Prince2 vs Lean Six Sigma, Kanban vs PMBOK – the difference in methodologies

When you first come across Project Management as a methodology it is not always easy to understand the difference between this (as a methodology) and the number of other methodologies out there.  People often confuse what are process improvement methods with project management frameworks.

Process improvement methods and methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, and Kanban for example are specifically methodologies for understanding how business processes are performing, what isn’t working i.e. where the waste is occurring in the process life cycle and then setting about to rectify this by changing the business process.

This in itself is not project management.  Whilst you can overlay a project management methodology over this process, and if you had a large improvement project that you were working on then I suggest that that is exactly what you do, following the designated Six Sigma method, is not project management per se.

Both Prince 2 and PMBOK set out to provide a framework of managing the delivery of a project.  Will this be related to a business process change, nine times out of ten I’d say it would.

The project methodologies are very defined in the way that they set out what you need to have in place in order to make your project work.

For example, understanding your business requirements up front.  Is this any different to having processes mapped out and understood, no, but it does take it to the next level of understanding what is required for the process to work effectively and it documents this in succinct statements that can be used within the project.

Project methodologies talk about risks and issues.  These are not defined within the process improvements methods.  You do not create a risk register as part of a Six Sigma project.  Would it be beneficial if you did?  You bet it would, because then you would know what sorts of things are likely to impede your ability to change the process you’re working on.

Project plans are another requirement for strong project management.  There is nothing within the business improvement frameworks that asks specifically for a project plan.  Do you follow a planned method of working through the process improvement, especially when using Six Sigma, yes you do.  And do you define how long you believe each part of the DMAIC process is going to take, yes you do.  And do you get your process stages signed off, before you move to the next stage, again, yes you do.  But if you were to ask a Six Sigma Black Belt for what a PM would expect to see as a ‘project plan’ he/she will tell you that they don’t have one.

So, as you can see the methods fit and work well together, but one is not the other.  Project Management methodologies like Prince2 and PMBOK won’t work for process improvement definition, and removal of waste within the process, like Six Sigma/Lean/Kanban will.

Six Sigma/Lean and Kanban won’t allow you to manage a large IT implementation project in such a way that it would be delivered on time, on budget and within scope.

There is a place for each of the methodologies, and they can be used with each other.  Just don’t confuse them.

Use them for the purpose they have been created.


Written by Karen Munro