A project management methodology (PMM) is a set of techniques and practices used by an organization and project teams to effectively manage a project and increase the chances of meeting intended goals. But there are so many methodologies to choose from, a careful strategy is needed to select the best one. Before settling on a particular methodology, you should consider two important things:

  • Several internal and external factors can affect the methodology you choose.
  • A process should be in place for assessing each methodology to ensure that it's the best fit for your needs.

Factors affecting methodology selection

Many factors will affect the success of your selection and will, in turn, be affected by your selection. Before making your decision, be sure you've answered these questions:

  • How is your company structured?
  • What are your company's objectives?
  • What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your business?
  • Who are your primary customers?
  • How does each methodology risk the success of projects?
  • How complex is the project?
  • What is the size and cost of the project?
  • Do internal infrastructure, technologies, and processes support the methodology?

How to assess methodologies

Once you've evaluated those key factors, the next step is to develop a process to identify all the project-specific drivers so you can zero in on the best choice. Drivers include:

  • Stakeholder needs and desired goals
  • Deliverables
  • Timeline
  • Quality aspects
  • Budget limitations

As each methodology is intended to address specific goals, like quality, efficiency, cost reduction, and waste reduction, it's critical to match the methodology with your project goals. For instance, selecting the Lean methodology isn't the best choice if quality is the top priority; agile would be a better option because it's intended to produce higher levels of quality.

Define and document success criteria

Capture all success criteria and measure them against the relevant methodologies. This step is essential for making the right decision. Compare and contrast each PMM in relation to the project to produce the desired results. Also, take the time to document your success criteria, assessment process, and the approach you used. This will help clarify your reasons for choosing a particular methodology in case the rationale behind the selection needs to be revisited at a later date. Documentation will also save time and frustration on future projects if a different decision needs to be made.


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Quick glossary: Project management

Every discipline has its own vocabulary, and project management is no exception. This list of terms and definitions will help ensure that your PM communications are clear and understood by everyone. Free for Tech Pro Research subscribers.


What are your options?

Numerous project management methodologies are available, each offering strengths in different areas. Here are the most widely recognized and commonly used methodologies:

Agile employs an interactive process to enable rapid adjustments throughout a project and is used extensively for software development, although it is also used in many other sectors. The agile processes are repeatable and help expedite development while reducing risk and allowing increased focus on quality.

Kanban uses visual boards or cards to display the status of work being done. It helps teams easily get a glimpse of the progress being made on work. These visual boards help simplify processes and trigger the next step for individuals and teams.

Lean originated around the 1980s when it was used by Toyota. The goal behind Lean is to create value for customers while reducing waste, with a significant focus on processes and resource optimization. This methodology has been applied within many industries, not just manufacturing.

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) was developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), and is made up of five process groups:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Close-out

Teams work through each phase in a structured and orderly manner.

PRINCE2 is aimed at maintaining organization and control of projects through processes. Process stages are formally structured, and PRINCE2 is guided by seven principles:

  • There is an existing business justification.
  • Team learning must take place throughout the project.
  • All roles are clearly defined.
  • All work is planned in stages.
  • Board members manage issues by exception.
  • Quality must be a continuous focus.
  • The approach is tailored to each project.

Scrum (part of the agile framework) uses 30-day sprints to prioritize tasks. Instead of a project manager, a scrum master facilitates and oversees small teams. These teams focus on specific tasks independently, then meet with the scrum master to assess progress before moving on to the next step.

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach. It uses proven tools and techniques aimed at helping businesses successfully implement process improvements. The goal is to reduce defects, waste, and time while lowering costs and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Waterfall has been around since the 1970s and is a widely recognized, sequentially structured methodology primarily used for software development. The phases are:

  • Requirements analysis
  • Design
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Maintenance

All phases are executed in this order.

Other choices

These are not the only methodologies being used today. Others include critical chain project management (CCPM), critical path method (CPM), extreme project management (XPM), Extreme Programming (XP), and event chain methodology (ECM). When weighing methodologies, a hybrid solution may produce optimal results. In fact, project management offices (PMOs) can, and often do, adopt more than one methodology or approach. A 2017 project management survey by KPMG showed that 80% of organizations are using more than one project management methodology in a hybrid approach.

Circle back

Methodologies should not be a "set-it-and-forget-it" exercise. From time to time, as environmental factors, objectives, and organizational structures shift and reduce the effectiveness of currently used methodologies, it's important to reevaluate those methodologies to make sure they are still the best fit.