What are the most recognized project management methodologies

by Moira Alexander

Looking for some of the most commonly used and recognized project management methodologies and why they’re essential to the success of your projects? Look no further. 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, Critical Chain, Critical Path, Six Sigma, and Scrum methodologies. 

Agile Methodology

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

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

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.

There are also several other methodologies like Event Chain Methodology (ECM), Crystal, FDD (Feature Driven Development), DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development), Adaptive Software Development, RUP (Rational Unified Process), Lean Development (LD), PRINCE2, and others.


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