As a project manager, selecting the right project management approach and methodology is an important step you’ll need to take before starting work on a project. That’s because using the appropriate approach and methodology can make a major difference in the flow of your project and its successful completion.

  1. What is a Project Management Approach?
  2. What Are Popular Project Management Approaches?
  3. How to Select the Right Approach for Your Project
  4. A Hybrid Approach
  5. What Are Common Project Management Methodologies?

What Is a Project Management Approach?

A project management approach defines the overall mindset you have for how to manage the project. Should you plan it traditionally, meaning as completely as possible before you execute, or should you plan and execute the project incrementally? Your project management approach falls along a continuum between plan-based (traditional), and adaptive (incremental). On the other hand, there are many methodologies to choose from. While this might feel overwhelming at first, the nice thing is you can select an approach that best suits each project, and that will help you know what methods to choose. After all, every project is unique, so even though a an approach and methodology might work for one project, it might not for another.

As mentioned, you can use different project management approaches to ensure every project you lead will be a success. To simplify things a bit, we’ve put together overviews of  the most popular types.

1. Agile Project Management 

The great thing about taking an agile approach to project management is it provides you with plenty of flexibility. You can change the way you do things as you go to adjust to change, and still keep your project on track.

Rather than following a strict, linear method, this adaptable and collaborative approach makes it easier to implement changes when needed. Therefore, your team may make changes as new learning about the needs of the project requires.

This approach can be helpful if you anticipate a project will need a lot of changes before completion. It’s also beneficial if your stakeholders want to give you frequent feedback as the project progresses.

Pro tip: When you’re ready to learn about how to apply agile principles and methods, RMC is here to help. You can enroll in courses to learn about agile, and we offer exam prep courses that will prepare you to become an Agile Certified Practitioner.

2. Waterfall Project Management 

Unlike the agile methodology, waterfall (or traditional project management) provides a more linear,  approach that is less flexible once planning is completed. Basically, your team progresses from one phase to the other as they’re completed.

With this methodology, you rely on more detailed requirements as you move from the start of a project to its end. However, you don’t have the flexibility to make changes after your team starts working without carefully vetting them. For this reason, it’s a good choice when you know how a project needs to go and what the outcome should be.

The stages in this methodology include requirements and analysis, along with design and construction, testing, deployment, and transition to operations. So, if you want to run a project that’s carefully planned with a schedule your team can adhere to, and there’s a clear goal that can be planned in detail with stakeholders , the waterfall method can be a suitable option.

How to Select the Right Approach for Your Project

There are pros and cons associated with each project management approach.  It’s wise to weigh your options and select the method that will be most beneficial to you, your team, and your stakeholders.

A few things to consider as you think about which approach to use:

  • The number of people on your team, and how much guidance they require
  • If a project allows for flexible changes and risks
  • The level of involvement your stakeholders will have
  • The amount of time you have to complete the project
  • The project’s budget, and if it’s fixed or flexible

A Hybrid Approach

Sometimes your project calls for a blended plan driven and agile approach. This technique allows you to select elements of from both methodologies to get the project done.  For example, you use Agile sprints because the scope of your project might not be well defined at the outset of your project.  You create a general project charter to gain approval, which is a plan driven technique. 

Therefore, this hybrid approach takes the best of two methodologies and allows you to apply the most appropriate aspects of both.  If you’re interested in how to build the most effective hybrid approach for your project, consider RMC’s Hybrid Agile eLearning Course to guide you through the process.

Once you get to know the various methodologies available, and you begin to try them out in the real world, you’ll become confident in your ability to choose the right one for every project.

What Are Common Project Management Methodologies?

Popular project management methods include:

  • Scrum – An agile methodology characterized by short, fixed production cycles (sprints) with specific goals, that works well with small, skillful and disciplined teams, and uses short, focused meetings.
  • Extreme programming (XP) – A type of agile methodology that’s focused on collaboration.
  • Critical path method – A method that uses a work breakdown structure to map out milestones, commonly used in traditional approaches.

Since agile is considered an instance of Lean thinking, these practices are often integrated into many agile methodologies:

  • Lean – A method of optimizing the way your team works by reducing waste.
  • Kanban – An agile method that uses a visual representation of the phases and steps that need to be completed throughout a project.

Once you get to know the various approaches and  methodologies available, and you begin to try them out in the real world, you’ll become confident in your ability to choose the right one for every project.  



Cate Curry
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