Project management is a vital component of modern business and skilled project management professionals are needed in every industry, for every function. Project management roles often require you to act as a leader, a motivator, a coordinator, and a closer. There is more than one approach that you can take when getting the job done.
What Are the Different Project Management Methodologies?
Talk to any project manager, and you will likely hear why their project management style is preferred. There are pros and cons to the various approaches to project management, so you can choose the right style that works best for you and your organization or project at a given time.
According to Business News Daily, there are several different types of project management. In this blog, we take a look at seven common types of project management — traditional, Agile, Scrum, Lean, Waterfall, Kanban, and Six Sigma — and how you can put each style to work for you:
The traditional approach involves a linear, step-by-step process that follows a predefined plan — with little deviation or change — and is best-suited for projects with a clear scopes and well-defined timelines. The basic model includes initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure phases. When using this approach, it’s essential to define the scope and project requirements at the start of the project.
Agile project management is an iterative (i.e., repetitive), flexible approach that emphasizes collaboration, continuous feedback, and rapid delivery of working software or other project deliverables. This methodology is often used in software development and other fast-paced, dynamic industries.
Agile project management is based on the Agile Manifesto, a set of guiding principles for software development that include:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Instead of following a sequential, linear process, Agile projects are broken down into small, manageable pieces called sprints. During each sprint, the project team works to complete a set of project deliverables that are reviewed and refined at the end of each sprint. This allows for continuous feedback and improvement, making it easier to adjust to changes in customer requirements or project scope.
Agile project management emphasizes collaboration and teamwork, with project teams working closely together to identify and solve problems. The project team includes a product owner — who represents the customer’s interests and helps to prioritize project requirements — and a Scrum master, who facilitates the Agile process and helps the team stay on-track. While this methodology has been successful in managing software development projects, it can also be applied to other types of projects that require adaptability and flexibility.
According to the Association for Project Management, Agile puts greater focus on collaboration, faster reaction to change, and the continued analysis of performance in order to improve and achieve higher standards over time. The APM describes Agile as an “iterative approach to delivering a project throughout its life cycle, with several iterations that repeat one or more of the phases before proceeding to the next one.”
When applied successfully, Agile project managers and their teams can move quickly, decisively, and effectively while maintaining open lines of communication and anticipating and responding to the needs of customers and key stakeholders.
This approach is an agile methodology designed to manage complex projects by promoting iterative and incremental development while emphasizing collaboration, flexibility, and a continuous focus on delivering value to the customer. In Scrum project management, the project is divided into small, manageable pieces called sprints. Each sprint typically lasts two to four weeks, during which time a cross-functional team of developers and stakeholders work together to complete a set of deliverables. The scrum team is self-organizing, and the project is led by a Scrum master who is responsible for facilitating the team’s progress and removing any obstacles they encounter. Daily stand-up meetings are held to keep the team informed of progress and quickly identify and resolve any issues.
The difference between Scrum and Agile is that Scrum is a highly successful methodology for delivering software to a customer, while Agile is a philosophy about how to deliver software to a customer. Scrum project management prioritizes continuous feedback and improvement, with regular reviews and retrospectives at the end of each sprint. These meetings allow the team to reflect on and assess their performance, then make any necessary changes to improve the process and the product. Scrum project management is best suited for projects with a high degree of complexity and uncertainty, where requirements are subject to change, and the customer’s needs are evolving. This approach allows for more flexibility and adaptability than traditional, linear methods like Waterfall project management.
In sum, Scrum project management is a highly collaborative and iterative approach that emphasizes communication, feedback, and a focus on delivering value to the customer. It’s widely used in the software development industry and has proven to be an effective way to manage complex projects.
This approach is a methodology that emphasizes the elimination of waste and the maximization of value in project delivery. It aims to streamline the project management process by eliminating non-value-adding activities and focusing on the customer’s needs. In lean project management, according to the Project Management Institute, a project is broken down into small, manageable pieces, and work is completed in short iterations. The approach allows for continuous feedback and improvement, making it easier to adjust to changes in customer requirements or project scope. Lean project management also places a strong emphasis on teamwork, collaboration, and communication. The project team works together to identify and eliminate waste and to continuously improve the project process.
Following are the principles of lean project management:
- Define value: Identify the customer’s needs and determine what is of value to them
- Map the value stream: Map out the steps required to deliver value to the customer and identify any waste in the process
- Create flow: Optimize the project process to eliminate delays and bottlenecks
- Establish pull: Allow the customer to dictate the pace of the project by pulling work as needed
- Seek perfection: Continuously improve the project process to achieve maximum efficiency and value
Lean project management is best suited for projects with a high degree of complexity and uncertainty, where requirements are subject to change, and the customer’s needs are evolving. This approach allows for more flexibility and adaptability than traditional, linear methods like Waterfall project management. It is a customer-focused model that emphasizes the delivery of value and the elimination of waste. The lean style is widely used in manufacturing, health care, and software development and has proven to be an effective way to manage complex projects.
Waterfall is a linear approach and sequential way to manage a project, where the project is divided into phases that must be completed before moving on to the next one. Each phase is to be completed before moving on to the next, making this method very structured and organized.
In this model, the project is typically divided into the following stages:
In the conception phase, the project is identified and initial ideas and requirements are gathered. In the initiation phase, the feasibility of the project is evaluated, and a project plan is developed. In the planning phase, the project plan is broken down into detailed work activities, resources are identified, and a project schedule is created. The execution phase is where the actual work is completed and monitored, with regular reporting to stakeholders. The closure phase involves reviewing and evaluating the project’s success and documenting lessons learned.
Waterfall project management is best suited for projects with clearly defined deliverables, timelines, and budgets. It is also used for projects with a limited scope and a well-defined outcome. This approach is rigid, and changes in project scope can be challenging to implement, requiring significant time and resources.
Despite its limitations, Waterfall project management has been used successfully for many years in various industries, such as construction, engineering, and software development. Its linear and structured approach can help ensure each phase of the project is completed thoroughly, minimizing the risk of errors and delays.
This is a lean, visual approach to managing projects that emphasizes workflow optimization and continuous improvement. It originated in the manufacturing industry and has since been adapted for use in software development and other industries. In Kanban project management, project tasks are visualized on a Kanban board, which typically consists of a series of columns representing different stages of the project workflow, such as “to-do,” “in progress,” and “done.” Each task is represented by a card that is moved from one column to the next as it progresses through the workflow.
The goal of Kanban project management is to optimize the workflow by minimizing work in progress and reducing waste. The project team uses data to identify bottlenecks and other inefficiencies in the workflow, and then takes action to address them. By limiting work in progress and focusing on completing one task at a time, Kanban project management aims to improve the flow of work and increase overall productivity. Kanban project management also emphasizes continuous improvement, with the project team regularly reviewing and refining the workflow based on data and feedback. This allows for rapid adaptation to changing customer requirements or project scope.
One of the key benefits of Kanban project management is its flexibility. It can be used in combination with other project management methodologies such as Agile or Waterfall and can be adapted to meet the needs of the specific project or industry.
Why choose this methodology? Kanban project management is a visual, lean approach to managing projects that emphasizes workflow optimization and continuous improvement. It is well-suited for projects with a high degree of uncertainty or a need for rapid adaptation to changing requirements or project scope.
7. Six Sigma
This data-driven methodology aims to improve the quality and efficiency of business processes by reducing variation and eliminating defects. Investopedia notes it was developed by Motorola in the 1980s and has since been widely adopted in many industries.
Six Sigma follows a five-phase approach known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control). This project management style involves identifying the problem or opportunity, measuring the current process performance, analyzing the data to identify the root cause of the problem, improving the process, and controlling the new process to ensure ongoing improvement.
The goal of Six Sigma is to achieve a level of quality that results in no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, which corresponds to a Six Sigma level of quality. Achieving that level of quality requires a focus on statistical analysis and data-driven decision-making.
Six Sigma is typically comprised of a cross-functional team that includes a project sponsor, project manager, and a variety of subject matter experts. The team uses data to identify opportunities for improvement, develop solutions, and implement process changes.
One of the key benefits of Six Sigma is its focus on data and continuous improvement. By using statistical analysis and data-driven decision-making, it’s possible to identify and eliminate the root causes of problems — resulting in significant improvements in quality and efficiency.
When should you choose Six Sigma? Organizations looking to achieve a high level of quality and efficiency in their operations should utilize Six Sigma.
What Are the Common Responsibilities in Project Management?
No matter which approach you take to project management, you’ll find that many of the tasks and responsibilities are similar. How they are executed is up to you. According to O*Net Online, today’s project management specialists are commonly tasked with:
Communicating with key stakeholders to determine project requirements and objectives. This may happen in daily Scrum meetings or, like in most offices, via email, video conference, and in person.
Monitoring the performance of project team members to provide performance feedback.
Reporting project status, such as budget, resources, technical issues, or customer satisfaction, to managers.
Negotiating with project stakeholders or suppliers to obtain resources or materials.
Project management specialists are in demand, according to O*Net Online, with as many as 70,400 job openings projected by 2031. The median annual wage for a project management specialist was $94,500 in 2021.
Traditional, Agile, Scrum, Lean, Waterfall, Kanban, or Six Sigma. While there are many approaches to project management, all are intended to deliver a successful project on-time and error-free. If you’re beginning your project management journey in school, you can refine your approach and determine which suits you best, and then apply that discipline to your career.