Toward a Unified Project Management Understanding

project management unified

Over the course of the last hundred years, project management has undergone significant changes and continues to evolve, similar to several other concepts and careers. In recent times, various factors, such as the requirement for specialized skills and the rapid pace of innovation, have led to a substantial surge in the need for project management experts.

As the evolution progressed, it brought about several challenges, including the global agreement on the various definitions and terminology used. The project management field is flooded with numerous technical jargons, making it perplexing and leading people astray during project implementation. Moreover, certain misconceptions are adversely affecting other professions and career choices.

The objective of this research is to dispel misunderstandings about crucial project management terms and their definitions. It aims to accurately place these terms and facilitate a comprehensive global understanding of their meanings. By establishing a clear and consistent understanding of these fundamental terminologies, instructors and professionals alike can enhance their performance and ultimately elevate the project management industry.

This research does not create anything new but instead concentrates on the precise significance of the terminologies and phrases employed. It extracts the real meaning from numerous reliable sources, including the definitions and terminologies used by esteemed project management institutions and respected English language dictionaries.

To ensure that this study is useful, trustworthy, and coherent, I will commence by defining the key terms that gave rise to the concept of project management. Following this, I will delve into more intricate terminology. For each term, I will present definitions from various reputable sources and provide my analysis, opinions, and recommendations for potential revisions.

The Terminologies that this paper discusses in the context of project management are:  Project, Project Management, Project Management life cycle, project management approaches, Project Management Methodology, Project Management Framework, Project Management Delivery Method 

Project & Management

Let’s first explore the true essence of the words that constitute the term “project management” before delving into the core of this research.

It is evident that each of the respective bodies has agreed on the primary definition of the project, even though they have used different terminologies. Ultimately, they have led us to identify and agree upon the concept that a project should be considered “unique, temporary, and composed of a series of structured tasks and activities.”

Now let’s see how these respected and well-known bodies define “project management “

After agreeing on a definition for project management, respected bodies have not presented any differing definitions, and other respected project management bodies also adhere to this same definition.

Based on the commonly accepted definition of project management, we can say that it involves the planning, performing, delegating, monitoring, and controlling of all aspects of a project in order to achieve its objectives.

Project Management Life Cycle

The project management life cycle was developed to manage projects efficiently. It was realized that just defining the concept of project management was not enough. Therefore, a structured approach was required, leading to the birth of the life cycle concept. This concept and representation of the project’s life cycle were created before the development of any project management methodologies or frameworks. It has evolved through the years to have the final and widely agreed-upon definition.

Other project management bodies typically adhere closely to the definitions of the project management life cycle provided by organizations like PMI and APM.

Project Management Approaches

The world has made tremendous progress in recent decades, leading to significant changes in project management. Consequently, it has become necessary to develop new approaches that can be adapted to the nature of modern projects. At first, there was only one approach available, the predictive or linear approach. However, as time went by, the adaptive approach was introduced to cater to projects where adapting the linear approach was not feasible.

We have seen tremendous progress in recent times, resulting in the evolution of more accurate approaches from the heart of the predictive approach. These approaches include the predictive iterative approach and the predictive incremental approach. Additionally, some project management bodies consider the hybrid approach the fifth type of project management approach.

Up until now, I refrained from discussing project management methodologies or frameworks as I wanted to focus solely on the fundamental principles of project management in its most basic and purest form. My objective here is to eliminate any confusing jargon or buzzwords that have emerged as trends in the project management universe, but have no actual added value. These terms are often used to add more drama and for marketing purposes only. Unfortunately, many experienced project managers and respected project management institutions fall into this trap.

The aforementioned sections, though fundamental, serve as the foundation for my method of assessing and appraising incorrectly utilized terms and definitions such as methodology, framework, agile, and other terms that are intentionally or unintentionally misinterpreted in a way that harms the reality of project management.

Methodology and Framework

As human beings, we have a natural inclination towards creating boundaries and rules, but we also enjoy breaking them. Our brains are wired to process structured data more effectively, which is why simply developing approaches is not enough for efficient project implementation. Thus, we have created methodologies and frameworks to systematize our approaches and help us implement projects more effectively.

We achieved great things by developing reliable methodologies and frameworks that became essential references for us as project managers. However, some approaches or tools were marketed and used as project management methodologies and frameworks, even though they were vastly different from the true meaning of project management. To uncover these misused approaches, we need to first understand the real meaning of methodology and framework.


In order to fully understand the term “methodology” and its application in project management, it’s important to first review the definition of the term in respected English dictionaries.


In order to fully understand the term “framework” and its application in project management, it’s important to first review the definition of the term in respected English dictionaries.

From the definitions provided above, it is evident that the methodology revolves around the system. It emphasizes defining the system, which makes it less flexible than a framework. A framework, on the other hand, provides general boundaries for doing something, while a system focuses on performing tasks in a very structured manner.

In my opinion, it is crucial to establish a common understanding and use unified terminology when discussing a concept. Failure to do so can result in incorrect implementation and usage of the said concept. Therefore, it is imperative for the project management community to agree on a clear definition of what goes under project management methodology, what goes under project management framework, and what cannot be considered as project management methodology or framework.

The methodology cannot be modified. It must be implemented correctly or not at all. On the other hand, the framework can be used and implemented in various ways, as long as we stay within the boundaries of the framework.

What can be considered a project management methodology or framework?

After analyzing the aforementioned sections, it can be concluded that an effective project management methodology or framework should encompass various elements to ensure proper initiation, planning, execution, and control of projects. Therefore, to be considered as a project management methodology or framework, X must address all aspects of the project management life cycle, from initiation to closing. These aspects include, but are not limited to, Project Scope, Project Planning, Risk Management, Resource Management, Communication Management, Quality Management, Change Management, Monitoring and Control, Stakeholder Management, Documentation, and Reporting.

To determine whether “ X “ can be classified as a project management methodology or framework, it must cover the essential aspects mentioned earlier. In light of this, I want to highlight two of the most widely used project management methodologies and frameworks: PRINCE II and PMI PMBOK guide. These two are excellent examples of authentic representations of project management methodologies and frameworks.

PRINCE II, which stands for “Projects IN Controlled Environments,” is a structured project management methodology that provides a customizable framework for managing projects effectively. It is widely used in various industries and sectors around the world. PRINCE2 defines a set of processes, principles, and themes that guide project management activities from start to finish.[14]

The PMBOK Guide, or Project Management Body of Knowledge, is a comprehensive guide – that has evolved over the years to reach the 7th edition – and provides a standard terminology and framework for project management. It encompasses the collective knowledge, processes, best practices, and guidelines in the field of project management.[15]

Project Management Delivery Method

This word appears frequently in project management and product management publications. It is an extremely significant phrase that must be utilized appropriately in project management. In my opinion, we may think of this phrase like a vehicle’s engine: the vehicle’s body cannot move without the engine, similarly the project management framework needs a delivery mechanism to produce project outputs and objectives. On the other side, the project management methodology has its own integrated delivery system. This highlights the necessity of differentiating between the PM framework and methodology.

These are not methodologies or frameworks

As I mentioned at the beginning, the main reason behind this paper is to invite the project management community to discuss and reach an agreement on the main terminologies used in project management and to clarify any misunderstandings about them. In my opinion, based on my experience as a project manager and considering all the points mentioned above, I can clearly state that the following methods or terms are not project management methodologies or frameworks.

I cannot list all terms and methods here. However, I will mention the most famous ones and leave the judgment about the unmentioned ones to the reader.


I’ll start with the most contentious terminology, those that have grown popular and were formerly considered an appealing title in project management universe.

We can’t separate the phrase from the context in which it’s used, and we’re talking here about Agile in project management.

The issue with this term is as follows:

  1. Miscommunication and misinterpretation
  2. Incorrect usage and adaption
  3. Non-professionals might deceive the community by generating meaningless titles, courses, and other content.
  4. Considered it a project management magic stick.

Return to history. The term “Agile” was first used in the context of software development in the early 2000s, and it has since spread to other fields such as project management and business. The challenge is that this expansion occurred without any significant study, research, or substantial initiatives, such as when the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was first drafted. My argument is that Agile Software Development took on its ultimate form and name when 17 software development practitioners assembled to discuss a better way to perform software development. In contrast, in the project management and business sphere, this did not happen. When Agile spread as a concept and started to be a trend in the business world, everyone started to make his interpretation and contribution, which produced a messy environment and a lot of abuse.

Agile is a set of concepts. A philosophy and set of principles. Based on this understanding. In project management, the right term is Agile approach, not Agile methodology or Agile framework. The approach will contain methodologies, frameworks, and delivery methods that may be identified by its name. 
Example: Scrum Methodology is considered an Agile Approach.

Also, it is critical to distinguish between project management and software development. These are two distinct areas; certain concepts may cross; therefore, we need to place them in the appropriate context. 


Before we say that scrum is not a project management approach, let’s look at its roots and definition, according to the official 2020 Scrum Guide.

“Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems. Scrum is free and offered in this Guide. The Scrum framework, as outlined herein, is immutable. While implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety and functions well as a container for other techniques, methodologies, and practices. “[16]

Also, according to the guide, “The Scrum framework, as outlined herein, is immutable. While implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety and functions well as a container for other techniques, methodologies, and practices.”

Based on the source and the facts presented above concerning project management and Scrum, I believe Scrum is not a project management methodology. As project managers we have to deal with and explain scrum as a project management  delivery method no more and no less

I’ll summarize my findings shortly. Here they are:

I won’t go into all of the claimed project management methodologies or frameworks in-depth, but I will identify a few Of them, and the reader may apply the same logic we used here in this paper to discern.


One of the best sources for information about Kanban is David J. Anderson’s book “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.” The book states unequivocally that Kanban is “a method for managing knowledge work and controlling the flow of work items in a process.” It emphasizes incremental improvements to systems and processes and encourages collaboration, transparency, and flexibility.”

So how come some people still refer to Kanban as a project management methodology!!!

Critical Path Method (Tool)

The first significant publication detailing the Critical Path Method appeared in the mid-1950s. Kelley and Walker’s fundamental publication, “Critical-Path Planning and Scheduling,” appeared in the journal Operations Research in 1959. I won’t go into detail about the study, but the title indicates that the CPM is a tool rather than a methodology or framework. I was surprised when I searched for PM methodologies and saw the CPM on the list. CPM is a tool, like other tools, that we employ to work on various aspects of the project. We use CPM to plan and schedule tasks utilizing the Critical Chain Method (Tool).

Critical Chain Method (Tool)

The same rationale applies, except that the CCM imposes more limits than the CPM.

Lean Philosophy

lean is not a project management approach or framework. It is a well-organized, straightforward structured approach that originated in the early twentieth century and has continued to evolve. The finest reference for Lean is the book “The Machine That Changed the World” (1990), by Womack, Jones, and Roos. They invented the word “Lean” to characterize the concepts and practices they witnessed in the car industry, notably at Toyota.

Six Sigma

I don’t understand why some people mention Six Sigma as a project management methodology. Six Sigma is a data-driven technique for increasing process quality via the identification and elimination of flaws and variances. In the context of project management, Six Sigma and Scrum, in my opinion, should be classified as delivery methods.


This research aims to give the fundamentals and invite project management professionals and leading organizations to collaborate on developing a common understanding of project management techniques, frameworks, and other terminology. It is a joint endeavor, but necessary if we want to enhance and promote the project management profession and prevent amateurs from moving project management in the opposite direction from where it belongs.   


[1] Project Management Institute. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.



[4] Project Management Institute. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition.

[5] Association for Project Management. (2019). APM Body of Knowledge 7th Edition.

[6] International Project Management Association. (2015). IPMA Individual Competence Baseline, Version 4.0.

[7] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition,” Project Management Institute, 2017

[8] APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

[9] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Merriam-Webster,

[10] Oxford Languages, Lexico, y.

[11] Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press,

[12] Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press,

[13] Cambridge Dictionary Online, Cambridge University Press,

[14] Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2″ by AXELOS Limited

[15] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)” by Project Management Institute (PMI)


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