Think of project management methodologies as blueprints, step-by-step instructions that guide your team to build a successful project. With so many different project management methodologies like Agile—and, in some cases, overlapping—approaches to managing the complexities of any given program, how can you know which one is right for your project, team, or organization? We cover Agile, Waterfall, and other well-recognized methodologies.
Agile was developed for projects requiring significant flexibility and speed and is comprised of “sprints”—short delivery cycles. Agile may be best suited for projects requiring less control and real-time communication within self-motivated team settings. Agile is highly iterative, allowing for rapid adjustments throughout a project.
Waterfall methodology is sequential in nature; it’s used across many industries, most commonly in software development. It’s comprised of static phases (requirements analysis, design, testing, implementation, and maintenance) executed in a specific order. Waterfall allows for increased control throughout each phase but can be highly inflexible if scope changes may be anticipated later.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Path Method (CPM) is a step-by-step methodology used for projects with interdependent activities. It contains a list of activities and uses a work-breakdown structure (WBS), a timeline to complete and dependencies, milestones, and deliverables. It outlines critical and noncritical activities by calculating the “longest” (on the critical path) and “shortest” (float) time to complete tasks in order to determine which activities are critical and which are not.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) differs from Critical Path Method (CPM) in that it focuses on the use of resources within a project instead of project activities. To address potential issues with resources, buffers are built in to ensure that projects are on time and that safety is not compromised.
Six Sigma was originally developed by Motorola to eliminate waste and improve processes and profits. It is data-driven and has three key components: DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control); DMADV (define, measure, analyze, design, and verify); and DFSS (which stands for “Design for Six Sigma” and can include the previous options, as well as others like IDOV—identify, design, optimize, and verify). Six Sigma is sometimes debated as a methodology in the PM community.
Scrum (named after rugby) is a part of the agile framework and is also iterative in nature. “Scrum sessions” or “thirty-day sprints” are used to determine prioritized tasks. A scrum master is used to facilitate instead of a project manager. Small teams may be assembled to focus on specific tasks independently and then meet with the scrum master to evaluate progress or results and reprioritize backlogged tasks.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.