What types of project management are there

The most popular project management methodologies at a glance

Scrum, waterfall, lean, Kanban: These and similar catchphrases can no longer be escaped when talking about projects. But do you still have an overview of which project management approaches exist and what they are used for? Or do you sometimes feel overwhelmed and make up your mind to keep yourself "up to date" and read it up soon?

Don't worry: nobody knows everything, and a general overview is often enough to have a say. This is exactly what this article is for: In the end, you can at least classify the most popular and you don't have to stand blankly next to your colleagues and pretend your shoelaces are particularly exciting.

Ready? Then we start all over again:

What is project management?

Project management is basically nothing more than organizing people who want or should do a task together. In other words: project management includes planning, executing, managing, controlling and communicating complex projects.

These projects can have a wide variety of sizes and levels of complexity:

  • Summer vacation with the whole family
  • The fishing club's Christmas party
  • The organization of the world's largest motorhome fair
  • The development of an app for automatic child rearing
  • The construction of a new capital city airport

As different as projects are, the tasks can be approached so differently:

What are project management methodologies?

A project management methodology describes a System of procedures, techniques, processes and rulesthat are used by those involved in an organization or specialty.

Basically, they are nothing more than processes that support a project manager throughout an entire project. Most approaches have their own strategies, processes and role descriptions that ideally fit the type of project.

The construction of a warehouse requires different techniques than the development of a route planner app - which is precisely why an overview of the various approaches is worthwhile.

Attention attention: Quibbling is not our goal here, so this article could bring tears to the eyes of many a purist in project management. In the following sections, no strict distinction is made between the terms standard, methodology and procedural model. The language is therefore sloppy and perhaps mixed up a little bit colorfully. Why? Because we want to focus on the essentials and most of our readers really appreciate this.

Ready? Then let's get started!

Traditional project management

Traditional, classic, waterfall: this approach, which some contemptuously describe as "old-fashioned", comes from the manufacturing and construction industries. The basic principle: List all tasks and work through them one after the other. The next phase doesn't begin until the previous one has been completed - and this looks like a waterfall:

The number and names of the phases differ considerably depending on the standard and industry. In its strictest form, the waterfall applies uniformly to the entire project. However, even if there are different waterfalls, e.g. for different sub-projects, one speaks of a traditionally planned project.

Various standards have emerged in traditional project management, the most important of which are the following three:


PMBOK stands for "Project Management Body of Knowledge" and is administered by the US Project Management Institute (PMI). Projects are in 5 process groups (similar to phases) subdivided: initiation, planning, implementation, monitoring and control as well as completion. In addition to being 10 knowledge areas differentiate, such as cost or quality management.

Overall, a project manager receives a comprehensive tool case with best practices, conventions and techniques. PMBOK / PMI is widespread worldwide and especially in North America.


PRINCE2 has nothing royal about it, but stands for "Projects IN Controlled Environments". The standard was developed by the British government in the late 1980s as a standard for IT projects. What does the 2 mean? Nothing more than a nice update in 1996.

PRINCE2 provides a framework with clear processes and responsibilities that is particularly suitable for large and predictable projects. Projects are in 7 processes which correspond to the project phases. The framework is naturally particularly widespread in Great Britain.


The International Project Management Organization (IPMA), based in Switzerland, offers the third standard, which is particularly widespread in Europe. The basis of the standard is the International Competence Baseline (ICB), which looks at projects from the three directions Practice, People and Perspective.

Agile project management

Fans of the agile movement see agile project management less as a methodology, but more as a kind of worldview. The basic principle: We approach the solution step by step instead of wanting to plan every detail in advance. Agile approaches assume that we can't get everything right the first time anyway, so we can quickly work out small bites, evaluate them and use them as a starting point for the next iteration.

Agile methods were originally conceived for software development, in which the rigid procedures of traditional project management could not withstand the competitive and dynamic market. Customer requirements often change considerably during the project and the technical implementation of the desired product properties can usually not be determined at the beginning.

Agile project management is an umbrella term for various methodologies:


Scrum is most commonly used in agile projects. Small, self-organized teams develop product increments in short iterations (so-called sprints), which are regularly presented to the customer for assessment and feedback.

Scrum provides a comprehensive framework with role descriptions, events and rules. In addition to software development, Scrum is also increasingly finding its way into other industries.


Kanban is another popular framework, the foundations of which were laid in automobile manufacturing as early as the 1940s. If you work in the manufacturing industry, Kanban will probably appear less familiar to you as an agile framework and more as a method of production control.

In the agile area, Kanban is used in various industries and focuses on limiting parallel work (Work in Progress, WIP). The idea: Instead of processing 10 tasks in parallel, we first finish 2 and thus achieve shorter lead times. In Kanban, visual Kanban boards are often used, to which tasks are attached by status, for example:

More agile approaches

But that's not all: There are various agile methodologies that are mainly used in the software industry:

  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Crystal
  • Dynamic System Development Methodology (DSDM)
  • Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  • Agile Project Management (APM)

In accordance with the agile principles, each of these methodologies is based on short planning cycles, iterative development, regular tests and feedback.

What else is there

That was a lot of methodology - but two buzzwords should at least be mentioned:

  • Lean Project Management: An approach to maximize customer value and minimize unnecessary activity. Can be wonderfully combined with other approaches. You can find a basic series on the topic here!
  • Six Sigma: A quality improvement methodology that often uses empirical and statistical techniques. Main focus: Increase quality, reduce errors or defects.


Project management approaches are a dime a dozen, and none of them fit every project. In this article you have received an overview of common methodologies and keywords and can at least roughly classify them according to traditional or agile.

Would you like more overviews of this kind? Then stay tuned: There will soon be more articles on agile topics.