Project Management Methodologies

4 Tried and Tested Project Management Methodologies

By Kirsten McNeice
Talent and Employer Brand Manager
May 18 2021 read

There are many different project management methodologies out there, and no one choice is right for every team. Some teams need a pre-developed plan that they can follow to the letter, while others are used for basing their next steps on recent results.

Other teams combine different approaches to get the exact results they need. Even with recent trends in project management providing new options all the time, there isn’t always a pre-set methodology that works.

In that case, the best strategy is to review what’s available and cherry-pick the most useful elements. To get you started, here are four of the most widely used project management methodologies, all of which are useful in whole or in part to many different organizations.  

1. Agile

As the name suggests, Agile focuses on approaching a project with as much flexibility as possible. It operates on the assumption that scenarios change and the results of one stage of a project will naturally inform what happens next.

Agile is thus less of a cut-and-dried process than a set of principles. It places collaboration and discovery over rigid adherence to a roadmap, and delivery of a working product or service over perfection.

Each stage of an Agile project has four basic phases:

  • ‌Discover project requirements, client needs, and resources available
  • ‌Design a working model of a solution
  • Develop a prototype
  • Test the prototype and get client feedback

Progression through these phases isn’t set in stone. At any point, a team may decide that they need to go back and re-work what happened in the prior phase — for example, in prototype development. 

Agile teams also don’t hesitate to push things through to the testing phase. If something doesn’t go as expected, the team only has to start the discovery lifecycle over again. 


  • Streamlines production and fast-tracks release dates, with the assumption that fixes can always happen later
  • ‌Brings people together from multiple departments, so there’s more chance that the solution will work for everyone
  • ‌Collaborators aren’t restricted to a pre-set plan, so there’s more room to act on new ideas


  • Difficult to track task progress or time completed
  • ‌The lack of a defined project timeline can make it challenging to keep projects on track
  • ‌Ad hoc teams can pull people away from their existing work, interrupting other processes

2. Waterfall

Waterfall is one of the more traditional and linear forms of project management. Where Agile is responsive and centered on what’s happening at the moment, Waterfall focuses on executing a pre-developed plan.

Using the Waterfall method, the project manager defines the scope and requirements of the project. Work begins at the beginning and progresses in a specific sequence, one phase naturally following from another — much like the natural course of a waterfall.


  • Straightforward and easy for newcomers to understand
  • ‌Requires a thorough analysis of project requirements early on, reducing the risk and expense of retroactive fixes
  • Encourages detailed documentation so information is retained
  • ‌Predictable planning for budgets, scheduling, resource use, and scope


  • Doesn’t adapt easily to changing client requirements
  • ‌Higher-risk: if something needs changing, the team has to start over
  • ‌Minimal scope for reflection and adaptation mid-project
  • ‌Usually requires formal change requests to alter the plan, potentially slowing things down

3. Lean

If Agile is all about flexibility and Waterfall is about accountability, Lean focuses on efficiency.

Lean is all about optimizing value delivery and eliminating sources of waste. Within the methodology, there are three defined sources of waste:

  • Muda: An activity that uses resources but doesn’t generate value for the customer‌
  • Mura: Process variations that add to overhead unnecessarily
  • Muri: Overload, whether on equipment or people, slows down progress

The Lean methodology is less about doing things in a specific way, and more about optimizing the way projects and work already flow through the system.


  • Encourages thorough tracking of hours worked and resources used
  • ‌Ensures the efficient and effective use of each team member and their skills
  • Supports organizations in planning for the future based on what happened in the past
  • ‌Controls costs and can help an organization to price competitively


  • Requires a team to already have some kind of project management flow in place
  • ‌Demands a significant upfront time investment
  • ‌Allows managers to lose track of the bigger picture
  • ‌Less waste means less margin for error — if something goes wrong, there’s no “extra” lying around to pick up the slack

4. Kanban

Kanban is the most visual of the leading project management methodologies. It centers on the use of dynamic Task Boards, which give shape to the pieces of a project that are upcoming, in progress, and done.

Like Lean, Kanban focuses on efficiency and minimizing waste without sacrificing results. Its goals are to:

  • ‌Start from where you’re at
  • ‌Limit work in progress
  • ‌Deliver work as soon as it’s ready
  • ‌Improve collaboration by increasing transparency
  • ‌Commit to gradual change

Unlike some other more prescriptive project management methodologies, Kanban respects existing roles and structures. It only requires that an organization be able to set up and share visual boards, usually through a platform like Accelo


  • Can be an addition or enhancement to other project management methodologies, including Waterfall and Agile
  • ‌Asks for small, incremental change, so it’s easier for established teams to adapt
  • ‌Provides a framework for understanding workflow
  • ‌Encourages collaboration within and across teams
  • ‌Teams can design their own boards to reflect workflow


  • The board adds an extra step, except in situations where a team can automate it
  • ‌There are no built-in timeframes to track a project against its goals
  • ‌Work-in-progress limits can be difficult to enforce

Know Your Endgame

In the end, project management methodologies are pathways to efficient teamwork and top-notch results. The right one will help you achieve most to all of your project goals, including:

  • ‌Accurate planning and budgeting
  • ‌Efficient use of resources
  • ‌Timely project completion
  • ‌Top-notch deliverables

It’s important to choose a project management methodology that works for your team and matches your organizational culture. Often, that means combining two or more project management tools and techniques.

At Accelo, we call that adaptive project management. Maybe you’ll set up an overarching plan in the Waterfall style, then put the work into Kanban boards and approach each step with an Agile style.

The Accelo platform lets you draw from any of the major project management methodologies and create a plan that works for your organization. With a diverse suite of collaboration and planning tools, Accelo lets you organize everything in one place and always knows what’s going on.

See the power and flexibility of Accelo for yourself — sign up for a free trial today.

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