Most popular project management methodologies?

Choosing the right project management framework is the foundation of every successful project. Project managers have a broad portfolio of proven and modern project management methodologies at their disposal. In particular, agile project management methods like Scrum and Kanban have now become absolute trend strategies.

But be careful: One-for-All does not apply in project management! Each project has individual characteristics, requirements, and risks that you should definitely consider when choosing the appropriate project management method.

In this article, we present the 10 most renowned project management solutions and show you exactly what is suitable for you and your company.

The following points will be covered in this article:

✅ Important principles for selecting your project management framework

✅ The 10 most effective project management methodologies and their key characteristics

✅ Examples for choosing the most suitable approach for your team

Project Management Methodologies: More structure and less risk

Projects aim to achieve a specific, unique goal, such as the development of new software. This must be accomplished within a certain timeframe without exceeding the predefined limits of personnel, monetary, and time resources. If project managers approach this task unprepared and disorganized, it is very likely that the project will fail.

The more complex the project, the higher the external risk factors, and the more employees involved, the more important it is to approach the project in a structured and systematic manner.

Finding “The One”

A project management methodology that represents an universal solution for all project types seems desirable. However, we must quickly abandon this thought. Projects are defined by their unique nature. They differ significantly in the following factors:

  • Strategic goal alignment and company values
  • Key business factors (e.g., pricing strategies)
  • Stakeholder requirements
  • Project risks
  • Project size
  • Resource availability
  • Project complexity
  • Time frame

What works for one project can be completely unsuitable for another. These individual differences require tailored approaches in project management. A one-size-fits-all solution is not capable of meeting the specific requirements and challenges of each project.

Project Management Methodologies in comparison

Agile? Lean? Waterfall? Project managers are spoilt for choice. The following project management methodologies have already established themselves in practice. Now it’s time to decide which method fits your principles and processes.

1. Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall methodology is a traditional project management method. It proceeds step by step – like a waterfall – in these phases:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning and Analysis
  3. Setting up the Resource Plan
  4. Execution
  5. Monitoring
  6. Control
  7. Completion of the Project

All tasks of the project are processed according to the fixed sequence of the Waterfall project management methodology. New tasks are only started when the previous ones are completed.

In the framework of the Waterfall method, the project manager plans in advance exactly the required resource deployment and aligns the entire planning of the project management process accordingly. Unlike agile project management methodologies, no feedback processes are provided within the individual project steps. The Waterfall methodology allows only minimal deviation from the pre-established resource planning.

Waterfall Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

The Waterfall methodology is particularly suitable for projects whose tasks are dependent on each other. Projects that follow this method shouldn’t be very extensive and of short duration. Or they should include tasks that are repetitive and already known to the participants. The Waterfall methodology is well suited, for example, for projects in production that primarily involve sequential processes. These sequential phases and processes are often visualized in Waterfall project management using Gantt charts.

In the implementation of step-by-step project management frameworks, errors often become apparent only at the end of a project. Therefore, the Waterfall methodology is not well suited for projects with many unpredictable factors.

Opportunities & Risks

Clear Structure and PhasesRigidity and Lack of Flexibility
Simple Administration and PlanningLate Delivery and Feedback
Early Identification of RequirementsHigh Risk in Uncertainty and Complexity


Unknown Fact: Although the Waterfall methodology is often seen as traditional and sequential, it did not originate in computer science or engineering. In fact, the Waterfall methodology was first introduced in an article by Dr. Winston W. Royce in 1970, where he described the project management method as problematic and prone to errors. Ironically, the Waterfall methodology still became popular. Today it’s one of the most well-known project management methodologies, even though its original creator viewed its application with reservations.

2. Agile Methodology

Originally, the Agile project management methodology was designed in 2001 by 13 industry leaders as part of the Agile Manifesto for software development. Since then, agile methodology has also proven itself as a project management framework. Agile project management questions the processes, tasks, and role distributions of traditional approaches and replaces them with a more flexible, future-oriented principle. The optimization of customer benefit is foregrounded.

The core principle of  the agile methodology is based on 12 guidelines and includes the following pillars:

  • Direct and Open Communication

Agile project management methodologies are based on short, direct communication channels. When all team members are on the same level of knowledge, requests for changes can be responded to immediately and comprehensively.

  • Implementation Cycles that Allow for Short-Term Changes

To optimize customer benefit, it must be possible to respond to short-term requests for changes. Instead of delivering a complete final package to the customer, which they may not be satisfied with, agile project management allows for regular feedback processes and constant improvement of the product – even during the project process!

  • Implementation of Flat Hierarchies

Agile work can only be carried out in a familiar team atmosphere. Strict hierarchy prevents quick and flexible responses to requests for changes. In agile teams, each member acts on their own responsibility. Agile leaders must therefore be able to delegate tasks and responsibility and have trust in their employees.

Agile Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Agile project management methodologies are flexible in their application. Therefore, they are excellently suited for large, complex projects whose requirements are unpredictable and which can entail high risks. Aligned with the principles of the Agile Manifesto, various agile implementation methods, such as Scrum and Kanban, have been developed. However, since these have also developed their own structures, roles, and terminologies, they are treated as distinct project management methods in the following. Another project management tool that is especially popular in agile project management are Mind Maps. They help organize complex information and promote creativity and collaboration within the team.

Opportunities & Risks

Flexibility and AdaptabilityChallenges in Scaling
Customer Focus and Feedback IntegrationLack of Predictability and Planning
Improved Team Dynamics and CommunicationExcessive Dependence on Team Dynamics


Unknown Fact: According to a survey by the PMI (Project Management Institute), agile projects have a higher success rate compared to traditional projects. The study found that 71% of agile projects were rated as successful compared to 55% of non-agile projects.

3. Scrum Methodology

Scrum is also considered an Agile method but distinguishes itself through its own set of firm rules, roles, and processes. This project management methodology is based on the notion that extensive projects are too complex to plan precisely in advance. Thus, most of the potential risks and requirements are unclear at the start of the project. To counter this fact, Scrum involves setting up and discussing interim results.

At the beginning of the project, Scrum establishes a long-term plan (Product Backlog). Unlike the traditional Waterfall methodology, this plan is regularly adjusted and optimized during the execution of the project. Tasks and actions associated with the project are implemented in repeating cycles (Sprints). Each Sprint aims to present a functioning interim product.

To enable Scrum teams to achieve this, all project participants gather at the start of each day in Daily Scrums to discuss tasks, problems, and progress. The Scrum project management methodology defines the following roles within a team:

  • Product Owner: A product expert who represents the project’s stakeholders and advocates the views and wishes of the customer
  • Development Team: A project team (e.g., developers and designers) that is involved in the execution of the project and takes on tasks
  • Scrum Master: Facilitates and supports the development team and is responsible for ensuring that Scrum is correctly implemented. He also mediates between the development team and the Product Owner. However, it’s important to note that the Scrum Master does not play a traditional boss role. He does not dictate who should complete which task

Scrum Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Scrum supports extensive, complex projects whose character is difficult to define in advance and therefore require a flexible project management methodology. Especially teams consisting of fewer than seven people benefit from Scrum.

Opportunities & Risks

Improved Flexibility and ResponsivenessChallenges in Scaling
Increased Team Collaboration and CommunicationDependence on Team Members and Their Commitment
Iterative Delivery of Product IncrementsRisk of Incomplete Requirements


Unknown Fact: Although Scrum originally emerged as a framework for software development, it was later successfully expanded to other industries, including marketing, HR, and even in the field of education.

4. Kanban Methodology

Kanban is based on regular feedback loops and teams that work independently. This Agile project management methodology was originally developed in the 1950s by Toyota in Japan. Kanban aims to optimally control each stage of a project to achieve faster throughput times.

The core principle of Kanban is effective teamwork. Short, daily stand-up meetings are practical, where all team members can discuss progress, successes, problems, and the next steps in the project.

The Kanban method visualizes project workflows using Kanban boards. Kanban boards can be created both physically and digitally.

In the classic model, tasks that are not yet being processed are listed as To-Dos in the left column of the board.

When you start working on a task, move it to the middle column of the board and mark it as Doing. The Kanban method allows all team members to decide in which order to process tasks.

Once a task is considered complete, it is moved to the right column of the Kanban board and marked as Done.

It’s important to work on only a limited number of tasks simultaneously. A key aspect of implementing Kanban in project management is that tasks are consistently prioritized to keep processes clear and organized.

If a so-called bottleneck, or task backlog, forms, your Kanban board will show a large number of Kanban cards in the To-Do or Doing column. Here you must intervene and analyze the problem.

Kanban Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Originally, Kanban was developed by Toyota for production and later adapted for software development by David Anderson in 2007. Nowadays, due to its transparent structures and high flexibility, Kanban can be used for any project that benefits from continuous improvements and feedback processes during its execution.

By the way: The Kanban project management methodology is perfect for personal and creative endeavours.

Opportunities & Risks

Visualization of WorkflowRisk of Overload
Flexibility in Task ManagementLack of Effectiveness in Complex Projects
Improvement of Team CollaborationLack of Long-Term Planning


Unknown Fact: According to an internal analysis of companies that have implemented Kanban, the average cycle time for tasks has been reduced by up to 50%.

5. Lean Methodology

Lean aims to create value without waste. Customer benefit and process efficiency are optimized without wasting resources. The Lean project management methodology distinguishes between three different types of resource waste:


Muda refers to activities or processes that do not create value. Lean identifies potential resource wastage in seven original processes:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Movement (of employees)
  • Waiting times
  • Overproduction
  • Incorrect use of technology or poor manufacturing processes
  • Waste and possibly rework


Mura refers to losses that occur due to unbalanced processes. If the individual process steps are not aligned, deviations, irregularities, and disruptions arise.


Muri refers to an unbalanced workload on employees and machines. According to Lean principles, processes should neither be too fast nor too slow. Ideally, Lean reduces monotonous activities without overburdening employees and overloading machines.

Lean Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Since Lean (Project) Management is much more a project management philosophy than just a tool, this project management methodology is suitable for any company interested in transforming the values of their project management to save costs and other resources in the long term.

Key prerequisites for a comprehensive implementation of Lean project management are:

  • Breaking up traditional thought structures and work processes
  • The ability to design projects and processes flexibly
  • A strong team culture
  • Support from the entire leadership level
  • A firm commitment to the company value of “customer proximity”

Opportunities & Risks

Increase in EfficiencyOveremphasis on Efficiency
Improved Customer Value OrientationChallenges in Cultural Change
Promotion of Continuous ImprovementPotential Neglect of Employee Needs


Unknown Fact: Lean project management is based on the principles of Kaizen, which means “continuous improvement” in Japanese. The constant pursuit of improvement at all levels of the company, from processes to work culture, contributes to strengthening the agility and adaptability of the organization.

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10 popular project management methodologies, but only one home needed for all of them. Get the most out of your project

6. Six Sigma Methodology

The Six Sigma methodology was developed in 1987 in the USA by Motorola. Six Sigma is based on the assumption that every business process can be represented as a mathematical function. The description, measurement, analysis, control, and optimization of these processes are carried out using statistical means.

The main tool of this project management methodology is the DMAIC cycle. DMAIC aims to make business processes measurable and optimize them. The following actions determine the DMAIC cycle:

  • Define: Identification and documentation of the problem in the process to be improved. What should the target state look like?
  • Measure: To what extent does the process meet the requirements?
  • Analyze: Identification of the causes of the problem
  • Improve: Resolution of the problem
  • Control: Ensuring the sustainability of the solution by monitoring the new process with statistical methods

The leadership of Six Sigma projects is undertaken by specially trained employees. The role designations in Six Sigma teams are based on the belt colors in Japanese martial arts, which serve as a ranking system. For example, there is the Master Black Belt (coach and trainer) or the Black Belt (project manager). A comprehensive explanation of all team roles in this project management methodology can be found here.

Six Sigma Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Six Sigma is especially popular in large companies. This project management methodology is favored in the manufacturing industry and the service sector. Variants of the Six Sigma method have also become established in software development and the financial industry. Six Sigma is ideally suited for projects with clearly measurable results and a duration of between three and six months.

Opportunities & Risks

Quality Improvement and Error ReductionHigh Training and Implementation Effort
Increase in Process EfficiencyPotential Overemphasis on Measurability
Structured Data Analysis and Decision MakingResistance to Change


Unknown Fact: The term “Six Sigma” refers to the statistical expression for a process’s ability to produce only 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

7. Critical Chain Project Management Methodology

Critical Chain project management (CCPM) is an effective project management methodology for managing projects based on the principles of the Theory of Constraints.

Unlike traditional project management approaches, CCPM focuses on the identification and management of bottlenecks in the project. The method concentrates on utilizing critical resources as effectively as possible to shorten throughput times.

The central idea behind CCPM is the creation of a critical chain of tasks, where buffer times are strategically used to account for uncertainties and fluctuations in the project’s progression.

Critical Chain Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

CCPM is particularly suitable for projects with uncertain resource capacities and dynamic requirements. This includes companies from various sectors such as manufacturing, IT, construction, research, and development. The method emphasizes the prioritization of tasks and maximizing efficiency, leading to accelerated project execution. Companies that value lean and targeted project management will find CCPM a valuable method for optimal project results.

Opportunities & Risks

Focus on Resource OptimizationComplexity in Implementation
Reduction of Project Duration and CostsPotential Conflicts with Existing Processes
Increase in Project ReliabilityResistance to Change


Unknown Fact: Critical Chain project management (CCPM) aims not only to identify bottlenecks but also to overcome psychological barriers. CCPM acknowledges that human uncertainty and behavior patterns can impact project performance. Therefore, the project management methodology integrates strategies to cope with uncertainty and promote a positive team environment.

8. PRINCE2 Methodology

Prince2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a proven project management methodology for structured project management that is recognized worldwide.

The method is characterized by clear processes, roles, and responsibilities. Prince2 defines detailed phases in the project cycle, starting with initiation, followed by planning, execution, control, and completion. It places great importance on the involvement of stakeholders and emphasizes the regular review and adjustment of the project status.

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

Prince2 is particularly suitable for projects with clear definitions, fixed structures, and comprehensive documentation requirements. The method offers flexibility to adapt to various project sizes and types. Large companies with complex projects that seek a methodical approach with clear governance structures will find Prince2 to be a robust method for ensuring project success.

Opportunities & Risks

Structured and Standardized MethodComplexity and Learning Effort
Flexibility and AdaptabilityCosts for Training and Certification
Risk ManagementPotential Bureaucracy and Inflexibility


Unknown Fact: Prince2, with its roots in IT projects, was originally developed in the United Kingdom and introduced by the British government.

9. Extreme Programming Methodology

Extreme Programming (XP) is an Agile methodology that focuses on software development and is based on principles such as flexibility and continuous improvement.

Originally developed in 1996, XP has evolved into a versatile project management methodology. XP emphasizes direct communication, collaboration, and customer orientation. With a focus on short development cycles (iterations), Extreme Programming enables rapid adaptation to changing requirements. Pair programming, Test Driven Development (TDD), and continuous integration are key elements of XP. These methods promote high code quality and early detection of errors.

Extreme Programming (XP) Project Management Methodology

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable for?

XP is particularly suitable for projects where the requirements are not clearly defined from the beginning and high flexibility is required. Companies looking for an Agile method to quickly respond to customer feedback and deliver high-quality software will find an effective solution in Extreme Programming (XP).

Opportunities & Risks

High AdaptabilityChallenges in Scaling
Improvement of Software QualityIncreased Effort for Continuous Customer Involvement
Promotion of Team CollaborationPotential Neglect of Planning and Documentation


Unknown Fact: Extreme Programming popularized the practice of “User Stories”. User Stories are short, understandable descriptions of features or requirements from the perspective of the end-user. This method helps to improve usability and ensures that the developed features provide clear added value for the users.


PMI stands for the project management Institute which is a not-for-profit membership association, project management certification, and standards organization. Through the PMI, comes the PMBOK which is not quite a methodology but a guide detailing a set of standards that characterize project management.

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:

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

Along with this, it includes best practices, conventions, and techniques that are considered the industry standard. Regularly updating their guide to ensure that they echo the most up-to-date project management practices, the PMBOK is currently up to its seventh edition which was published in print and online in 2021.

What is this Project Management Methodology suitable 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 when you want to weigh in on the best practices for your project.


Unknown Fact: The PMBOK originated from an effort to standardize the information and practices in the field of project management and was first published as a white paper in 1987.


Have you found your Favorite?

Whether it’s a start-up, a corporation, a family business, or even for private projects – the presented selection of various project management methodologies includes solutions for (almost) every team size and project character.

If you have set your sights on one of the project management frameworks, you should familiarize yourself with it thoroughly once again. Especially complex project management methodologies like Scrum or Six Sigma fill entire books and must therefore be understood in the smallest detail.

Are you missing a specific methodology in our overview or would you like to learn more about one of the methods presented? Then leave us a comment. Have you successfully implemented one of the methods? Tell us and other readers about your experiences.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

See you soon!