There’s a lot of attention going towards Agile Project Management. And there has been plenty of recognition of traditional Predictive Project Management over the years. But what if you could get the best of both worlds? That’s what Hybrid Project Management can offer.
Of course, it can also offer the worst of both worlds, so you need to be careful. That’s why I think it is time to take a look at hybrid project management and answer the questions people most often ask about it:
- What is it?
- Why do we need it?
- How can you make it work?
- What’s the role of a Project Manager?
And, along the way, I’ll also answer another question that comes up a lot…
- What’s the difference between Hybrid and Blended Project Management?
Four Questions about Hybrid Project Management
This article is simple in structure. I’ll simply pose and answer four questions:
- What is Hybrid Project Management?
- Why do We Need Hybrid Project Management?
- How Can You Make Hybrid Project Management Work?
- What is the Role of ‘Project Manager’ in Hybrid Project Management?
What is Hybrid Project Management?
A hybrid is when you put two different things together and get something new and viable. For example, if you put a dinghy and a surfboard together, you create a windsurfer.
So, hybridization is a profoundly creative process. At its best it creates something new and distinctive, that is highly valuable. Hybrid project management can be just that: a valuable new way of doing projects.
Waterfall and Agile
What we hybridize to create hybrid project management are:
- Traditional, or Predictive Project Management
Often, people refer to this as ‘Waterfall Project Management’. But this tends to be a derogatory term. The essential characteristics of predictive project management are:
- Significant planning, with the aim of predicting and preparing fr events
- High levels of monitoring, control, and governance
- Agile, or Adaptive Project Management
This is a form of project management that was developed to serve software development in fast-moving contexts. The essential characteristics of adaptive project management are:
- Strong focus on the needs of a defined user-group
- An iterative and incremental development approach
Learn More about Waterfall and Agile Project Management
1: Waterfall Project Management
Learn even more in our feature article:
Most of the articles and resources at OnlinePMCourses.com refer to predictive project management.
2: Agile Project Management
Learn even more in our feature articles:
- ‘What is Agile and Why is it Important to Project Managers?’
By guest author, Chuck Cobb
- ‘Agile Principles: The 12 Keys to Adaptive Project Management’
3: Comparing Waterfall and Agile
Read our feature areticle:
Cut and Shut
Too often, we run across a caricature of agile and waterfall as two opposed and competing approaches. This is not true, except in the minds of some dogmatic advocates of one or the other.
As a professional, I believe it is our duty to reject binary choices in favor of a more nuanced view. Predictive and adaptive project management should not be an ‘either-or’ choice
Likewise, creating an effective hybrid of the two doesn’t just work by bashing them together. In the UK, we have the term ‘cut and shut’ for when halves of two badly damaged cars are welded together to form one new car. The process is, for obvious safety reasons, illegal.
However, this does not mean that it is impossible for skilled automotive engineers to build hybrid vehicles out of two or more models. And, if they do it well, the new vehicle can be both useful and safe.
Hybrid or Blended Project Management?
There is no complete consensus over the use of the terms ‘hybrid project management’ and ‘blended project management’. However, one interpretation has clearly gained far wider use – and s the one the PMI uses in its Agile Practice Guide.
That’s the interpretation I am using in this article:
A Hybrid approach is a combination of Agile and non-Agile approaches to project management.This is my definition
On the other hand, blended approaches merge multiple approaches into one. So, it is possible to create blended agile approaches that combine elements of, for example, scrum and kanban. In that case, we have ‘scrumban’.
By the way, we have three videos answering the questions of ‘What is…
But, as soon as you try to blend in a non-Agile approach, we’ll refer to this as a hybrid.
Think of horses. Cross a black horse with a palomino, and the offspring can have a range of coats. But it’s still a horse.
Now, cross a horse with a donkey and you’ll get a hybrid – either a mule or a hinny, depending on which way round the parents are. But it’s neither a horse nor a donkey.
Why do We Need Hybrid Project Management?
I think there are four reasons why we work with hybrid project management approaches:
- Hybrids as Transitional Stages
- Concerns about Agile Project Management
- Concerns about Predictive Project Management
- Choosing an Approach that is Fit for Purpose
Hybrids as Transitional Stages
For many organizations – and for many different reasons – Agile working is an objective. But the transition from traditional predictive project management to a fully agile way of working is a big jump.
So, for some, a strategy they choose is to make the transition via a hybrid project management approach.
This may involve incorporating element of a preferred agile methodology into a broadly predictive approach. Or it might take the form of a agile approach within a predictive structure.
The organization might chooses to start with one aspect of agile working, such as iterative refinements to project deliverables. It could then increase the level of adaptability by introducing more incremental development approaches.
The benefit of this way of making the shift is all about mitigation of therisks of a sudden jump:
- capabilities that are not yet fully in place
- getting the new methodology ‘right-first-time’ – this would hardly be in the spirit of agile!
- reducing resistance from team members
- a series of wins enhance the business case and win over doubters
Concerns about Agile Project Management
Despite what some evangelical supporters may have you believe, Agile Project management is not without its compromises and disadvantages.
This is especially so when you consider that the Agile Principles were developed for one fairly narrow range of circumstances. Yet organizations often seek to apply them to other domains and situations. See our article on Waterfall vs Agile for more on where each approach is best suited.
So, if you want to be as agile as possible, but you have concerns about some of the compromises or drawbacks inherent in that choice, an obvious solution would be a hybrid project management approach. You cold add-in elements of predictive project management that would address your concerns.
Concerns about Predictive Project Management
And guess what? Predictive project management is also not perfect in all circumstances. To make up for this, you could address any concerns you have with carefully chosen tools or ideas drawn from Agile thinking.
Comparing Typical Concerns with Agile and Predictive Project Management
These are just an illustrative sample.
|Some typical concerns about Agile PM||Some typical concerns about Predictive PM|
|Too customer or user-focused (at the expense of shareholders).||Not responsive enough to the needs of end users.|
|Insufficient clarity of long-term outcomes.||Not enough flexibility in long-term outcomes.|
|Cannot handle the complexity and interdependencies.||Too large and complex – need to simplify.|
|Inability to provide robust estimates for budget and schedule.||Past record of unreliability of budget and schedule estimates.|
|Unclear or unfamiliar team co-ordination and leadership.||Overly centralized team co-ordination and leadership.|
Fit for Purpose
But, of course, the ideal reason to select a hybrid project management approach is obvious. Your job, as a project manager, is to create a methodology for each project that is most fit for the purpose of getting your project done on time, on budget, to specification, and with full accountability.
Most important, you are looking for an approach that minimizes risk while maximizing the delivery of value. And that approach may well be a hybrid one.
How Can You Make Hybrid Project Management Work?
There are many ways you can craft a hybrid of Agile and Predictive processes, mindsets, and tools. Primarily, you need to match your solution to the needs of your project.
And there are a spectrum of Project Management approaches…
Questions to Ask
First of all, you’ll want to consider some questions. Some examples include:
- What kind of project is this – especially in terms of the type of deliverables?
- How clear is the final outcome you are working towards?
- What risk control mechanisms do you favor? You may want to control risk through planning or by limiting your commitment.
- How much priority do your clients and sponsor place on the certainty of your project’s end functionality, budget, and schedule?
- Who do you have available to you for your team, and what is their experience?
- Where do your skillset and experiences lie?
- How familiar is the task at hand, and how important is innovation to meeting your client’s brief?
Crafting a Solution
The answers you get will create a spectrum of needs and outcomes. Then, you can match them up to a carefully crafted hybrid. The figure below illustrates how you can wrap an Agile process within a predictive framework, at different levels.
Chuck Cobb’s Managed Agile Development Framework
Chuck Cobb is an expert on Agile Project Management (We recommend Chuck’s Agile training) and on crafting and applying hybrid approaches. His starting point is his Managed Agile Development Framework. This has an outer framework of structured planning and, within that, an adaptive methodology for progressing product development. You can read about his Managed Agile Development Framework in a short article.
What is the Role of ‘Project Manager’ in Hybrid Project Management?
A number of Agile methodologies – notably, Scrum – do not have the role of Project Manager. Rather, the typical project management responsibilities are shared out. In the Scrum methodology, dife=ferent aspects of the PM role are taken on by the:
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- even by the team itself
But, in hybrid projects, there will almost certainly be a role for a Project manager to play. Probably, these will include:
- Co-ordinating multiple agile components within an over-arching project
- Monitor and control as part of the overall governance
- Establishing the project, and its:
- Business case
- Managing interfaces and dependencies with other projects and between components of the project
- Project communication and wider stakeholder engagement
- Project closure and completion
What are Your Experiences of and Reflections on Hybrid Project Management?
Finally, please do share your thoughts below – and I shall look forward to responding to every comment.