It seems like everyone’s talking about hybrid project management at the moment.
With the new version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, affectionately known as PMBOK 7, due out in August this year, there is more focus than ever before on the wide range of approaches that help deliver project work.
We’ve long known that projects could take an iterative (agile) approach, or follow a more predictive (waterfall) path. Many organizations chose to use one or the other approaches. Even if they were tailored in some way to the individual project, all company projects would be agile or prescriptive. There might be different paths or governance models, depending on the project’s size and complexity, but the PM handbook for the organization stated the broad framework under which work would be done. Project managers stuck to their tried-and-tested ways of doing things.
We are seeing a growing trend towards projects using both iterative and predictive, at the same time. This is good news: organizations are becoming increasing flexible and open to the idea of adapting approaches to do what works best.
More and more companies are adoption approaches like Kanban for non-project teams, or departmental teams managing their own internal projects. The success of initiatives like those has paved the way for organizations to build hybrid project approaches.
What is hybrid project management?
Hybrid project management is simply using a blend of agile and predictive project management techniques on the same project to deliver the end result.
For example, a project team is tasked with launching a new service by the end of the year. The project manager takes a traditional, predictive approach, planning out the work on a Gantt chart. The IT department lead, who is responsible for delivering the technology component of the service, plans to deliver the work using two-week sprints and the Scrum framework. The Marketing department are going to put all of their work on to a Kanban board so the team can pick up project tasks alongside their operational work and manage work in progress.
In other words, the big picture is planned in a predictive way, but the execution relies on agile methods and an iterative approach to delivery.
It might sound like a recipe for disaster, but as long as the relevant managers understand their responsibilities and key dates, the whole project ecosystem – and all the different approaches – can coexist. Everyone gets to use their preferred approach and the project is completed on time.
The benefits of a hybrid approach
There are a number of benefits to using hybrid project management, including:
- Each team gets to use methods they are familiar with and that best serve the work they are doing which increases engagement
- Increased chance of project success through using fit-for-purpose methods
- Better communication and more chance of silos being broken down, leading to better team collaboration
- Better risk mitigation by using tailored approaches: agile methods are designed to minimize overall delivery risk by breaking down the work.
However, as with anything new, you may face some push back from stakeholders who are not onboard with the latest trend. Any Agile ‘purists’ on the team may struggle to adapt to a hybrid model. Equally, project managers who trained in waterfall approaches may find hybrid just too uncertain for comfort.
Of course, with organizational change management, you can sensitively bring round the whole team – even the reluctant stakeholders – to new ways of working. Acknowledge the benefits and positives of both approaches, and help the team find ways to blend the best of both together to create a new whole.
What this means for your PMO
The trend towards hybrid delivery approaches means the PMO in your organization will most likely end up not only supporting agile and predictive projects, but also those blending the two. That is going to have an impact on project reporting, governance models as well as training and support for a wide variety of project teams. You might have to introduce new tools and review the way that certain things are currently done.
It might sound like a lot more work for the PMO, and it may well be, but all the signs are that hybrid is here to stay. It’s also an exciting opportunity to develop the skills of PMO leaders, introduce new tools and build on the maturity of your project management organization.
The PMO team can lead the organizational change towards an adoption of the hybrid model that suits your environment. They can champion a range of different delivery approaches, helping teams find the perfect model that will enhance project success and allow them to operate in the most efficient way.
The trick – if there is one – to making the most of the hybrid trend is to experiment. Let teams try new things. Timebox some elements of delivery and see what happens. Add in retrospectives for continuous feedback and review what difference that makes to the quality of the output. Listen, review, keep changing what you do, and do more of what’s working. These days, the rule books are just guides, and professional judgement plus experimentation is going to give you the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.