Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Top 20 project management methodologies

With the right project management methodology, project management offices (PMOs) can assist their organizations in improving business outcomes — but this requires more than recognizing organizational priorities. For most companies, recent external forces such as COVID-19 and industry disruptions brought about by the pace of digital change have shifted company goals and priorities, making it necessary to re-evaluate whether the project methodologies they have in place can effectively and efficiently achieve new business goals while reducing risks

With so many different — and in some cases, overlapping — approaches to managing the complexities of any given project, how can you know which project management methodology is best? Here, we outline the most popular project management methodologies (PMMs) in practice today, comparing their focus and principles.

Top 20 project management methodologies

When considering these project management methodologies, it is important to note that there isn’t always a single solution in all cases, even within the same organization. The following table provides a brief snapshot of the focus of the 20 most popular project management methodologies, with the benefits — and drawbacks — of each defined more broadly below.

Methodology Focus
Waterfall A linear, sequential approach to development
Agile Continuous improvement and delivering better quality
Waterfall and agile hybrid Combines the best of waterfall for planning and agile for execution
Critical path method (CPM) Maximizing project activities and finding the shortest path (timeline) to task and project success
Critical chain project management (CCPM) Optimizing resource usage
Six Sigma Eliminating waste and improving processes and profitability
Scrum Delivering higher quality
Lean development (LD) Reducing waste while maximizing output and increasing stakeholder value
Lean Six Sigma Customer-focused
Scrumban Reducing waste, lead time, and turnaround time, while delivering higher-quality products and services
Kanban Customer-focused, fostering ongoing collaboration and continuous learning
Event chain methodology Identifying, analyzing, and managing any potential risks as early as possible in the project life cycle
Extreme programming (XP) Improving the quality and responsiveness of software as stakeholder needs change
Crystal Improving project results by focusing efforts on the people-side of projects
Feature-driven development (FDD) Addressing the complexities larger projects might pose by developing fast, repeatable processes
Dynamic systems development method (DSDM) Aligning projects with companywide strategic goals
Adaptive software development (ASD) Helping teams become more agile when dealing with change
Rapid application development (RAD) Focusing on user input based on testing, and how well a product is working compared to its intended goals
Rational unified process (RUP) Simplifying product development while reducing risk
Spiral Providing a risk-driven process model for more efficient product development


Waterfall is recognized as a traditional sequential methodology and has been a mainstay project management methodology for many years. It is used across many industries, but most commonly in software development. It comprises static phases (requirements analysis, design, testing, implementation, and maintenance) that are executed in a specific, linear order.

Waterfall allows for increased control throughout each phase. It offers a more formal planning stage that may increase the chances of capturing all project requirements upfront. It reduces the loss of any key information and requirements in the initial stages. One downside is that waterfall can be highly inflexible if a project’s scope changes after it is already under way.


Agile takes a significantly different approach to project management. It was initially developed for projects that require significant flexibility and speed, and it is focused on providing continuous improvement to delivering better quality solutions. To achieve this, agile is composed of short delivery cycles, aka “sprints.” Agile may be best-suited for projects requiring less control and more real-time communication within self-motivated team settings.

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