There are a variety of project management methodologies you can implement, but no obvious favorite across industries. To help you choose, we’ve outlined 10 project management techniques that have had proven success, and the types of situations for which they work best. It’s up to you to decide which one can provide the strongest framework for your organization.
Waterfall is one of the simpler strategies to implement and is ideal for short, uncomplicated projects. This strategy is linear and sequential—simply list tasks sequentially and check them off as you go. A task cannot be initiated until the previous one is complete, and you cannot return to a previous task. (Done is done.) For the Waterfall project management methodology to be successful, tasks must include every step that needs be accomplished and arranged in a logical, chronological order.
Agile is a common project management methodology based on fast, continuous improvement. Originally popularized by software developers, this strategy has been adopted by all types of teams and industries. Agile uses sprints, which are short project cycles, to continually release enhancements to products or services. The flexibility of sprints allows for last-minute changes and can result in a higher quality deliverable. Agile is best suited for project teams that need flexibility and speed (in comparison to Waterfall, which is ideal for teams that need a clear, fixed plan).
While Agile is more of a set of guiding principles, Scrum works within the Agile framework to provide a specific set of rules for project management. This includes processes for identifying tasks, resources, completion dates, etc. Scrum is designed for fast delivery, with rapid feedback cycles and responsive change. Close collaboration is a primary element of this approach—teams work on sprints together and have short, daily standup meetings to report on progress. Each sprint must produce a usable product. Scrum is an iterative methodology largely used in the software industry for product development, but can also be applied to smaller projects that involve a high level of productivity and require intensive refining.
If you need a methodology that helps you understand the interdependency of resources, Critical Path Method (CPM) is a useful project management strategy. This approach involves gathering all the required activities needed to complete a project and sorting them by duration and dependencies. For example, a project to publish a software update would include an activity to write the technical documentation, which should take 6 hours and is dependent on finalizing testing. Using CPM makes it easier to see critical and non-critical relationships (paths) between tasks and set timeframes for completion. Originally created in the 1950s for missile defense construction projects, CPM is best suited for big initiatives that depend on a variety of resources interacting in complex ways.
While CPM is built upon task order and resources, Critical Chain Method (CCM) extends this project management strategy to factor in resource availability. CCM develops a hierarchy of activities and work streams based on access to resources. A primary tactic of this strategy is to add buffers to the “task chain” to account for resource scarcity and protect the project schedule. While CPM is ideal for project teams who want a straightforward sequence of tasks and estimated duration of activities, CCM is better for teams who need to prioritize tasks by resource renewability and the minimal time needed for completion (with a buffer added).
An acronym for “PRojects integrating Sustainable Methods,” PRiSM is a project management methodology that focuses on socially responsible development. Casually speaking, it’s also called eco-friendly or green project management. While a typical project management tool focuses on due dates and budgets, PRiSM also considers long-term sustainability with a goal of reducing any negative environmental, economic, and social effects caused by the project. The PRiSM method is primarily used for large real estate development, construction, or infrastructure projects.
PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is the standard methodology of the U.K. government, but has been implemented by other industries and companies as well. PRINCE2 is based on consistent processes, controlled stages (beginning, middle, end), properly allocated resources, regular progress reviews, and alignment with business justifications. A board oversees the project while a project team executes the plan (essentially separating the decision makers from the doers). This tactic is best suited for larger organizations, where extensive documentation and process management is required. For example, a recent case study showcases how Vocalink used PRINCE2 to develop a real-time money transfer system between banks in the UK.
Invented by Toyota in 1953, Kanban is a project management methodology that moves tasks along stages of a defined workflow in assembly-line fashion. This methodology is a subset of Agile, but is more flexible, with efficiency being the primary goal. Kanban uses a “board” view to map and visualize team progress on tasks. There is a continuous flow of work, with backlogs being tackled by order of importance. Kanban is ideal for teams that need constant output on a project and want to maximize efficiency (for example, you can leave tasks undone if others take priority). The strategy is popular with product development teams as well as automakers.
Aptly named, Lean is another form of Agile project management that targets how to do more with less. Both Agile and Lean divide projects into smaller tasks for individual execution. From there, Lean adds streamlined workflows to each part of the project in an effort to remove any excess efforts. There’s an emphasis on standardized processes to help drive continuous improvement and maximize efficiency. This project management technique is ideal for small teams who have tight budgets or other constraints, yet still need to deliver significant value.
Not technically a methodology, Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the Project Management Institute’s entire collection of processes, best practices, terminologies, and guidelines. PMBOK is the ultimate guide to project management standards for any industry and outlines five major process steps: initiate, plan, execute, control, and close. PMBOK is continually being updated with new information and methodologies—if you’re still unsure of the best project management strategies for your team, start with this guide.
To achieve the goals and measures in your strategic plan, key projects need to be executed successfully or you won’t be able to drive real change for your organization. The industry’s top organizations leverage strong project management techniques to reach their goals, so choose a methodology wisely and follow it closely.