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Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, and More – top project management methodologies and how they’re different

NitanshLast Updated: July 9, 2022

For project managers, understanding the need of the right project management methodology is critical for executing projects. A project management methodology is a set of methods and techniques that are used to plan, execute, and manage a project. They help managers lead the project while also managing the team working behind it.

There are many project management methodologies to choose from, each having their own set of practices and processes. However, the methodology you should adapt will depend on the type of project you’re leading. And the whole idea behind choosing a project management methodology is to maximize the productivity, and completing the project efficiently. So which project management methodology should you go for? While you have a slew of options, here’s a look at the most popular project management methodologies, and how they differ from each other.  

Top project management methodologies

Software teams across industries adapted different methodologies to fit specific project needs and as a result, there are a lot of project management methodologies available to choose from. So how do you know which one is right for you and your project(s)? Keep reading to know.

Agile project management methodology

Agile is one of the most talked about project management methodologies which is best suited for projects that are continuously evolving. In this type of process, demands and supply or solutions improve through the efforts of a self-organizing team, and its customers or users. Hence, in Agile, there’s a big focus on team collaborations and self-organizing teams. The basics of Agile methodology are:

  • Iterative and evolving
  • Collaborative
  • Fast and supports changing requirements
  • Values individuals over processes

Agile project management is best suited for:

The Agile methodology can be used by any project manager for its team because its working principle is universal. However, its best suited for teams handling fast deliverables like tech products or projects that evolve with time and do not have clear target at the beginning.

Scrum project management methodology

Scrum is another popular methodology which is used across the software development industry. It basically focuses on commitment, focus, and openness. The goal behind it is to develop, and deliver complex products through collaboration. However, unlike Agile, Scrum process operates by using its own certain roles for team members, instead of working collaboratively with each individual. These roles include:

  • Product owner: An expert who represents the product in front of customers or shareholders
  • Development team: A team of professionals including programmers and designers.
  • Scrum master: An organized team leader who makes sure an effective execution of Scrum.

Scrum project management methodology is best suited for:

Although all teams that use Agile approach should also try the Scrum methodology at least once to see whether it works for them. That said, in this methodology, groups are divided into small teams, hence this approach works best for large teams working on a single product.

Waterfall project management methodology

The waterfall model is also a very popular project management methodology. This is a straightforward methodology in which work flows down (just like a waterfall) and then it is organized in sequential order by the manager. This approach is also known as software development life cycle (SDLC). The phases in this linear process are followed in this order:

  • System requirements
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Testing
  • Operations

Waterfall project management methodology is best suited for: The waterfall methodology is detailed and it’s simple and linear. That’s why it is great for large projects with multiple stakeholders. Because it has clear steps throughout the project that helps tracking the work at a large level.

Kanban project management methodology

The Kanban approach lets the team see a clear understanding of project workflows and the status of their work while reducing the possibility of bottlenecks. Though it’s not necessary, it also works like software application that enables smooth switching and dragging within between boards and projects. Many teams employ this strategy in various ways because it lacks the same set procedures as other approaches. The key idea to remember is that Kanban strives to simplify the overall framework by concentrating on the most crucial project activities. It runs on six general principles, which are as follows:

  • Visualization
  • limiting active projects
  • Management of flow
  • Explicating policies
  • Feedback loops are used
  • Evolution through cooperation or experimentation.

Kanban project management methodology is best suited for: Kanban approach is great for teams of all sizes, however, it’s best suited for remote teams. Because the capabilities of Kanban board help remote team members stay on a similar track no matter where they are.

Six Sigma project management methodology

Six Sigma is utilized for quality management, in contrast to other project management techniques. Sometimes it’s referred to as a philosophy rather than a methodology. Additionally, it is usually combined with either an Agile framework or a lean methodology. Six Sigma aims to continuously enhance processes and get rid of product flaws. This is accomplished by specialists defining and managing processes continuously through improvement. Once can also use the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology, which is a staged approach. The stages are following:

  • Define: Set project scope and initial stand-up meeting.
  • Measure: Gather data to inform improvement needs.
  • Analyze: Identify the cause of problems.
  • Improve: Fix the causes found.
  • Control: Sustain these solutions for future projects.

Six Sigma project management methodology is best suited for: Six Sigma is best suited for bigger organizations, those with a hundred or more employees. This is best used when the need to eliminate project waste starts having an impact on your project.

Lean project management methodology

The goal of the lean project management methodology is to reduce waste in a project and provide a straightforward framework that is tailored to the project’s requirements. With the help of teamwork, this practice ensures getting more done with fewer resources. Reducing waste currently refers to inefficient behaviors in a team or project, whereas it originally related to a tangible product (which Toyota and Motorola uses). This strategy is represented by the following three Ms:

  • Muda (wastefulness): Practices that consume resources but don’t add value. 
  • Mura (unevenness): A result of overproduction and thus leaving waste.
  • Muri (overburden): A result of too much strain on resources.

A project manager should prevent these three Ms in order to better execute the projects.

Lean project management methodology is best suited for: Since lean methodology is all about reducing waste from a project, it’s best suited for teams having efficiency issues while completing a project. Since this leaves a greater impact on organizations, this approach can be helpful for all types of projects.

Critical path method (CPM)

You create a model of the project using the critical path method (CPM). This includes all the tasks listed in a work breakdown structure, their durations, irrespective of the fact that there are any task dependencies, and the marking off of milestones to denote the completion of various project phases or the dates on which your deliverables are due. With this knowledge, you can determine the “critical path”—the longest set of tasks required to complete the project. The project will be delayed if one of those jobs isn’t completed on time, so you’ll need to keep an eye on them. The actions below must be taken if you plan to use CPM:

  • Determine all the necessary actions you must do to fulfill your project’s objective.
  • Calculate the time each of jobs will require (bearing in mind that some tasks need to be completed so others can be started).
  • Utilize all of that data to plan the “critical path” you’ll need to follow to complete the project as soon as feasible without skipping any essential tasks.

Critical path method is best suited for: The critical path method is best suited for small and mid-size teams because large projects require more deliverables and the CPM isn’t built to manage such complex projects.

Which project management methodology is right for you?

After reading about these approaches, you might have realized that there’s no one-size-fits-all  when it comes to project management methodologies. Each of them offers their unique set of principles to complete a project from an initial plan to final execution. The things you can keep in mind while choosing the right approach is the size of your team and how team likes to work. If your team prefers a visual process, go for Kanban or for a more traditional approach, go for the waterfall method. On the other hand, Agile and Scrum are the most popular approaches as they help in handling a large team that’s working on multiple projects. Overall, there’s an option for every team and these processes will help you and your team to focus on the things that matter.

Moreover, if someone wants to take the methodology one step further and make the most of it, they can also consider a project management tool like Flow.

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