A simple overview of the 5 most common project management methodologies

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Whether you’re new to project management or have been doing it for years, understanding the top project management methodologies can give you a leg up in managing your projects. Using any of these 5 most common project management methodologies can make your efforts to get the work done more efficient and even increase efficiency across the organization.

With the growing complexity of projects, particularly those in business, project managers often rely on established methodologies as a way to achieve consistency, predictability — hopefully resulting in streamlined processes, enhanced collaboration, and to desired outcomes. In this article, we will explore the top five project management methodologies widely adopted by project management professionals worldwide.

It’s worth noting: This list is not written in a best of, favorite of, or you should use these kind of order. Here, at Leantime, we believe that the best project management methods include a hybrid approach and should be organization specific. When you have some familiarity with these options, you can then take the best of each and find what works best for you and your teams.

Here’s Waterfall Project Management Methodology

The Waterfall methodology is a linear approach that follows a sequential progression of project phases. Or put more simply, waterfall takes tasks and time and puts them on a straight line. It requires careful planning and requirements gathering, followed by design, development, testing, implementation, and maintenance. Each stage must be completed before moving to the next, creating a structured and predictable project flow.

The process begins with careful planning and extensive documentation of requirements, followed by the creation of a detailed project schedule. Each item must be meticulously considered before moving onto the next. The project then progresses through distinct phases, such as design, development, testing, and deployment, with each phase building upon the previous one. The waterfall method emphasizes a strict sequence of steps, where one phase must be completed before moving on to the next. This approach provides a clear structure and allows for a comprehensive understanding of the project scope upfront. In many ways, this creates a feeling of control and project security.

Unfortunately, waterfall project management can be less flexible when changes or adjustments are required during the project’s lifecycle, as modifications can be challenging to accommodate once a phase is completed.

One of the key advantages of using the waterfall approach is the clarity it creates when it’s completed. The sequential nature of the methodology makes it easier to follow for both the project team and stakeholders.

The emphasis on thorough documentation ensures that all project requirements are clearly defined from the beginning, reducing the risk of misunderstandings or scope creep. You have to be meticulous here and well experienced in the work to be able to predict needs. The counter to this is that it leads to long documents and reports and can be neglected by team members — leading to a constant observation required by the project manager.

The waterfall model allows for a more accurate estimation of project timelines and costs due to the amount of detail. This can be particularly beneficial in industries where compliance, regulatory requirements, or contractual obligations are stringent and require a well-documented and predictable approach. However, it’s important to note that the rigidity of the waterfall model can be a drawback in dynamic environments or projects with evolving requirements, as it may not easily accommodate changes or adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

Ultimately, waterfall project management is best suited for projects that will require little change, are predictable in nature and are easy to define. The challenges come when many projects offer a wider range of unpredictability and complexity, particularly in software development. This is a big reason why the software development world has largely shifted towards agile project management.

What is Agile Project Management Methodology?

Agile is a flexible and iterative project management methodology that prioritizes adaptability and collaboration. Agile promotes close collaboration between team members, frequent client involvement, and prioritization of deliverables based on customer value.

This methodology embraces change and allows for course corrections throughout the project lifecycle. Popular frameworks within Agile include Scrum, Kanban, and Lean.

Agile software development is a dynamic and flexible approach to project management that focuses on delivering high-quality software solutions through iterative and incremental development. Unlike more traditional project management methods that follow a sequential and rigid process, such as waterfall, agile embraces change and collaboration to meet evolving customer needs.

In agile, projects are divided into small, manageable units called iterations or sprints, typically lasting from one to four weeks. Each sprint consists of planning, executing, and reviewing activities, allowing for frequent feedback and course correction.

The project team, including developers, testers, and stakeholders, work closely together in a highly collaborative and cross-functional manner. This promotes effective communication, transparency, and a shared understanding of project goals. Agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban, provide frameworks and practices to implement this approach effectively.

By prioritizing customer satisfaction and adapting to changing requirements, agile software development empowers teams to deliver value early and continuously improve their processes.

In counter to the above, over the years, more and more criticism has come out around the level of agility that comes from this methodology. Agile requires commitment to the process and steps may be missed for the sake of agility; losing track of high level strategies because of the goal to be in constant movement.

What is Scrum Methodology?

Scrum is a subset of Agile that provides a framework for managing complex projects. The Scrum methodology, as a project management tool, emphasizes self-organization, regular communication, and continuous improvement.

The project is divided into manageable units called user stories, and the team collaborates in daily meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and next steps. Scrum’s transparency and adaptability make it ideal for projects where requirements are likely to change, fostering self driven teams.

Scrum project management offers several advantages and disadvantages that organizations should consider before implementing it.

One of the significant pros of Scrum is its flexibility. Scrum allows for iterative and incremental development, enabling teams to quickly respond to changes and deliver valuable software in short iterations. This flexibility promotes adaptability and, when done correctly, may be able to reduce the risk of project failure.

However, Scrum also has its drawbacks. One challenge is that Scrum requires a high level of discipline and adherence to its practices and ceremonies. Without proper implementation, it can be easy for teams to deviate from the Scrum framework, which can greatly diminish its effectiveness. Another potential con is that Scrum may not be suitable for all types of projects. It works best for projects with uncertain or evolving requirements, but it may not be ideal for projects with fixed scope or strict deadlines.

Furthermore, Scrum heavily relies on effective communication and collaboration among team members. If team members are not skilled in communication or have conflicting priorities, it can lead to delays, misunderstandings, and reduced productivity. Lastly, Scrum may require a significant cultural shift within an organization, as it requires a change in mindset and a willingness to embrace iterative development and continuous improvement.

Lean Methodology as a Project Management tool

Originating from the manufacturing industry, the Lean methodology aims to eliminate waste and maximize value delivery. It focuses on streamlining processes, minimizing non-essential activities, and optimizing resource utilization. Lean principles encourage continuous improvement through regular evaluation, identification of bottlenecks, and elimination of unnecessary steps.

Lean project management offers several benefits that can enhance project efficiency and effectiveness. One of its main advantages is the emphasis on eliminating waste, which leads to streamlined processes and reduced costs. By focusing on value creation and customer satisfaction, lean project management aims to promote continuous improvement and foster a culture of innovation.

The methodology encourages collaboration and cross-functional teams, enabling better communication and knowledge sharing among team members. Additionally, lean project management promotes faster project delivery through the use of agile practices and iterative approaches.

However, there are some challenges associated with lean project management. Like agile & scrum, It requires a high level of discipline and commitment from the team to adhere to the lean principles and practices consistently.

The emphasis on efficiency can sometimes result in overlooking strategic aspects or sacrificing long-term planning.

Implementing lean project management may require significant organizational changes and cultural shifts; which can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve. Overall, while lean project management offers numerous benefits, it is crucial to assess its suitability for the specific project and organizational context before implementation.

PRINCE2 Methodology

PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based methodology widely adopted in the United Kingdom and increasingly recognized worldwide.

It provides a structured approach to project management, emphasizing thorough planning, controlled execution, and effective communication. PRINCE2 divides projects into manageable stages, each with defined roles, responsibilities, and deliverables.

It promotes regular reviews to assess project progress, risks, and viability. PRINCE2 is well-suited for large-scale projects with high complexity and strict governance requirements, ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.

Prince2 project management methodology offers several advantages that contribute to successful project delivery. One key benefit is its structured and standardized approach, which provides a clear framework for project planning, execution, and monitoring.

Prince2 promotes a focus on business justification, ensuring that projects align with organizational goals and deliver tangible benefits. The methodology emphasizes thorough project documentation, enabling better communication, risk management, and knowledge transfer.

Prince2 also encourages the involvement of stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, fostering collaboration and enhancing project outcomes.

However, there are certain limitations to consider. Prince2 can be perceived as rigid and bureaucratic, requiring detailed documentation and processes that may be overwhelming for small or straightforward projects. The methodology may not be suitable for highly dynamic or innovative projects that require a more flexible and adaptive approach. Additionally, Prince2 places less emphasis on individual team member roles and skills, potentially overlooking the human element of project management.

Ultimately, it is crucial to carefully assess the project’s characteristics and organizational context to determine the suitability of Prince2 and tailor its implementation accordingly.

Bonus Project Management Methodology

Critical Path Method for organizing projects

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a project management technique used to plan and schedule complex projects. Its primary purpose is to identify the longest sequence of activities, known as the critical path, that determines the minimum time required to complete the project.

The critical path represents the series of activities that must be completed on time in order to prevent project delays. CPM was developed by Morgan R. Walker and James E. Kelley Jr. as a means to address scheduling challenges faced in large-scale construction projects, particularly those involving multiple interdependent activities.

By analyzing the critical path, project managers can allocate resources efficiently, identify potential bottlenecks, and make informed decisions to optimize project timelines. CPM has since become a widely adopted methodology in various industries to ensure effective project planning and execution.

The Critical Path Method is a mathematical algorithm that helps project managers analyze and plan the sequence of activities required to complete a project. It provides a systematic approach to identify the most critical activities and their dependencies, allowing for better resource allocation, time management, and risk assessment.

The foundation of CPM lies in constructing a network diagram, also known as a precedence diagram, which represents the project’s activities and their relationships. Each activity is represented by a node, and arrows depict the dependencies between activities. This visual representation helps in understanding the flow of work and identifying the critical path.

Is there a Perfect Project Management Method?

There are all types of project management methodologies and all the methodologies have something good and useful about them.

Is there a perfect project management methodology?

We think the perfect methodology is what works best for your team — ultimately, the most important things are aligning the work with the strategy and finding the balance between an iterative and well thought out process.

For some teams, that may look like agile and scrum. For us here at Leantime, we see the value in taking a hybrid approach — ultimately, always focusing on the human impact.


At the end of the day, there are many project management methodologies out there. These project management methodologies play a pivotal role in ensuring successful project outcomes.

Selecting the right methodology depends on various factors, including project scope, requirements, team dynamics, and environmental uncertainties. The Waterfall methodology offers predictability, while Agile, Scrum, and Lean provide adaptive and iterative approaches.

By understanding the strengths and limitations of each methodology, project managers can make informed decisions to improve project efficiency, enhance team collaboration, and deliver outstanding results.

Which project management methodology do you use?

Gloria Folaron is the CEO and founder of Leantime. A Nurse first, she describes herself as an original non-project manager. Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, she has hands on experience in navigating the world of project and product management and staying organized with ADHD.

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