The roots of modern project management
People began formally managing projects in the 1950s. Before that, projects were managed on an ad-hoc basis using Gantt charts and other tools. But in the 1950s, corporations and the US government decided to manage projects more systematically, so they invented two project-scheduling models - CPM and PERT.
Both models were used for the same purpose (estimating and planning activity), but for different types of projects: if you had a project with many moving parts and high unpredictability, you'd use PERT; otherwise, you'd use CPM.
The introduction of those two models is very important because it marks the shift of mindset from "every project can be managed using the same tools" to "each project is unique and requires a certain set of tools to be successful".
Once we began studying project management as a science and discovering project archetypes, we were able to come up with recipes: if you are running a type A project, you should use these tools; if you run a type B project, use these tools instead.
Back then, there were no formal methodologies like today. Instead, you had a few approaches, and you’d use one over the other, depending on what kind of a project you had.
The difference between a methodology and a framework
In the project management community, there is no agreed understanding of whether something is a methodology or a framework. There is an agreement on definitions (what is a methodology and what is a framework), but when it comes to applying those definitions, there's a big disagreement. For example, some experts label "Event Chain Methodology" as a framework even though the name says it's a methodology.
To further complicate the whole thing, professional project managers use the words methodology and framework interchangeably.
Here is the main difference between a methodology and a framework (at least in theory):
A framework provides structure and direction on a preferred way to do something without being too detailed or rigid. They provide guidance while being flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions or to be customized for your company while utilizing vetted approaches.
A methodology is an approach to doing something with a defined set of rules, methods, tests, activities, deliverables, and processes that typically serves to solve a specific problem. Methodologies demonstrate a well-thought-out, defined, repeatable approach.
As you can see, the difference between a methodology and a framework is in the level of granularity: the more rules it has, the closer it is to being methodology on the framework-methodology spectrum.
There’s a running joke in the project management community that illustrates the nature of methodologies: "The difference between methodologists and terrorists is that you can negotiate with terrorists".
In contrast to a methodology, a framework doesn't give you answers; rather, it guides you through a set of questions so you can develop your own solution and policy.
This all ultimately means there is no official classification that you can consult to get a comprehensive overview of all the project management methodologies and frameworks out there. And creating such a thing is impossible. Each classification you’ll run across is arbitrary (just like the one you'll find here), and it's your job to piece everything together and make sense of it.
How to use project management methodologies and frameworks
In the end, whether something is a methodology or a framework doesn't really matter. What matters is how far you take the concept and whether it works for your particular project.
If you take a method and create a system around it, you've created your own methodology. In that case, congratulations! Now you can promote it, teach it, issue certifications for it, and make a nice living as a project management consultant.
Methodologies/frameworks are only good if you're practical about them and implement stuff within reason. If you take them off the shelf and force them upon the business, it will end badly. This constantly happens with ISO 9000, ITIL, and similar certifications.
General project management methodologies and frameworks
- Traditional project management
- PERT network chart
- Critical Path Method (CPM)
- Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
- Adaptive Project Management
- Extreme Project Management (XPM)
- Six Sigma Methodology
- Theory of Constraints
- PRINCE2 Project Management