Business management

Demystifying Project Management Methodologies

10 min read · Listen

Ever wonder why the more food you have stacked in your fridge, the more confused you are about what to eat?

Project management professionals face a similar dilemma: having trouble selecting the right project management methodology (PMM) for a given project.  

It’s not rare to see project managers struggle with a project because they deployed the wrong method based on the logic that it worked in another instance.  

This begs the question: How do you choose the right project management methodology? What makes one better than others?

We’ve drummed up this post to be your almighty cheat sheet, outlining different methods to help you map out what works best in managing your project.  

What is a project management methodology?

Project management methodologies are frameworks that outline the approach for a project. Each methodology supplies a specific set of guidelines, tools, and techniques for how to best plan and execute any initiative.  

No matter your environment, there’s a PM methodology suited for you.  

Why you need project management methodologies

If you want to make the best progress with the least amount of trial and error, structures need to be in place — and that’s what PMMs bring to the table.

Project methodologies provide the specific blueprint needed to help a given project thrive, ensuring that objectives are met within the constraints of time, budget, and resources.  

They provide structure, consistency, and a clear roadmap for teams to navigate through the complexities of a project, helping them boost their performance.

PMMs also provide a feedback loop that fosters regular improvement while aligning stakeholders and optimising resource allocation.  

Organisations can enhance project success rates, improve efficiency, and deliver high-quality outcomes by adopting a methodology.

From a strategy angle, PMMs are now used to serve different purposes that align with the company's goals.  

While some are well-suited for the rapid rollout of projects, others are engineered to drive more holistic results across the project value chain.  

Ultimately, the best methodology for a particular project will depend on business objectives, team members’ needs, project type, and scope.

What are the different project management methodologies?  

Several methodologies of project management exist. But here are seven key PMMs every project manager should be familiar with.

1. Waterfall

The Waterfall methodology is simple and straightforward. It involves completing one phase before moving on to the next.  

The Waterfall method follows a linear and sequential approach to projects in a point A to point B style that adds up to the entire deliverables.  

Just like the name says, you can think of it as a waterfall where requirements are set in the initial stage (at the top of the waterfall). Then, the tasks flow in a downpour of development, execution, testing, and revision/maintenance.

Specific deliverables define each phase with tasks and dependencies. This methodology is useful when well-defined requirements are unlikely to change.

Use cases of the Waterfall approach

The waterfall approach is ideal for projects that may be too expensive to reverse course or make changes.  

It’s also applicable to highly-organised projects like manufacturing and construction, as it uses Gantt charts to plan and schedule tasks.

2. Agile

You’ve probably heard this one in in-house teams and tech circles. As the name suggests, Agile methodologies prioritise flexibility, collaboration, and iterative development.  

Agile projects are divided into short iterations called sprints, typically lasting for a few weeks. It allows for adaptive planning, continuous feedback, and the ability to respond to changes and customer needs.

The Agile manifesto emphasises four core values, namely:

  • Prioritising individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • Valuing working software over comprehensive documentation;  
  • Emphasising customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and
  • Favouring responding to change over following a plan.  

Use cases of the Agile approach

Agile is beneficial for projects whose steps have a degree of uncertainty or where requirements are likely to evolve.

It works well for products rooted in software development and also fits non-software products like computers, fashion, cars, food, medical devices, and music.  

It’s also a great fit for marketing projects, which are usually high-productivity and dynamic.  

How do Agile and Waterfall project management methodologies differ?

As two of the most popular methods, let’s take a moment and compare how both methodologies differ in their use:


Waterfall projects take a linear form of progression, with each project phase completed before moving on to the next.  

Agile projects, on the other hand, are planned iteratively, with short cycles of planning, development, and testing.  


Waterfall projects typically have a more top-down communication structure (from project manager to team members).  

Agile projects, on the other hand, have a more bottom-up communication structure (communication flows freely between team members)  

Change management

Waterfall projects are not well-suited to change, as changes can disrupt the linear flow of the project.  

Agile projects, on the other hand, are designed to be flexible and adaptable to change.  

Risk management

Waterfall projects typically focus on managing risks at the beginning of the project.  

Agile projects, on the other hand, focus on managing risks throughout the project.  


Waterfall projects are more suited to well-defined projects, have a fixed deadline, and require a high degree of control. For example, building a bridge or a skyscraper.  

But Agile projects are more suited to complex projects. For instance, developing a new software product.  

3. Scrum

Optimised for communication, teamwork, and development speed, Scrum is a project management framework often used in software development.

It can be grouped as an Agile methodology because it also works within an Agile management structure.  

In Scrum, a subject matter expert (SME) leads a small team, taking charge to deliver exceptional results and smooth collaboration.  

Beyond the SME, implementing this methodology involves following rigid Scrum roles, namely:

  • Product owner, who makes sure the Scrum team aligns with goals for the product being developed.
  • Scrum Master, who is responsible for ensuring the team operates effectively and in line with Scrum values.
  • Development team, who are a line-up of professionals who do the heavy lifting of completing tasks set for them in a Scrum sprint.  

With 81% of Agile adopters using Scrum or a Scrum-related hybrid, it’s the most commonly used Agile methodology.  

Use cases of the Scrum approach

With a flexible framework for managing complex projects by emphasising collaboration, iterative development, and continuous improvement, Scrum is much like Agile.  

You can apply it across industries that allow for flexibility, such as event planning and logistics.  

4. Lean

Lean’s mantra is to deliver more with less. It’s a methodology built on minimising waste while maximising customer value.  

It aims to streamline processes and eliminate non-value-adding activities. Lean principles emphasise continuous improvement, reducing cycle time, and optimising resource utilisation.  

Yes, lean is governed by three Ms, also known as “The Three Enemies of Lean”: Muda, Mura, and Muri.

  • Muda (waste) refers to any activity that does not add value to the product or service being produced. This can include rework, defects, and unnecessary steps in the process.
  • Mura (unevenness) refers to variation in the production process. This can lead to problems such as defects, delays, and increased costs.
  • Muri (overburden) refers to excessive workload, bottlenecks, and stress on people or machines that often lead to health problems, safety hazards, and decreased productivity.

The goal of Lean is to eliminate Muda, Mura, and Muri from the production process. This can be done by identifying and eliminating waste, reducing variation, and balancing the workload.

Use cases of the Lean approach

From software to construction and even education, the Lean methodology is ideal for fast-paced projects focused on increasing end-user value.

5. Critical Path Method

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a technique for scheduling project tasks by identifying the critical path, which is the longest sequence of dependent activities.

It helps project managers identify and map out critical activities — those that can’t be delayed without impacting the project timeline.

Use Cases of the Critical Path Method

CPM is best suited to small-scale projects since drawing out all the data on a diagram can be challenging for huge projects without project management software.

6. Kanban

Kanban is Japanese for “Billboard”, and rightly so, because this project manager methodology involves displaying cards on a Kanban board to represent workflow.  

The approach visually represents tasks and progress for the whole team to see.  

Toyota first designed the Kanban methodology to accompany its lean manufacturing technique, using demand data to control the rate of production of vehicles.  

Use cases of the Kanban

These days Kanban boards are integrated into both Lean and Agile methodologies. It can be used in software, manufacturing, marketing, strategy, and human resources.  

Anyone can use Kanban software to plan, show progress, tell stories, and monitor task completion.


PRINCE2 (an acronym for “Projects In Controlled Environments”) uses the sequential Waterfall methodology to define its stages.

It was initially developed by the UK government in 1996 and divides projects into seven distinct phases:  

  1. Starting a project
  2. Directing a project
  3. Initiating a project
  4. Controlling a project
  5. Managing product delivery
  6. Managing a stage boundary
  7. Closing a project

This approach creates a well-structured framework suitable for managing large-scale projects — all the while empowering teams with enhanced resource control and effective risk mitigation strategies.  

Use cases of the PRINCE2

This method is a preferred choice in industries such as information technology, construction, and government initiatives for its structured and scalable approach to managing projects.  

It’s particularly well-suited for large and complex projects, ensuring effective governance, risk management, and flexibility in adapting to changing circumstances.

8. Six Sigma  

Six Sigma is considered more of a philosophy and is often combined with the Lean and Agile methodologies.  

Its approach? To target defect reduction with a near-flawless outcome goal of 99.99966%.

It’s guided by the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) framework, ensuring systematic, customer-centric process and emphasising measurable results and continuous improvement.

Six Sigma relies on cross-functional collaboration and SMEs leading small teams to drive project success.

Use cases of the Six Sigma

This approach is often applied in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and finance, where process efficiency and defect reduction are crucial for success.  

It's the go-to for organisations aiming to boost quality standards, minimise operational costs, and fine-tune overall business performance, employing a dynamic, data-driven approach.

How to pick a project management methodology  

Choosing the best methodology for your project will depend on careful analysis and selection. There’s no one-size-fits-all, so here’re some key factors to consider:  

Project characteristics

Analyse the project's size, complexity, and uniqueness. Some methodologies are better suited to small, straightforward projects, while others are designed for large, complex endeavours.

For instance, complex projects like software development or product development involving multiple iterations, continuous feedback, and evolving requirements are a good fit for Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban.  

Why? They allow development teams to prioritise features, deliver incremental releases, and adapt to changing customer needs efficiently.  

Whereas, simpler projects like organising a small-scale marketing campaign or creating documents like manuals or SOPs are well suited to Waterfall methodology.  

The linear progression for a task like a small marketing campaign can include phases like: Market research → campaign planning → content creation → design & production → execution → performance evaluation.  

By following a linear progression, each phase can be executed and completed before moving on to the next, ensuring a coordinated and cohesive marketing effort.

Project requirements  

Consider the specific needs and goals of the project.  

Certain methodologies align better with particular objectives, such as Agile methods for iterative and flexible development or Waterfall for linear and predictable projects.

Team dynamics

Assess the team's size, experience level, and geographic distribution.  

Agile methodologies, for example, thrive in collaborative, self-organised teams, while traditional approaches may work better for larger, hierarchical teams.

Stakeholder involvement  

Determine the level of stakeholder involvement and their preferences.  

Methodologies like Agile (e.g., Scrum & Kanban) and Lean emphasise regular communication and feedback, while others like Waterfall and PRINCE2 focus more on formal reporting and sign-off.

Organisational culture

Consider the prevailing culture and practices within your organisation.  

If your company already follows a specific project management framework, adopting a methodology aligned with that framework may be easier.

Time and resource constraints  

Consider the project's timeline, budget, and resource availability.  

The Lean methodology, for example, emphasises efficiency and waste reduction, which can be valuable in resource-constrained situations.

Risk tolerance  

Assess the project's risk profile.  

Some methodologies, such as PRINCE2, have comprehensive risk management processes, while others, like Scrum, rely on iterative cycles to identify and mitigate risks.

Industry standards  

Investigate if there are any industry-specific standards or regulations that should guide your choice of methodology.  

For example, software projects often align with Agile methodologies due to their flexibility and iterative nature.

Iterative vs. linear approach

Determine whether the project benefits from an iterative or linear approach.  

Agile methodologies, like Scrum or Kanban, excel in iterative development, while Waterfall provides a more sequential and structured approach.

The good thing about PMMs is that, in certain cases, you can have the best of both worlds. Hybrid approaches are also an option, helping you combine elements from different methodologies to create a tailor-made approach that suits your project's needs.

Unlock cross-team collaboration with CRM-led project management  

With the right project management methodology — and the right tool to match, your projects will be unstoppable.  

efficy CRM’s project management tool powers all your projects from one place, helping you build smarter workflows, eliminate information silos, and align your teams for greater efficiency.

Want to try it out for yourself? Get your demo here.


Learn more about:

A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Project Management