A debate has raged between practitioners of Agile and Planned Project Management – often to the detriment of effective project delivery. Yet all of the models and frameworks we have available are either one or the other: adaptive or predictive. Now that has changed. We are starting to see the emergence of truly hybrid Project Management frameworks. And, the best developed I have seen is the FLEKS Hybrid Model.
This is a completely open-source, free model and toolset. It offers a much-needed bridge to the gap between the powerful Agile and Predictive methodologies.
We know that we need to tailor our approaches. And we also know (or should know) that this means we need solid Hybrid approaches that are every bit as well-developed as the adaptive and planned tools we already have. And the FLEKS Hybrid Mdeol provides the rigor and flexibility we need.
So, I have invited Hélio Costa, the founder of FLEKS, to write this article. In it, Hélio explains what it is, the principles that drive it, and how you can learn more. And, if you like what you read, FLEKS is free. You can download Hélio’s resources, attend his training, and use his methodology, at no cost to you or your organization.
If you need an enterprise-ready hybrid project management methodology – ready-to-implement and adapt – take a careful look at FLEKS.
By the way, here is an discussion I recorded with Hélio…
Over to Hélio…
The digital transformation that has taken place in recent years has allowed an exchange of information and a sharing of ideas and opinions never seen in history.
This is one of many things that have caused a change in our business models. Specifically, in the context of Project Management, a wide range of models, frameworks, and standards have emerged to support Project Managers and practitioners in our daily tasks.
In the last decade, we have seen an exponential growth of adherents of agile approaches. Often, they have been dismissive of predictive Project Management – and vice versa. The discussion about the advantages and disadvantages, and when to use them has intensified. This has led, in some cases, to extreme positions on both sides.
However, this type of discussion does more harm than good for the evolution of management. It is as meaningless as arguing whether a spoon is better than a knife or a fork. They are only good or bad, depending on the context. And some circumstances you need more than one at the same time.
Similarly, predictive and agile approaches are both excellent. But it depends on the context. And often, a mix of both is better still, to help you and your team to deliver value to your stakeholders.
This is what we call a hybrid approach. And their use has been growing day by day, precisely because of the observation that the exclusive use of predictive or agile approaches is not enough.
This is the situation within which I developed the FLEKS Hybrid Model. It is an organizational management approach that aims to support the implementation of:
All of which allow for fast adaptation to market and environment changes, creating a continuous and sustainable value flow for stakeholders through hybridly managed initiatives. And it does this with scalable, flexible, hybrid approach.
At the heart of the FLEKS Hybrid Model, you’ll find:
The FLEKS Hybrid Model is based on four pillars, which are:
To apply the FLEKS Model properly, the right mindset is a great help. This can create a powerful environment for value creation. The model encourages five different attitudes and behaviors to facilitate the development of the desired mindset:
Management principles are broad guidelines for managerial decision-making and behaviors. They are essential factors that form the foundation of a successful management endeavor. And, they are also the means by which people actually manage.
In other words, we get things done through a set of activities, processes, practices, and tools. The FLEKS Model has some principles that are essential to help the management process in the challenge to lead people, and create value:
The FLEKS Hybrid Model is focused on a continuous and sustainable value creation process. Therefore, we need to start by understanding how to define value and how to measure it, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Generally speaking, value is defined as the relation between the benefits and the total cost used to obtain the benefits.
For more information on Benefits and Benefits Management, we have a detailed article: Benefits Management: What Every Project Manager Needs to Know [and Do].
The total cost can arise from the cost of: money, people, materials, equipment, facilities, and infrastructure. However, in the FLEKS Model, one more variable is introduced in this equation, that is the degree of uncertainty to obtain the value. In this case, it is necessary to multiply the value (benefit/cost relationship) by the probability of the value materializing.
For more on Project Cost Management, we have a detailed article: Project Cost Management: What You Need to Know and Do. You may also like our video, How to Estimate Project Costs | Video.
To create value, it is necessary to handle many variables. The FLEKS Model advocates that it is crucial to observe and analyze them. The main objective is to create the highest possible value, managing these variables to create the best combination.
Managers and teams must bear in mind that it is very important to think in an integrated manner. In other words, when changing the parameters of one variable, one or more other variables will necessarily change, creating the need for further adjustments, for the sake of integration.
The six variables are:
In the diagram below, we show the six variables orbiting around value. We use them to plan how we will create value
If we spot a discrepancy between planning and reality, We need to rearrange the variables to deliver the agreed value to the stakeholders.
This is an important assumption behind FLEKS. During a management process, we keep some variables stable for the benefit of planning and control. But, if some of them need to change, to deliver value to the main stakeholders, it is possible to make them ‘fleksible’. Due to these hybrid characteristics, this is an important difference between the FLEKS Model and some agile frameworks.
The FLEKS Model comprises four different groups to guide the organizations in its implementation. Each group has its share of importance and its understanding is essential for those who intend to use the model.
The FLEKS model was created to be as flexible as possible and it works like Lego. Each part is independent and can be arranged in different configurations, according to the need.
Thus, if an organization wants to implement only the VMO and prefers to develop its projects in a different way to FLEKS Model, this is completely possible. Also, another organization may not need a VMO but wants to use the Production Layers (or part of that group). Once again, it is totally possible. Finally, roles can be accumulated, depending on the context. For instance, a Project Manager can execute Business Analyst functions or even be a Product Manager.
The Organization Group comprises eight elements that define the existence of the organization within society and the context in which it stands.
The first four elements form what is referred to as the organizational identity:
The second cluster offour elements describe, in a practical manner, how the organization intends to materialize its identity. In other words, they are more concrete elements and will determine how the other groups will be formed and what they will do. Let’s look at them…
We are starting to see greater levels of acknowledgment by the market of the importance of sustainability. Do take a look at our guest article on Green Project Management: Are You Ready to Think Sustainably? by Rich Maltzmann.
As a result, it is essential that organizational strategy be aligned and tied to factors that generate positive social, environmental, and economic impacts, in a balanced manner. Adopting a sustainable strategy, aligned with the organization’s material aspirations, provides a wide range of benefits and directly influences the decision-making process, both with regard to changes as well as business maintenance.
Strategy is a structured method that guides all parts of an organization to follow the same direction, to achieve its goals and objectives. It is the way decisions at the highest level in an organization are made. And it defines how the organization will allocate resources over time to achieve goals, fulfill missions, and reach its vision. The choice of how to define a strategy will depend on the context of the organization.
Strategic goals offer a specific and concise statement, which guides actions in a whole organization or team. They must be clear and inspiring, motivate people to reach them or even surpass them. Thus, they must be daring but realistic and clearly show the benefits obtained by reaching them.
Lastly, we have another important aspect within the organization group. You can think of Change Management as a set of processes and tools to manage the personal side of the change from a current state to a new future state. It’s the human changes that achieve the results that organizations expect from implementing change.
There are many models for the implementation of Change Management but, generally speaking, it is necessary to define processes that allow us to:
Then look at:
A Value Management Office (VMO) is a strategic organizational structure responsible for coordinating and maintaining a continuous flow of creation and value delivery with the least possible risk for the organization.
The VMO works as a link between the organization, its stakeholders, and the initiatives. It works as a link between the organization, its stakeholders (who can be internal and external), and the initiatives. The organization and its stakeholders have overlapping needs that the product, project, program, or portfolio needs to serve. Between the initiatives and the organization, the link is the results obtained, and between initiatives and stakeholders, it is the value delivered.
You can think of a VMO as a step on from the idea of a PMO: Project, Program, or Portfolio Management Office. However, the name ‘VMO’ directs our focus to a primary role of managing value creation.
The VMO is ultimately responsible for creating value in a balanced and sustainable way for the organization and its stakeholders. Among the many functions to be performed by a VMO, the FLEKS Model has highlighted some essential ones which we list below. Each organization, however, may have different needs and may adjust its own VMO structure and functions according to their own context.
The functions of a VMO are:
This layer is responsible for the part of the project or product related to business and is responsible for:
for the initiatives.
Therefore, as soon as the VMO receives a demand for an initiative, Business Analysis tries to understand the need, and create a solution to meet it. Next, it carries out a Value Design, to clearly define and agree upon the value that the initiative will deliver. The next step is to formalize a Business Case with the main information necessary to start a project or product and keep it aligned to the business objectives.
If there is a previous existing solution, these steps may be ignored.
This layer works closely with the VMO and the other management layers, for it provides important information for running the initiatives, such as high-level estimates.
The Business Analyst is responsible for this activity but is not the only one to execute the work. On the contrary, they can be advised by team members, especially:
This layer is responsible for coordinating the value delivery flow of the initiatives defined by the VMO. The aim is to determine, as coherently as possible, the sequence in which the organization will carry-out the initiatives, according to need. In addition, it also works on the interdependencies and the available resources.
According to the OKRs and the initiatives the VMO defines, Portfolio Management draws a plan for how to sequence these initiatives throughout the control period. This enables the creation of the Portfolio Roadmap, which can be consist of the sub-portfolio, programs, projects, or products. Next, a Portfolio Backlog gives everyone a single view of what they will be doing in the period.
At set times and according to ad hoc needs, there will be a Coordination Meeting to consider the initiatives that are ongoing in the period. At the end, there will be a Portfolio Review Meeting, where the objective will be to observe what the team has actually done and make plan readjustments. Lastly, a Portfolio Retrospective Meeting will seek to make improvements to new management cycles.
This layer is responsible for planning the project’s execution and control as well as its main components. Based on the guidelines provided by the Business Analysis and the Portfolio Layer, the main objective is to define the best set of releases that will be part of the Project Roadmap, the Project Backlog, and the Plans which will guide project development.
The scheduling of releases is not only a question of priorities. It must also consider the best combination of releases and in which order to develop them, to optimize project value. The Project Manager is accountable for this layer, but they may get support from the Product Manager or specialists, who can contribute their abilities and expertise.
Before beginning to execute the project, the Project Manager holds a Project Startup Meeting. During the project, Review Meetings happen at every release conclusion to enable the realignment of plans, the roadmap, or even the project backlog. A Project Retrospective Meeting will record lessons learned, to enable the team to improve its future performance. Finally, the project is formally concluded at a Closure Meeting.
This layer is responsible for:
You should bear in mind that, if the initiative is a project, the scope is somewhat defined. But it is subject to change, and can adapt to future events throughout the project, as required by stakeholders.
This layer can also be used without the support of the project layer, when a product is being maintained or we just have a value stream.
The person responsible for this layer is the Product Manager, working closely with the Development Team. Based on the Project Roadmap and any guideline provided by the Project Manager, the Product Manager:
He or she can be helped by any member of the Development Team.
Next, the Development Team will carry out the Iteration Planning, create the Iteration Backlog, and perform the iteration itself. At the end of each iteration, Reviews and Retrospective Meetings take place. When all iterations for a specific release are complete, a Release Review will match and realign the backlog and the plans.
The FLEKS Hybrid Model is an iterative, incremental, and recursive value creation process.
One of the most striking features of the FLEKS Hybrid Model is its recursive characteristics. Once you understand how the layers of events work, it is easy to replicate the reasoning, inputs, and outputs in all layers. This is what turns the FLEKS Model implementation into something very easy and replicable.
A second point to highlight is the Review Events in each layer. These allow the model to drive a continuous assessment of the value the organization is delivering and the results it creates. This helps the teams adapt plans, artifacts, and, especially, the value variables to manage on the next events. This can happen at any level:
Finally, it is important to be clear that the goal of the FLEKS planning and monitoring processes is to create value. It is extremely flexible and, as I said before, you can adjust the value variables to adapt the present need. The most important thing is to deliver value with a minimum risk level.
Thus, in a hybrid environment, it is completely reasonable to:
Nothing is fixed. Your only aim is to achieve results, to meet the needs of your stakeholders, clients, and sponsors.
There are many tools available on the market to support the events within FLEKS. And each organization can create or adapt its own tools.
However, the FLEKS Model includes a free toolkit to facilitate its implementation. This is composed of a set of 10 templates in the FLEKS Canvas Guide that you can download on the website for free. These sit alongside the FLEKS Model Guide, available in 4 languages (Brazilian Portuguese, English, French and Spanish).
The FLEKS Hybrid Model is different from other guides, models, standards, tools, techniques, and methodologies available on the market. It’s greatest difference is the way it integrates so many topics into a single framework. And it arranges them to allow great flexibility to its users and adaptability to a wide variety of industries and contexts.
Also, you can apply the FLEKS model anywhere on the spectrum between a pure agile and a pure predictive environment. This turns FLEKS into a very powerful asset for those who want to gain the benefits of both approaches:
A great challenge for anyone who wants to migrate to a hybrid approach is to adopt a mindset that is really able to operate with practices and tools from different models. We must not get stuck in a single paradigm. A hybrid Project Manager must bear in mind that all knowledge, frameworks, and tools exist to serve them… And not the other way around.
It allows any organization to create a real link between all its management elements, from purpose to product delivery. And to use best practices and introduce new concepts that supersede old paradigms that no longer represent the reality of our current business world.
Finally, there is a certification process available for those who want to demonstrate knowledge and expertise both in the model, and in the use of hybrid practices to manage initiatives and businesses.
We’d love to hear what you think and will resond to all coments, below.
Hélio Costa is a former fighter pilot of the Brazilian Air Force and a PhD in systems engineering and computer science, with 25 years of experience in Project Management. He is a teacher, writer, speaker, consultant, who has trained more than 15,000 people in companies and business schools. Most recently, Hélio is the developer of the Fleks Hybrid Model of Project Management.
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