Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
June 04, 2024 · 10 min read

The 5 different types of project management you need to know

The 5 different types of project management you need to know

Project management is the process of planning, organizing, and coordinating changes. But because no two changes are the same, there’s no single right way to deliver a project.

Instead, there are various methodologies, tools, and techniques to choose from — each with their own benefits and potential downsides.

Whether you’re a construction company building a new skyscraper or a software team planning a new product launch, the key to success is aligning your industry, people, and product to the right project management approach.

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In this guide, we dive deep into project management methodologies, including what’s available, what to consider when choosing one, and the key questions to ask yourself to help you make the best decision!

What is project management?

Project management is the process of planning, organizing, coordinating, and managing changes within an organization. In reality, great ideas become a reality by combining various project management skills, tools, and techniques, including scheduling, budgeting, and communication.

To help break big projects down, it’s best to follow what’s called the project lifecycle, which looks like this:

The project lifecycle

While there are different types of project management, the lifecycle almost always follows the same pattern (with a few changes, in the case of Agile and related project management styles, which we’ll cover below!)

The 5 types of project management (and how they’re different)

Your project’s needs, risks, and deliverables will ultimately determine which project management type is right for you.

For example, a strict regulatory project will spend more time in the planning stage to ensure it has considered all the risks before proceeding. On the other hand, a project to create a new prototype may fast-forward to the execution phase, deciding to learn through user feedback rather than spend weeks on detailed planning.

This need for different approaches has spawned several project management methodologies.

Let’s look at five of the most common methodologies and their pros, cons, and use cases:

1. Waterfall or Linear project management

One of the most common project management methodologies is Linear, often referred to as Waterfall. In Waterfall, the project moves through the lifecycle stages sequentially, completing the work for all of the project deliverables before progressing.

Waterfall or Linear project management on a Gantt chart



Example project flow:

An infrastructure project may use a Waterfall approach to plan, coordinate, and control the construction of an entire skyscraper, capturing all the detailed requirements and design specifications at the start. The team would then build, sign off, and hand over the building to the customer.

2. Agile (or Iterative) project management

Agile project management is another popular methodology whereby project teams design, build, and launch deliverables iteratively over time. With an Agile approach, teams break the entire project down and cycle through delivering different parts in cycles, often called sprints.

Agile (or Iterative) vs. Waterfall project management



Example project flow:

A software development team may use an Agile approach to build a new website incrementally. The team would break the tasks for the website build down by designing, building, and launching one part (e.g., the home page) before starting the process again for the next part (e.g., the pricing page).

Along the way, they may share their progress with real customers to get feedback that will help guide changes to the next part of the project.

3. Lean project management

The Lean methodology focuses on helping organizations reduce waste and boost efficiency in their processes. Based on the principles of efficient manufacturing, teams view processes through different lenses to look for areas of continuous improvement that can help drive further value.



Example project flow:

A business improvement team may use a Lean approach to identify improvements in their customer service process. The team would analyze their current process, identifying, fixing, and re-launching it to reduce waste and increase efficiency.

4. Scrum project management

A derivative of Agile project management, Scrum provides product development teams with a framework to deliver great software. Using Scrum, teams break their work into sprints, with dedicated ceremonies to define, plan, launch, and reflect on their work, improving their capabilities as they progress.

Agile ceremonies that most teams use



Example project flow:

A new product team may use Scrum to help plan and deliver their product roadmap. On a regular cycle (often referred to as sprints), they would gather product requirements, analyze them, plan and deliver the next cycle of work, and then reflect on how they could make improvements for the future.

5. Kanban project management

Kanban is a workflow management system, often used to help teams manage projects in a simple, visible way. With Kanban, teams break their project down into a series of tasks and progressively move them through stages as work develops. Kanban is great for iterative projects where the same processes repeat time and time again.

Kanban project management



Example project flow:

A marketing project management team may use Kanban to plan and deliver a social media campaign. As a team, they use their Kanban board to see which social media posts are in the ‘backlog’, ‘design’, ‘launch’ and ‘done’ stages, moving the tasks through each phase as it progresses.

The bottom line: While it’s important to choose the right project management approach, it’s equally important to pick a project management tool that can help make your projects a reality. Straightforward and flexible tools like Planio bring together features for collaboration, planning, and control to help you bring to life the methodology of your choice!

How to choose the right type of project management for your company

While you can select whatever PM style feels right for you and your team, coming to that decision should be based on a number of factors, including:

How to choose the right type of project management for your company

Luckily, the world of project management isn’t a new one. Those that have gone before us have tried and tested each of these approaches, helping understand what works best for different sectors.

The best project management types for each industry

Let’s take a look at the sort of project management approach that works best for different industries, to help you understand which may work best for you:

Project manager archetypes: How personality impacts a PM’s style

Project management is a people-focused profession. While you’ll want to choose a methodology that fits your business, it needs to work for the people that operate it, too — especially the project manager. Each project manager brings their own style based on their personality and experience.

For the best chance of success, the business, project manager, and methodology need to align.

To help you consider your PM in the selection process, here are some of the most common PM archetypes and where they work best:

Project manager archetypes: How personality impacts a PM’s style

If you’re looking to adopt a new project management methodology, understanding where your PMs fit into these archetypes can help you make the best choice!

10 powerful resources for startups and new project managers

No matter the type of project management approach you choose, all projects have to manage the fundamentals: time, cost, quality, scope, risks, and stakeholders.

To help, here are some great Planio resources that will help you master the 101’s of project management:

Choose the right project management type (and tool) for your team

There’s no right and wrong way to deliver a project — but aligning your approach with your industry, people, and product will greatly increase your chances of success.

If you’re new to project management and looking to select a methodology for the first time, we’d recommend asking yourself these questions:

The question to ask yourself To help with your answer
What project management methodologies are out there? Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Lean, and Kanban are the most common.
What methodology would work for my project(s)? Consider factors such as the cost of change, risk appetite, and stakeholder expectations.
What methodology is proven to work in my industry? Look for examples in your industry - e.g., Construction projects often favor a Waterfall approach.
What approach would align with my people? Different types of PM respond to different approaches based on their personality, experience, and soft skills.

Whatever choice you go on to make, the best way to bring your approach to life is by using a flexible and high-powered project management tool, such as Planio. PM tools are great for organizing the whole team while providing your project manager with the information, insights, and capabilities they need to make your next project a success!

Try Planio with your team — free for 30 days (no credit card needed!)