Have you heard the stat that 70% of all projects fail? It’s pretty popular with the experts, many of whom insist it always holds, regardless of which project management framework you use or who’s serving as project manager. But guess what? It’s bogus.
Yep, the 70% failure statistic is a myth. In 2011, researcher and undercover superhero Mark Hughes found that “there is no valid and reliable empirical evidence to support such a narrative.” Put on a smile and repeat that with us.
Now that you have your new mantra, let it sink in. The frameworks, methodologies, and tactics you use matter, and you’re not doomed to see seven of every 10 projects fail. You just need the right tools.
So let’s get to the guide. The secret to becoming a super-amazing project manager is understanding popular project management frameworks and methodologies. To get you started, we’ve highlighted five of the most popular ones, plus some others worth exploring. Ready?
A quick overview of project management frameworks
Think of project management frameworks like your roadmap to project success. They outline the basic processes, tasks, and tools necessary to become a project manager superhero for your team.
These frameworks are the backbone of any good project manager’s toolbox, and without them, you’re setting yourself back by more than 100 years. And while it might sound like we’re exaggerating, we’re not.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Gantt Chart was the first formal technique for managing projects. It was developed by Henry Gannt in 1917, providing a revolutionary way to track project lifecycles and deliverable timelines.
Without Gantt charts, we might not have project management as we know it — but we’ll stop the history lesson here. If you’re like most of today’s project managers, you’re sold on the usefulness of frameworks and methodologies. Now, you just need to understand them better.
Top 5 project management frameworks you need to know
Project management frameworks are sort of like templates for different processes, tools, and tasks that will guide your project to success. You’ll use one that suits best to chart the progression toward deliverables from the early project planning stages all the way to the last milestone.
The best project managers (PMs) never rely on a single framework — instead, they assess which project methodology is right for a given project. Some PMs will use two frameworks on one project to ensure all of their bases are covered, but we’re going to focus on one at a time today.
Below, you’ll find five project management methodologies and frameworks that you’ll see used throughout the industry.
1. Traditional Project Management
Traditional project management approaches projects with a sequential model in a linear fashion. The phases in this methodology include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure. It works best when you can define the project’s scope and requirements upfront.
Traditional project management is commonly known as the Waterfall methodology among software development teams. It also encompasses subsets, including PRINCE2 and the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK Guide. PMBOK stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge. Many view the PMI’s guide as essential reading.
The benefits of traditional project management include:
- Well-defined objectives
- Fixed steps
- Clear documentation
- Division of labor among team members
The primary flaw of traditional project management is rigidity. If things don’t go as planned, you’ll have to head back to the drawing board to adjust the entire roadmap or cross your fingers as you venture outside the plan.
2. Agile Methodology
Agile project management uses an iterative approach, creating an adaptive development process that works well in software development and other industries. The agile framework includes several life cycles or iterations, embracing change at all project phases, from beginning to end. As the project progresses, you can optimize project goals as needed instead of following a linear plan.
Agile project management breaks the large plan into smaller chunks, known as sprints, with time to review and tweak the project after each one. This helps the team adapt to changing information, which is helpful for complex projects and IT projects involving software and app development.
Agile methodology includes subsets such as the Scrum, Scrumban, Crystal, Extreme Programming, and Adaptive Project Frameworks.
The benefits of using agile project management include:
- Increased teamwork and collaboration
- Emphasizes the most valuable project deliverables first
- Flexible project objectives and continuous improvement
- Faster product development
- Faster detection of project performance issues
- Manage and mitigate dependencies
Agile methodology can make it easier for your project team to get sidetracked. In addition, long-term projects and those outside the realm of software development may suffer from a fragmented workflow and project schedule. However, you can streamline agile for non-software development projects.
3. Lean Methodology
Lean project management is based on the lean manufacturing philosophy of maximizing value and minimizing waste, making the production process highly efficient. Lean seeks to eliminate several types of waste, including inventory, overproduction, transportation, over-processing, the overuse of resources, and operational unevenness.
Lean project management also revolves around customer needs, which guide and shape the process. It is commonly combined with other methodologies, including agile and Six Sigma. The five core principles include identifying value, mapping your workflow, creating flow, establishing pull, and seeking perfection through continuous improvement.
Lean is commonly used in conjunction with its popular subset, Kanban Framework.
The benefits of applying lean methodology to project management include:
- Improved productivity and focus
- Less waste of time and resources
- Increased value for the client and customer
- Shorter project completion time
Potential cons of lean project management include low inventory and resources due to the emphasis on eliminating waste. Depending on the type of project, it can also be challenging to train and motivate teams to switch to lean methodologies.
4. Six Sigma
The Six Sigma project management method is all about understanding what customers need and eliminating waste. It pairs well with lean methodologies — the combination is called “Lean Six Sigma” — and aims to minimize mistakes while maximizing value.
Leadership, data, and statistics are the basis for Six Sigma project management, focusing on quantifiable returns. The steps in the process include defining the problem, measuring a baseline, analyzing the data and metrics, improving the product and output, and creating a control plan.
The benefits of Six Sigma project management include:
- Better grasp changing customer needs
- Improved quality
- Waste reduction
- Cost reduction
- Robust processes and products
- Continuous improvement
Six Sigma can create rigidity that stifles creativity and hinders delivery time. In addition, the Six Sigma focus on customer satisfaction can lead to poor decision-making. For example, a team might favor a more expensive process due to a minor increase in customer satisfaction without realizing the extra cost doesn’t pay off.
5. Critical Path Method (CPM)
The critical path method (CPM) is a simple technique for determining which jobs or activities yield the greatest benefit to a project and how to best organize positions to meet deadlines without increasing costs. The essentials of this method include a list of all required tasks, complete with expected durations, a list of dependencies, and milestones or deliverable endpoints.
CPM is used to determine the most efficient path to the end of the project or to complete each milestone. This can help identify which activities cannot be delayed if the project is to finish on schedule. It is similar to the critical chain project management (CCPM) Methodology, which uses CPM and then adds duration buffers to modify the project.
Here are some benefits of CPM for project management:
- Identify critical elements of the project
- Determine which activities can be done at the same time
- Helps build teams and networks for new projects
- Unifies and motivates the team members
- Helps determine the exact project end date
CPM can become complicated to manage, especially for long or complex projects. Proper management may require project management software to keep the critical path clear, especially if the project evolves before completion.
Where to go from here
We highlighted five project management frameworks that can create an excellent foundation for your PM toolbox. Use them, get familiar with each project management tool, and don’t forget to dive into the related subsets from each framework.
If you explore all of the subsets we mentioned, you’ll have 14 project management frameworks to pull from. Check it out:
- Traditional project management (aka Waterfall)
- Project Management Institute’s PMBOK Guide
- Agile methodology
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Adaptive Project Framework (APF)
- Six Sigma
- Critical path method (CPM)
- Critical chain project management (CCPM)
Make successful projects a reality
Remember the first lesson from this guide? It was that the 70% failure statistic of all projects is a myth. You’re not doomed to fail 70% of the time. We promise.
If you study, use, and familiarize yourself with these project management frameworks, you can increase your chances of success. So get to know them well, and before you know it, you’ll be a project management superhero that can handle any task.
In addition to refining your project management process, look for ways to make meetings go more smoothly for you and your teams too. Anchor AI is here to help unlock the potential in every person on your team with automated notes and action items that can improve outcomes from every meeting.
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