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Project management types: methodologies, industries, and more


Project management methodology, industry and personal strengths can shape your work as a project manager.

Project management has many facets, and can vary greatly depending on the approach, methodology, industry, or the project manager themselves. This means that your day-to-day work as a project manager in construction using the Waterfall approach will look very different than an IT project manager who uses Scrum to rally their team. Here's a look at the many different types of project management.

Types of project management approaches and methodologies

Project management types: methodologies, industries, and more

A project management approach is a philosophy or set of principles that describes the way a project is handled. A methodology on the other hand is the actual set of rules and practices used to implement an approach.

1. Waterfall

Waterfall is often called the "traditional" project management approach. In traditional methods, projects are completed one stage at a time and in sequential order - like a waterfall flowing down a group of rocks.

When to use the waterfall:

Waterfall is an approach often used on projects with strict limitations and expectations, or very few expected changes in the project plan. The waterfall approach can be effective for projects such as home construction, where one phase must be completed before another begins, or where schedules, budgets, regulations, or other factors make it imperative that your project has a predictable outcome.

2. Agile

Agile is an approach to project management built in small, incremental steps. It is designed to be able to pivot and integrate changes seamlessly, making it popular among projects where unknown developments are common.

The twelve Agile principles are enshrined in the Agile Manifesto, which was written in 2001 by project managers in the field of software development.

When to use Agile:

Agile is best used on projects in industries where you expect a certain amount of volatility, or on projects where you won't be able to figure out all the details from the start. Agile project management is very popular in software development, where changes are almost constant. You can also use the Agile approach when launching a new product, not being fully aware of where your pain points may lie until near the end of the project.

3. Lean

Lean is a project management style with roots in the manufacturing industry (Toyota cars to be precise). It aims to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Key Lean principles include emphasizing value from the customer's perspective, mapping your entire project in the initial stages to where value is being generated and minimizing waste.

When to use Lean:

The Lean approach can be a useful project management approach to adopt when you are looking to reduce costs, shorten schedules, and improve customer satisfaction. It is best used for projects that expect some flexibility and change.

4. Scrum

Scrum is the most widely used type of Agile methodology, with over 66 percent of Agile users. Scrum applies Agile principles through small teams, short development cycles, frequent communication, and designated roles to keep the project organized and on track.

When to use Scrum:

Scrum can be a powerful way to tackle projects that thrive on change and adaptation. Like Agile, it is often used for projects in industries that anticipate frequent or unknown change.

5. Kanban

Kanban, which means "banner" in Japanese, is a way of visualizing the workflow of a project. In kanban, project tasks are represented as cards divided into columns on a physical or digital board. As the tasks progress, the cards advance to the next column until they are completed. The Kanban method emphasizes a continuous workflow.

When to use Kanban:

Kanban's way of visualizing tasks makes it well-suited for projects that have many tasks that must be completed at once. Kanban is often used in conjunction with other methods, such as Scrum or Lean.

Types of project management across industries

The project manager is an essential role in many different industries. Although the basics of what they do are the same - driving projects to achieve goals while sticking to schedule and within budget - the details of what they do can vary.

  • Construction: The construction project manager organizes people and resources to oversee the process of building structures such as homes and office buildings. The project manager generally works closely with architects and engineers.
  • Information Technology: The IT project manager works with teams to solve IT-related issues in the company. They could, for example, undertake a project to install new software across a company, update networks, or help roll out cloud computing services.
  • Software development: Software project managers coordinate project teams to develop new software and software updates. They may have professional experience developing software themselves.
  • Healthcare: A healthcare project manager who leads projects in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Healthcare project managers often have to have a good understanding of healthcare legislation.
  • Energy: In the field of energy, project managers implement projects that develop new energy infrastructure or improve existing ones. They may also work to popularize energy efficiency practices in individual organizations.
  • Marketing: A project manager may work in marketing for a technology company, advertising company, large retailer, or any number of other organizations that have marketing arms. Projects can include marketing campaigns, research efforts, and new product launches.

Types of Project Managers

There are many different types of project management - but what about project managers themselves? What type of project managers are most effective? If you are a hiring manager, what are you supposed to look for in a candidate? Differences in personality and leadership style can vary from manager to manager, and lead to natural strengths and blind spots.

A 2017 report published by Harvard Business Review divides project manager personalities into four different types – executor, prophet, expert, and gambler [2]. Knowing how you or other project managers work can be helpful in discerning what type of project management style is best for the situation.

Executor: Executor remains in line with the company's current growth strategy, and is a trusted leader of projects. The report defines this type as being of primary importance in the company for the implementation of projects. However, other species are valuable for spotting growth opportunities, particularly in the long term.

Prophet: Prophet may not necessarily stay within the company's current strategy, but he has a long-term vision and can be useful in seeing new growth opportunities. These types of project managers might be leading initial projects, for example.

Expert: An expert is a specialist in analysis who works on the basis of facts and advice. They can be relied upon to make sound business decisions and may pursue opportunities outside of current strategies.

Gambler: Gambler stays within the current strategy, but may not be able to predict the success of his projects due to lack of data. They may bet on new growth opportunities that the analysis overlooks and find.

Getting started with project management

Project management can look vastly different depending on the methodology or approach used, and what the project manager himself brings to the table. For aspiring project managers, that's good news - you'll likely be able to find work in most areas.

Interested in upgrading your project management skills? Check out Google Project Management: Professional Certification and learn how to use and implement project management strategies, plus the basics of Scrum and Agile.