Project Management Guide

Project Management Methodologies

Like a story, projects have a beginning, middle and end. Understanding this is important to planning out a successful project. One particular area that is often confusing for new project managers is choosing the right project management methodology. Projects come in all shapes and sizes so when it comes to choosing a methodology for success, it’s important to know your options. In this section we’ll cover the most popular project management methodologies with the pros and cons of each type.

Sequential methodologies are applied to projects like building an airplane, construction of a building, or building a bridge. These are huge projects that are planned down to the tiniest details and there is no going back. They are planned in phases and each phase be completed before another begins.

a. Waterfall

The most common way to organize the execution of a project is in order of when tasks should be completed. ‘A’ leads to ‘B’ which leads to ‘C’. At the end they all add up to the final deliverable. Pretty simple.

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b. Critical Path Method (CPM)

The critical path method is similar to the the waterfall method, however it recognizes dependencies. A dependency is a task that must be completed before another task can move forward. One task is dependent on another. This creates a critical path.


The PMBOK method is the overall process of a project. It has been accepted as an industry standard because of its roots with PMI (Project Management Institute). This method is also sequential in nature and is focused around planning a project in five steps: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Controlling and Closing.

Pros and Cons of Sequential Planning

Pros: It’s great if you are a big planner and like all of the research and strategy to be set-in-stone before starting. You’ll know exactly what to expect as the project moves along.

Cons: Sequential doesn’t exactly allow any room for error or changes in plan. You can’t introduce any new ideas without derailing the project completely.

Agile was first introduced to the world in 2001 via the Agile Manifesto of Agile Development. As you may have guessed, it’s the go to framework for software developers. There are four main rules of Agile:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation;
  • Client collaboration over contract negotiation;
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

The one that really differentiates the agile approach is responding to change rather than following a set path. Agile is adaptive in nature, just like the world of software development.

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Scrum is an agile process used most often by development teams because it is really easy to implement. One individual, called the Scrum Master, is responsible for making sure that any bottlenecks or obstacles are cleared for the team for smooth project sailing. Scrum works in two week sprints and allows for the team to be flexible with priorities.

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Kanban is a Japanese framework for agile. It started in the late 40’s by the car manufacturer, Toyota, as a way to make production much more efficient. Kanban is a visual representation of a project, making it easy for teams to know when something is ready for them to work on.

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Adaptive Project Framework (APF)

The adaptive framework does not differ that much from the overall goal of the agile methodology. The main difference is the fact that during the planning stage the project is broken down into project goals based on features, functions and requirements of the product. The project is then broken down further by iterative stages which allow for project managers to change the scope at the beginning of each stage. This allows for flexibility and creativity as the project progresses.

Pros and Cons of the Agile Methodology

Pros: Agile is great for software projects or any projects that are considered creative and evolving, like a house (up to a certain point), a song, a book. It allows you to work in small iterations making adjustments as you go.

Cons: Sometimes, the iterations and edits make you end up with something completely different than what you were intending. That’s why agile requires heavy communication on all fronts so that a) your team is fully aware of the changes and b) they’re still focused on the overall outcome.

Lean is a project process that reduces “waste” from within the project lifecycle by focusing on delivering value. Waste refers to reducing costs, reducing the time to completion, completing the project on-budget and improving the quality of the final product.


Six Sigma

Six Sigma was created by Bill Smith of Motorola back in 1995. The purpose of the process was to reduce product defects, by focusing on feature defects. The Six Sigma process allows for only 3.4 defects per million.

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Pros and Cons of Lean Methodologies

Pros: If you have a project that requires you to stick to a very strict budget and timeline, this is the best option for you. Examples of projects that require lean processes include manufacturing cars, technology products, and anything that requires the physical output of a product. (Consumer products)

Cons: Lean processes tend to treat every part of the project as the same. This means that if there are/is a part (s) that doesn’t require oversight, you could end up in a mess. What we mean by this is every single person involved must be informed that the project is lean. If anyone slips up, there will be deficiencies.

PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environment)

This is another methodology that you may come across quite often because it is the most commonly used around the world as it is designed to be suited to any project in any industry. Created by the Uk Government in 1989, it is also the most strict project management methodology out there. PRINCE2 emphasizes working in sprints, but instead of breaking down a project into small sprints, it breaks it down into a few large parts and treats every part as a sprint.

Further Reading:

Pros and Cons of PRINCE2

Pros: If you can guarantee that absolutely nothing will go wrong with a project and have the staff to oversee it , PRINCE2 is the right choice.

Cons: This method will have you treating your teams like robots with constant oversight and processes. It also does not bode well with marketing and creative teams because of how restrictive it is.

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