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Arkansas State University

Understand Project Management Methodologies

The Project Management for Engineers course in the Arkansas State University Master of Engineering Management online degree program covers the fundamentals you will most likely encounter following graduation. While the methodologies have significant differences and uses, they all have the same objective – to facilitate the expeditious completion of projects.

Here’s a look at a few methodologies, with use cases.


Agile is an iterative approach to project management that comes from software development. It delivers a product in increments, correcting mistakes and making improvements as segments undergo critiques and refinements. This complex process becomes more efficient with simultaneous workflows rather than handoffs from one stage to the next. 

Agile takes studying and practice to master, and demands high collaboration between people who have mastered it. It is very intensive for both developers and users, so it requires being able to focus on one project at a time. It also can be difficult to implement when customers need to know what they’re getting as early as possible.


Kanban is a specific type of agile methodology, primarily focused on process improvements. It is built on a board split into categories of work to be done, work in progress, and completed work. Project teams can add categories at the outset to better visualize their part in the process.

A kanban card, which sits in a column on the board, contains the details for each task. The cards move from column to column to show progress. This keeps contributors on the same page while helping identify bottlenecks and areas for correction.

A downside of kanban is that it demands strict limits on the amount of work in progress at any moment, or the process becomes very difficult to manage.


Scrum is an agile methodology designed to get more work done faster. Precision knowledge work, such as software development, often uses scrum. Teams execute planned sprints which go through a review process after two weeks. The planning phase involves creation of a backlog, with task completion taking place during the sprint – contributors manage the work individually and collectively as necessary. At daily 15-minute scrum meetings team members review the previous day’s work and plans for the next day, as well as discuss potential issues. The quick meetings ensure everyone is on the same page.

Though scrum is excellent for completing deliverables quickly and efficiently, it often leads to scope creep because there’s no end date. Applying this methodology in larger teams is especially challenging, as it requires experienced players. Daily meetings can also be disruptive.


Waterfall breaks projects into linear and sequential stages, similar to a track relay team handoff — the opposite of the segmented and simultaneous approach of agile. A more traditional approach, it uses the constraints of time, cost and scope, in which an adjustment to one variable forces adjustments in at least one of the other two. Each piece of the project depends on the successful completion of the preceding pieces. This approach does not allow revisiting a prior phase.

Because the waterfall structure is one big project in a sequential process, it is useful for situations where change is uncommon. It demands clearly defined requirements up front, for which many organizations are not prepared, so projects that may change in process are ill-suited here. The risks of going over budget or past deadline is also higher with waterfall.


Lean is a holistic methodology that comes from the manufacturing sector. Every component, including employees and processes, receives optimization for efficiency and minimal waste of resources, with a focus on producing a deliverable with maximum quality and customer value. In fact, value creation is such a prominent focus that this methodology works better as a long-term mechanism that governs how the business functions.

The process has five basic steps:

  1. Specify value to the end customer.
  2. Identify and streamline the steps in the value stream.
  3. Ensure that the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence.
  4. Let customers extract value from the next upstream activity.
  5. Identify value streams, remove wasted steps, introduce flow and pull, and repeat until perfection in value creation with there is no waste.   

This is just a brief introduction to the complex methodologies that you will explore in detail in A-State’s MEM program. As you learn more, you will find that some of these approaches better align with your preferred ways of working, and this will help guide your career and employment choices.

Learn more about A-State’s online Master of Engineering Management program.


Glasscubes: Agile vs. Waterfall: Pros & Cons, Use Cases, & More

Lucidchart: Agile vs. Waterfall vs. Kanban vs. Scrum: What’s the Difference?

Visual Paradigm: Scrum vs. Waterfall vs. Agile vs. Lean vs. Kanban

Thinking Portfolio: Lean Project Management vs. Agile Project Management

PMIS: The Pros and Cons of Agile and Waterfall

Simplilearn: Scrum Project Management: Pros and Cons

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