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An Introduction to the Top Project Management Methodologies

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Every project manager knows that there is never such a thing as a “one size fits all” methodology for leading teams. However, picking the right method is crucial to effectively getting the job done right.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a methodology is defined as a system of practices, techniques, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline. Lean practices, Kanban, and Six Sigma are project management methodologies examples.

These methodologies are processes that help project managers effectively keep track of deliverables, monitor team performance, and manage issues that arise during the development process.

There are many project management methodologies, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses. You should select a methodology based on the project you’re working on and your team dynamic.

As a reminder, there’s no such thing as the “right” software management methodology, just the one that works best for your team. These are also not hard set rules, adapt them to fit your team and workflow best, project management tools are about making your team more productive, not boxing them into a specific process.


Agile is the most popular project management workflow right now. Agile is best suited for projects that are incremental and iterative. Demands and solutions aren’t necessarily set out in stone, they’re constantly adapting based on internal or external feedback.

Agile was originally created for software development teams to ship iterative software and avoid large releases or deployments. Agile is made up of four fundamental values and twelve principles.


  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan # Principles
  5. Customer satisfaction through early and continuous software delivery
  6. Accommodate changing requirements throughout the development process
  7. Frequent delivery of working software
  8. Collaboration between the business stakeholders and developers throughout the project
  9. Support, trust, and motivate the people involved
  10. Enable face-to-face interactions
  11. Working software is the primary measure of progress
  12. Agile processes to support a consistent development pace
  13. Attention to technical detail and design enhances agility
  14. Simplicity
  15. Self-organizing teams encourage great architectures, requirements, and designs
  16. Regular reflections on how to become more effective

Agile uses six main deliverables to track progress and create the product which are the product vision statement, product roadmap, product backlog, release plan, Sprint backlog, and increment. With these features, Agile places a focus on collaboration, flexibility, continuous improvement, and high quality results.

Best Suited For:  Projects that require flexibility and have a high level of uncertainty. For example: a new project that’s being developed by the team.

As a side note, Agile itself can be broken down into several sub methodologies, such as Kanban or Scrum.


Scrum is a subset of Agile that is comprised of five values: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. Its goal is to develop, deliver, and sustain complex products through collaboration, accountability, and iterative progress. Scrum focuses on timed results in “sprint” events and uses several metrics and charts to track team progress over time.

Scrum has several team roles:

  • Product Owner: Product expert that is the voice of the customer and communicates stakeholder information above.
  • Development Team: Developers, programmers, designers, and other professionals.
  • Scrum Master: Organized servant-leader who ensures Scrum is executed properly.

Scrum also relies on several key events that differentiate it from other Agile methods:

  • Sprint: Iterative time segments in which a set goal is accomplished. These time frames are short (under one month) and consistent.
  • Sprint Planning: A time when the scrum team gets together to plan the sprint
  • Daily Scrum: 15 minute daily meetings to discuss previous achievements and expectations for the day/
  • Sprint Review: Informal meeting to review results of the last sprint and discuss feedback
  • Sprint Retrospective: A meeting where the scrum team discusses the proceedings of the last sprint and establishes improvements for the next sprint.
  • Product Backlog: A place where all requirements are listed in order of priority.
  • Sprint backlog: A list of all tasks to be completed in coming sprints.

Best Suited For:  Projects that consist of small teams who need a flexible approach on a time schedule to deliver a product.


Kanban is another popular agile framework that focuses on early releases with collaborative and self-managing teams. Developed at Toyota factories, it’s a visual method that relies on on painting a picture of the development process to easily identify bottlenecks in the process.

Kanban consists of 6 general practices:

  1. Visualization
  2. Limiting work in progress
  3. Flow management
  4. Making policies explicit
  5. Using feedback loops
  6. Collaborative or experimental evolution

The Kanban process is extremely visible, consisting of three main components:

  1. Kanban Boards:  Visual representations of the development process. These can be physical or digital.
  2. Kanban Cards:  Each card depicts a task or assignment for the team.
  3. Kanban Swimlanes:  Horizontally flowing lanes that allow you to categorize cards into groups (such as Todo, Doing, or Done) Best Suited For:  Smaller teams who need a flexible approach to delivering a product or service.


Lean methodology promotes maximizing customer value while reducing waste. It stems from the Japanese manufacturing industry, its values are based on the assumption that “as waste is eliminated, quality improves while the production time and cost are reduced.”

It identifies three types of waste: Muda, Mura, and Muri, also known as the three M’s.


Muda is about getting rid of waste that refers to an activity or process that doesn’t add value. The seven original wastes are:

  1. Transport: The movement of product between operations and locations.
  2. Inventory: The work in progress (WIP) and stocks of finished goods and raw materials that a company holds.
  3. Motion: The physical movement of a person or machine whilst conducting an operation.
  4. Waiting: The act of waiting for a machine to finish, for a product to arrive, or any other cause.
  5. Overproduction: Over producing product beyond what the customer has ordered.
  6. Over-processing: Conducting operations beyond those that customer requires.
  7. Defects: Product rejects and reworks within your processes.


Mura is about reducing waste in the workflow process at the scheduling and operations phase. For example, when publishing a magazine, if an editor spends too much time editing an article, it means that the design team will have less time to create the spread before the publishing deadline comes. Therefore, you would reduce the editing time and ensure every department’s timeframe spent on the article is the same.


Muri is about eliminating or reducing mental stress on workers. It refers to business managers and employers putting too much stress on employees due to disorganization and lack of tools.

Instead of implementing new processes, Lean is about adhering to structured principles. The five main principles are; specify value by the customer, identify steps in the value stream, make product flow continuously, allow customers pull value from the next upstream activity, and manage towards removing unnecessary steps.

Best Suited For:  Business that want to transform their whole business process with a structured set of principles.


One of the more traditional project management methodologies, waterfall is a linear and sequential project management process. Originating in manufacturing and engineering firms, waterfall sacrifices flexibility for stability in later stages of development.

The methodology consists of six stages:

  1. System and software requirements
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Coding
  5. Testing
  6. Operations

Waterfall stresses the importance of documentation in each step. The idea is that any worker should be able to walk in at any step of the progress and instantly be integrated into the work process.

Best Suited For: Larger projects that require more structure due to cost or manufacturing constraints or have little risks involved with the development process.

Six Sigma

Introduced by Motorola engineers, Six Sigma is a project management technique that seeks to reduce errors by identifying what isn’t working and removing it from the process.

It uses empirical quality management methods to ensure minimal errors are encountered, and the expertise of area specialists.

There are two major methodologies of Six Sigma carried out by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts, and are supervised by Six Sigma Master Black Belts. They are DMAIC which is used for improving business processes, and DMADV which is more for creating new processes, products or services. The letters stand for:

Define the problem and the project goals
Measure in detail the various aspects of the current process
Analyze data to, among other things, find the root defects in a process
Improve the process
Control how the process is done in the future

Define the project goals
Measure critical components of the process and the product capabilities
Analyze the data and develop various designs for the process, eventually picking the best one
Design and test details of the process
Verify the design by running simulations and a pilot program, and then handing over the process to the client

Best Suited For: Large companies that want to use data and statistics to improve quality and efficiency.


PMI stands for the Project Management Institute which is a not-for-profit membership association, project management certification, and standards organization. The PMI produces the PMBOK, which is a guide that details a set of standards that characterize project management. As a side note, this isn’t really a methanols, but rather a set of guidelines that helps you pick and execute PM methodologies better.

PMBOK stands for the Project Management Body of Knowledge and is a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management. It states that there are five process groups that are prevalent in almost every project. They are;

Initiating: Defining the start of a new project or new phase of an existing project.
Planning: Where the scope of the project, objectives, and how the objectives will be achieved.
Executing: Actually doing the work defined in the project management plan.
Monitoring and Controlling: When you need to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance.
Closing: Concluding all activities across all Process Groups to formally close the project or phrase.

The guide also includes best practices, conventions, and techniques that are “industry standard”. They regularly update their guide to ensure it’s using best practices set by the industry.

Best suited for: Because it’s more of a reference guide than an actual project management methodology, you can’t implement PMI/PMBOK to a project. However, it can be used for when you want to weigh in on the best practices for your project.


Hopefully, one of the project management methods described above will fit your team. This is a simplified guide to help you take the first steps in selecting a project management method, not a comprehensive guide of each one. Remember that none of these may work too, and that’s perfectly fine. Project management isn’t about implementing a cool buzz-wordy method, but instead of implementing systems and guidelines that make your team more productive.

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