Project management methodologies
July 11, 2019

What Are The Best Project Management Methodologies?

By Brian McHale

Projects can get complicated fast, so it’s a relief that there are plenty of methodologies out there which you can use.

This post is going to outline some of the most popular types of project management methodology. There’s no one size fits all solution, but it should help you find the right one for your team.

Let’s take a look!

The Importance of Project Management Methodologies

Completing a project is always easier said than done.

You may be dealing with a complex project for external clients. You may be dealing with a simple one for your company. In any case, you’re going to come across an obstacle or two.

Methodologies for project management help you overcome these obstacles by giving you an ace up your sleeve: Structure.

Every project management methodology has a different set of practices, procedures and techniques that will help you complete your project sooner. And hopefully, with fewer headaches.

But the methodologies won’t just help you as the manager – they’ll help your team manage their tasks better and improve their performance.

After all, productivity isn’t that challenging once you’ve got the framework to guide you.

The Most Popular Project Management Methodologies

Some project management methodologies have been around for a long time. For example, there’s a well-known methodology of: “The deadline is in two hours, let’s get this huge project done!”

Others are newer.

However, different methodologies are better suited to different industries and types of project, so let’s help you understand which one is best for you.

1. Agile Project Management Methodology

The agile methodology rose in popularity with software development.

It focuses on delivering project outcomes in lean iterations.

This comes in handy in the IT and software development industry as you can easily change everything that’s not working without losing a lot of time or money.

Agile is the polar opposite to the traditional waterfall project management methodology that focuses on delivering complete work and typically shies away from making changes.

In this particular project management methodology, the focus is placed on flexibility and feedback.

Clients and teams stay in constant touch, and projects are delivered in milestones so changing any aspect of the software is easier, and so is the subsequent integration.

Unlike typical task management, tasks organized with the agile methodology are prone to constant changes.

The agile methodology is suitable for unpredictable projects that come with significant chances of scope creep.

By keeping everything flexible and delivering work in iterations, teams can make sure that they don’t lose time or go over budget.

2. Scrum Methodology for Project Management

The scrum methodology is very similar to the agile methodology as they share the same principles.

Teams work in multiple sprints that typically last from one to four weeks.

Before the sprint, the team meets with the stakeholders to create a backlog of tasks that need to be completed. Then, the team prioritizes the tasks that will be completed in each sprint.

During the sprint, teams work on the high priority tasks.

They check in through the so-called standup meetings where everyone states what they’re working on and how they’re progressing. Problems are quickly resolved.

When the sprint is finished, the stakeholders are invited to review their progress.

After that, the teams hold review sessions in which they assess their performance and make adjustments for future sprints.

As you can see, it’s a quite fast-paced project management methodology.

This is why the scrum methodology is best suited to longer, more complex projects that call for big teams.

And since scrum demands constant focus, it’s not a good fit for teams who juggle multiple projects at once.

It’s also not for teams who take care of operational projects (e.g. banks).

According to Mishkin Berteig, a scrum implementation expert, scrum works exceptionally well for organizations which are facing a crisis and need to resolve problems quickly, teams that are already high-performance and want to retain that quality as they scale, and teams developing new products.

3. Kanban Project Management Methodology

Kanban is another methodology that focuses on agility (i.e. flexibility). However, it’s not as rigid as scrum and pure agile.

Instead, it focuses on clearly visualized task management.

If you’ve ever used a visual task management software, it’s likely that you’ve actually used a Kanban board.

Projects are broken down into tasks which can be additionally broken down into subtasks.

All of this brings clarity to what exactly needs to get done to complete the project in the shortest time possible.

Typically, tasks are categorized in the following groups:

  • To Do
  • Doing
  • Done

This way, you can help your team avoid multitasking.

According to Kanban, they should be working on one task at a time. When they’re done, they can pick up the next task and keep going.

Even though multitasking can seem like your team is being more productive, having plenty of works in progress help no one if nothing ever gets done. And multitasking is a productivity killer.

When it comes to tracking, Kanban focuses on lead time – how long it takes to produce results.

As such, the Kanban project management methodology is one of the most flexible ones – especially for projects where priorities change constantly (i.e. organizational projects).

Since it focuses on workflows and completing tasks, it can be used across industries and project types.

4. Lean Project Management

Lean makes everything… well, lean.

According to its definition, it focuses on delivering more value with less waste.

It does this by observing the following three principles:

  • Muda – Remove everything that doesn’t add value to the customer
  • Mura – Standardize for clarity
  • Muri – Remove distractions and work at the optimal pace

For example, if you followed the lean project management methodology, you’d remove any unnecessary processes like revisions by focusing on the task at hand. You could standardize your project statements to streamline the process.

And finally, you’d reduce the number of projects you’re working on simultaneously to deliver higher quality work.

Lean project management

Source: Project Management Institute

Lean also relies on careful planning so it’s not well suited to projects that are prone to scope creep.

When the project has been planned out, you and your team should create the easiest way to complete it, remove any unnecessary activities, and automate to streamline.

However, lean can be extremely beneficial for industries struggling with a lot of unnecessary processes. For example, the financial sector, administration, and teams handling internal projects.

5. The Waterfall Approach to Project Management

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with a little tradition that requires you not to deviate from your original plan.

The waterfall project management methodology is a linear one.

You and your team meet up with stakeholders at the beginning, define the project scope, agree on terms and deliverables, and you get to work.

The work is separated into a few phases like meeting with the stakeholders and testing the product, and the next phase starts only after the previous phase has been completed and reviewed.

This makes it very simple to implement.

And since waterfall relies on careful planning and following the plans as you implement, it’s also much simpler for the stakeholders who understand exactly what they’ll be getting.

As such, the waterfall model is best suited for small teams and short, precisely outlined projects.

If you’re dealing with long, unpredictable projects that often change in scope, using the waterfall methodology could mean losing a lot of time.

Conclusion

While there are many types of project management methodologies to choose from, you should keep your clients and your team in mind.

If you’ve already got a clearly defined workflow that works for everyone involved in the project, you can simply adopt a new task management method like Kanban.

But if you’ve been struggling with performance or constant changes, it may be time for a new approach.

And a new methodology may be just what the doctor ordered.

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