Uncategorized Project Management Methodologies All PMs Should Know – Forbes
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Updated: Apr 22, 2021, 3:00pm
While you might think there are only two or three approaches to project management, industry wonks have, in fact, devised dozens of methodologies over the years.
Many of these models sprang out of a need for flexibility in software development, but the principles and practices of these methodologies can apply across an array of fields.
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Two core organizational philosophies drive all project management methodologies: waterfall (or linear) and agile (or iterative).
The waterfall model is a traditional, linear project management methodology developed in the 1950s. The model typically includes five or six independent phases, and each phase relies on the deliverables of the previous phase. You need to complete each before you can move onto the next.
Advantages: The waterfall model includes a clear plan from start to finish, and defining requirements early in the process can save time later on. An emphasis on documentation at every stage supports continuity no matter who works on the project in which stages.
Disadvantages: This methodology doesn’t account for factors that are unknown early in the process and become known later. The linear process doesn’t leave room to iterate when new requirements or constraints become known. This could lead to less effective design or a less efficient process if you have to start over.
Best for: Clients who know exactly what they want out of a product, can clearly define it and know it won’t change.
Developed by Project Management Institute (PMI) as an improvement on waterfall, this oft-cited framework includes these five phases of project management, which are similar to the waterfall phases:
PMBOK is not a methodology itself but a set of principles and project management skills included in certification through PMI, which is used as a basis for many project management methodologies.
Originally developed by Toyota for auto manufacturing, lean project management is focused on delivering value and eliminating waste, which it identifies in three categories by their Japanese names:
Kanban is a method of lean project management that gives a visual overview of the process from start to finish, which helps manage workflow by showing exactly who is working on what and where resources are needed most.
The core component of the Kanban method is the Kanban board, usually a digital project management tool that includes columns for various steps in a workflow and “cards” for each project moving through the workflow.
Agile project management methodologies developed as a response to the rigidity of the waterfall model and were inspired by the speed and flexibility of lean methods. They’re intentionally iterative and collaborative, and they put emphasis on creating good products for customers.
Agile itself isn’t a methodology but a set of principles that underlie several methodologies that sprung from the need for adaptive project management. Core agile principles, as laid out in the Agile Manifesto penned in 2001 by a group of renegade software developers, include:
Advantages: Quick iteration increases productivity and efficiency, as it allows for changing requirements throughout the project life cycle.
Disadvantages: Eliminating documentation and relying on individual interaction can impede scalability and continuity and lead to the siloing of teams, especially within larger organizations.
Best for: Small teams within nimble organizations where developers and stakeholders are on the same page about business needs and constraints.
Here’s a look at popular agile methodologies.
Designed for small teams, a scrum framework guides a simple process of communication, planning, execution and feedback.
Scrum teams work in “sprints” of two to four weeks. The team plans the goals of the sprint and agrees on deliverables to complete in that period. The team meets daily for a 15-minute “scrum” or “stand up,” where each team member shares progress and impediments toward the goal.
At the end of each sprint, the team holds a longer meeting for sprint review to present completed work and get feedback and suggestions for future work.
Scrumban is a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban methods. It follows a scrum workflow and visualizes work on a Kanban board with three columns: To Do, Doing and Done. To avoid being overwhelmed, team members pull tasks from To Do as they have bandwidth, rather than being assigned a backlog of tasks.
Focused squarely on software development, XP project management emphasizes communication and simplicity. It relies on “feedback loops,” where coding is happening continuously—without waiting for comprehensive design or planning upfront—and iterations follow feedback from testing.
The method is best suited for teams where programmers are in sync with stakeholders because the lack of formal management and documentation raise the risk for miscommunication and never-ending changes.
Crystal is an agile method that focuses on one core value: individuals and interactions over processes and tools. It lets teams optimize their own workflows and adjust them per project.
The Crystal framework emphasizes communication and autonomy within a team, but a lack of direction and documentation can impede continuity and communication outside of the team in larger organizations.
Hybrid methodologies take the best of both waterfall and agile philosophies to create a structured yet flexible workflow.
Hybrid methodologies typically include documenting requirements and potentially stating constraints upfront, similar to waterfall. Then they take the agile approach to the workflow, including quick implementation, feedback and iteration.
Advantages: Documenting a plan upfront prevents scope creep—aka never-ending changes or additions to a project—and keeps all developers and stakeholders on the same page. Allowing for quick iteration prevents wasted time and resources.
Disadvantages: Like with waterfall, documenting requirements upfront could be challenging for clients who can’t articulate what a product should do until they see it in action. However, incorporating iteration into the workflow should make room for new requirements down the line.
Best for: Larger teams that require clear documentation and communication but need the flexibility for projects to change throughout their life cycle.
DSDM is the most structured of the agile methodologies and an example of a hybrid methodology. It was developed to add discipline to unstructured methodologies while retaining the adaptability of agile.
Like the waterfall model, DSDM sets constraints for requirements, costs and time at the beginning of a project. Like agile, it then uses timeboxing, as with scrum sprints, to complete the project incrementally with regular feedback and iteration.
Dozens of unique methodologies for software development and other industries have sprung from agile since the mid- to late-1990s, including:
Each of these includes tweaks on popular methods to take their own approach to the agile model, and they tend to appeal to particular industries or types of teams.
Your biggest decision in choosing a strategy is between waterfall and agile, or a hybrid approach. Within each approach, you can choose a methodology that provides the features your project or team needs.
To choose the project management methodology that’s right for any team or project, consider:
A project management methodology is a set of principles, values and processes that determine how a team will complete a project. It dictates factors such as level of planning, design and documentation; methods of communication within and outside of the project team; timelines; and modes of assessment.
Which model and method will work best for you depends on the unique characteristics of your team and project. Consider typical methods in your industry, your team’s competencies and the project’s complexity to choose the best methodology.
A project’s life cycle is the full span of a project through each phase of the process, from planning through delivery. Project life cycle models are various project planning methodologies that dictate what happens in each phase and how a team moves through the process to complete the project.
Dana Sitar is a certified educator in personal finance (CEPF) who has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She’s written about work and money for the New York Times, CNBC, The Motley Fool, The Penny Hoarder, a column for Inc. and more. Dana has taught journalists, writers and editors how to write for the web through Utah Valley University, Queen’s University at Kingston, ACES: The Society for Editors, the National Association for Independent Writers & Editors, online courses and private trainings. Find her at danasitar.com.
Adam Hardy is a former assistant editor at Forbes Advisor, where he covered small business and tech. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder, specializing in the gig economy and entrepreneurship. His work has appeared in the Asia Times, Business Insider, Creative Loafing, the Tampa Bay Times, Yahoo! Finance and other publications.