked with the Waterfall methodology. It is one of the oldest and most traditional project management methodology

Waterfall is the default, sequential project management process that most teams adopt by default. 

Think of a waterfall: The way a stream of water runs down from the top and flows down to the bottom without ever diverting away from the main course. 

The waterfall methodology works similarly. 

It follows a sequence of steps:

  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development or Implementation
  • Testing
  • Deployment & Maintenance

Each stage of the project flows from the top to the bottom. This model requires teams to work through the tasks in sequence, completing one task before moving on to the next, all the way to project completion. The goals and timelines are clearly defined for project delivery.

Pros and Cons of Waterfall Method


  • Extensive up-front project planning 
  • Easy tracking of task dependencies 
  • Highly accurate timelines and budgets as results
  • Extremely easy project knowledge transfer


  • Project changes are difficult to incorporate
  • Not suitable for complex projects
  • Should be avoided for long, ongoing projects.

Read More: Critical Chain Project Management: Everything You Need to Know

2. Adaptive Project Framework (APF)

The Adaptive Project Framework method is designed to continuously adapt to the changing situation of a project and incorporates learning from experience. 

What’s the fundamental concept behind the APF?

Scope is variable, and within specified time and budget constraints, APF strives to maximize business value by adjusting scope after every iteration.

This is typically achieved by making sure that the client remains the central figure in deciding the maximum business value.

At the completion of each iteration, the client can alter the project scope based on learnings from all previous iterations, so the teams are able to create the most business value.

Pros and Cons of APF Methodology


  • An ideal approach to follow if you don’t know the projects’ purpose but have a clear idea of how it can be executed. 
  • Requirements need not be defined during project initiation
  • Flexible and iterative


  • Too flexible; can lead to project delays and/or increased costs.
  • Sets unrealistic client expectations
  • Limited control over the project, leads to confusion and erratic process flow

Read More: 14 Best Product Roadmap Software to Streamline Project Management

3. Agile Methodology

The Agile project management methodology emerged in 2001, and it is still fast catching up and proving to be a vital tool in the arsenal of most modern project managers. While Agile was designed keeping the software and the IT industry in mind, it has become highly relevant to many other industries around the world.

Agile is an iterative and incremental framework that uses short development cycles called sprints to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service. 

What are sprints?

A sprint is a specific amount of time allocated to a particular task within a project. Sprints are deemed to be complete when this time period expires.

How are Waterfall and Agile Framework Different?

Unlike the waterfall framework, an agile framework limits outcome visualization, to the extent that it is not possible to completely describe or predict any characteristics of the final product. 

In the case of Agile methodology, planning begins with the clients loosely describing the end product. They describe:

  • How the end product will be used
  • What would the product be able to do
  • Characteristics of the end product

…and so on.

So the project management team gets a good understanding of the expectations.

Pros and Cons of Agile Framework:


  • Highly flexible, can respond to mid-execution changes efficiently
  • Project execution isn’t affected with limited end product knowledge
  • Fast review cycles, making it easy to meet client expectations


  • Lack of understanding in terms of scope of project flexibility
  • This methodology might not be a good “culture fit” for some companies
  • Lack of predictability, it is difficult to pinpoint project deadlines and the resultant product

What’s the Difference Between APF and Agile frameworks?

With APF, your end goals are clearly defined but the method for achieving those goals will change based on your experience at each stage of the project.

On the other hand, with Agile, your end goals are only loosely defined. At the end of each phase of the project (the sprint), there is feedback from stakeholders/clients to help guide your decisions and improve or modify the final product.

4. Six Sigma

Introduced in 1980, the Six-Sigma methodology mainly focuses on process improvement.

Originally developed by Motorola, Six Sigma is a project management methodology that is primarily driven by data. It is a statistics-based quality improvement process with a primary aim of: 

  • Reducing the number of bugs (in software development), or
  • Defects (in the manufacturing and industrial sectors). 

Each six-sigma process in project management follows a series of steps that have a specific end-goal. A few perks of six-sigma processes include reduction in costs, enhancement in leads, improvement in customer satisfaction, and so on.

A rating of “six sigma” indicates that the final product is defect-free up to 99.99966%.

According to Kimberly McAdams, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt:

“Six Sigma is a methodology that uses a set of tools that help us measure what we do and then improve what we do. It really can work in any industry and in any type of business because everywhere we have a process, we can study it, measure it, and try to make it better.”

Pros and Cons of Six Sigma Methodology


  • Extremely thorough process; ensures success in almost every case
  • Enhances value and improves the quality of a company’s output
  • Identifies project execution and product errors beforehand


  • A little difficult to implement
  • Complicated and requires statistical analysis 
  • Can get costly in the long run

5. Lean Six Sigma

One of the new, upcoming project management methodologies is lean six sigma. 

This framework combines the efficiency of the lean methodology along with the statistics-based process improvement workflow of Six Sigma. 

The implementation of the lean six sigma framework relies on team collaboration. In this framework, one aims to improve performance systematically by removing waste and reducing variation. Lean Six Sigma methodology allows you to understand how work gets done and identify which aspects of your project are most valuable to the client or customer, thereby increasing efficiency.

Pros and Cons of Lean Six Sigma Methodology


  • Improves company processes and enhances control over the quality
  • Ensures consistency, resulting in delightful customers
  • Helps employees perform better and improve overall productivity


  • Implementation requires a cross-functional team
  • Usually not driven or supported by data
  • Can cause a major shift in organizational structure

6. PRiSM

PRiSM stands for:

  • PRojects
  • Integrating
  • Sustainable 
  • Methods. 

The methodology was developed by GPM Global with an aim to create a framework that took environmental factors into account. 

The PRiSM methodology is primarily used on large-scale construction projects, such as real estate development or construction/infrastructure projects, that may result in adverse environmental effects. Like Six Sigma, PRiSM also requires project managers to gain accreditation, ensuring the methodology is administered properly and retains its value.

Pros and Cons of PRiSM Methodology


  • Low energy consumption
  • Efficient waste management
  • Decreased distribution costs


  • Needs complete involvement of all teams in every phase
  • Companies need to adapt to sustainable principles


PRINCE2 stands for:

  • PRojects 
  • IN
  • Controlled
  • Environments

It is a government-endorsed project management methodology, released and supported by the UK government in 1996. 

PRINCE2 is actually a de facto standard used by the UK government and is a very process-oriented methodology. This methodology requires dividing projects into multiple stages, each with their own strategies and processes. 

A project manager requires a thorough knowledge of this complex methodology to understand if it will scale properly for a particular project, but luckily PRINCE2 requires accreditation in order to become a facilitator.

Pros and Cons of PRINCE2 Methodology


  • Its extensive documentation can be helpful in various aspects, including:
  • Performance appraisals
  • Risk mitigation
  • Corporate planning


  • Teams may take time to adapt to changes
  • Cumbersome processes, implementation can be complex in some cases
  • Extensive documentation can be tiring 

8. Scrum

Named after the method of restarting play in rugby, Scrum is an Agile framework for completing complex projects that require adapting to quickly shifting requirements.

Scrum was originally designed keeping software development projects in mind, but over time it has shown to work well for any complex, innovative scope of work.

This methodology focuses on short, sharp delivery of projects – allowing time for quick feedback and speedy response to scope changes. 

 Simply put, in Scrum, only priority tasks are assigned to respective teams, wherein deadlines are set for a 30-day sprint.

A scrum team mainly consists of three people:

  • Product Owner: client
  • Scrum Master: implements the scrum framework
  • Scrum Team: delivers the work

With this product management methodology, a huge emphasis is put on team dynamics and collaboration; teams typically come together to work in a series of two-week sprints, facilitated by a scrum master, whose job is to remove any barriers to team progress.

Scrum requires that all team members are in constant communication through daily scrum meetings. Within the team, members are assigned specific roles as either “pigs” or “chickens”.

  • A pig is responsible for the task completion (the analogy is that they are the ones “risking their bacon.”). 
  • On the other hand, chickens may be involved in the task as well, but are not ultimately responsible. At the end of every sprint, the team must have a usable product.

Pros and Cons of Scrum Framework


  • Helps teams meet project deadlines effortlessly
  • Ensures effective resource and time management
  • Increases team transparency


  • Increases chances of scope creep
  • Implementing in large teams can be challenging
  • Requires daily meetings, can frustrate team members

9. Kanban

The word “Kanban” in Japanese means “a card you can see” and this best describes how this project management methodology is used. Kanban is more of a visual method of streamlining workflow while using an agile method.

In Kanban, teams usually use 3 cards, namely ‘to-do’, ‘doing’, and ‘done’. Some teams also prefer adding a “review” card before done, to keep work quality in check. For example, let’s say you have to revamp your new hardware product. According to the Kanban methodology, you will create a board that’ll look something like this:

How to Implement Project Management Methodology?

But, before we dig into the steps, it is important to understand that selecting the right project management methodology for your organization depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Project type 
  • Stakeholder, client, and customer involvement
  • Timeline flexibility
  • The number and types of teams
  • Budget
  • Project complexity
  • Industry
  • Project structure and rigidity
  • Team roles
  • Allocated resources 
  • Available resources
  • Project scalability

Implementing the right project management methodology is all about:

  • Choosing a methodology that best suits your project
  • Understanding the dynamics of the chosen methodology
  • Following the phases efficiently. 

Deliver Projects on Time: Implement a Project Management Methodology

We have briefly introduced a few different project management methodologies in this article, but deciding the one that is right for your project or company will depend on several factors as well as on how you want to structure your projects. 

Managing a team to deliver a project successfully is not a simple task. But thanks to reliable project management frameworks and project management software, it’s possible to plan and execute any project with an organized, streamlined structure. 

What you can be certain of, however, is that there is a methodology out there to help you survive the fast-paced, constantly changing, high-quality demands of the new business model. Let us know which project management methodology has worked for you and how a PM tool is essential for its implementation in the comments below!

Read Preview- Chapter Introduction to Project Management

Now that we know the basics of project management methodologies, let’s cover a few FAQs around the same topic.

Q. What are scrum methodology pros and cons?

Pros of scrum methodology include developing complex products easily, real-time customer feedback, and constant system updates. On the other hand, the cons of scrum methodology include frequent changes, uncertain project nature, frequent project deliverables, and daily meetings.

Q. What are agile project management pros and cons?

Pros of agile methodology are reduced risks, faster ROI, enhanced customer satisfaction, and increased control. Cons of agile methodology include minimal project predictability, lack of important documentation, and need for more time and effort. 

Q. Why is project management methodology important?

Project management methodologies are important to standardize, structure, and organize work methods properly. As a result, you can learn from your mistakes and train employees to continuously improve their processes and skills.

Q. What are the three types of project management office?

The three different types of PMOs are controlling, supportive, and directive.

Q. What are waterfall methodology pros and cons?

Pros of waterfall methodology include predefined project requirements, elaborate project documentation, and project changes done during execution.  . On the other hand, its cons include limited project error resolution, not suitable for complex projects, and client feedback cannot be incorporated after project execution. 

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About the author

David is a Project Management expert. He has been published in elearningindustry.com, simpleprogrammer.com. As a project planning and execution expert at ProProfs, he has offered a unique outlook on improving workflows and team efficiency. Connect with David for more engaging conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.