A word ‘hybrid’ refers to something made by combining two different elements. Ideally, that new product should have the best of both elements. If we copy that to a word Hybrid Project Management, you’d probably expect that it combines two or more different methodologies. And you’d be right. Theoretically, there is no limit as to which methodologies you can combine, but usually, the two most common ones are Agile and Waterfall.
We’ll see shortly why these two and we’ll also look into why hybrid project management is important, how to implement it and what the role of a hybrid project manager is.
First things first.
Why is hybrid project management important?
As we’ve already mentioned, hybrid project management takes the best of the worlds of Agile and Waterfall methodologies. It uses two great characteristics of Agile, flexibility and adaptability, and combines them with more rigid and traditional Waterfall methodology.
It might sound more simple to just use one of the two methodologies. It might, but as already said, this way you can get the best of different approaches. Moreover, project managers can maximally use the strengths of the methodologies and at the same time navigate around their weaknesses. In other words,hybrid project management blends two methodologies to eliminate their weaknesses.
Let me give you an example: if you combine these two methodologies, you would use the Waterfall methodology and WBS(work breakdown structure ) for planning, but you would execute projects using Agile. This way you combined a detailed planning of Waterfall methodology with the flexibility of Agile. If you apply Agile to not so certain aspects and Waterfall to fix deliverables, it means you will have a flexible project better tailored for success. And this, my friends, is the core benefit of hybrid project management.
Hybrid project management methods are very popular. According to the 2019 PMI’s study, an impressive 60% of Agile companies use hybrid project management all or most of the time.
Hybrid project management works for every type of project and team. Blending Agile and Waterfall for example, makes your team more efficient and the result is better than if you just use one or the other. No matter what kinds of teams we talk about, they all search for ways to better their results with limited resources and time. The ultimate goal is to use the benefits of both methodologies without their weaknesses.
In this article we would cover the most common blending, the one between Agile and Waterfall. Still, we’d like to give you a few useful tips on how to successfully blend different methodologies regardless of which ones you choose:
- Choose (only) two methodologies
Don’t overcomplicate things by mixing more than two methodologies. Try choosing two that might be the most helpful for your project. You ‘ll have plenty of time to figure out how to combine them later on. For now, just choose two.
- Determine pros and cons of each methodology
The main questions to ask here are what you like about these methodologies and what you don’t. Perhaps you like Agile because of its quick adaptation and flexibility but you don’t like that you can plan only short sprints. On the other hand, perhaps you like Waterfall for being so detail- oriented but dislike its restrictions and rigidity. Knowing all the pros and cons relevant to your project will enable you to be fully aware of strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies in question.
- How will you implement these methodologies?
So, the selection process is done, you know what each methodology has to offer. But how do you implement them? You can cherry pick elements of each and use them during the project. You can also apply them as a whole during different stages of a project. It is important that you and your team make a well informed decision and that you are all involved in the process. This way you eliminate a lot of confusion and uncertainty. We’ll provide more insight into this in a few lines.
- Don’t stop evaluation and adjusting
Nothing is set in stone and things do change, circumstances change. Even if you had a master plan, it doesn’t mean it will work out completely the way you initially wanted. Or it might, but with many bumps on the road. That’s why you need to realize when the time is right to change something, adapt, evaluate and adjust. When you finish the project, discuss with your team what went well in your hybrid approach and what you could change the next time. Make sure to implement the newly found information in future projects.
Hybrid project management encourages you to combine methodologies to create something that would work even better for your specific project.
How to implement hybrid project management?
Blending should happen in the beginning of a project. Same as with any other project management methodology, a team sits down and analyzes a project’s life cycle and complexity. What makes it different compared to a single methodology is that with a hybrid methodology there is always space left for some flexibility. For example, in Waterfall, a process follows another process, like a cascade. However , in hybrid methodology there could be overlapping. It isn’t necessary to wait for one task to end in order to start with a new one.
These phases are then divided into sprints. After each sprint, a team checks the outcome and sees if there are changes to be made. If yes, then the next sprint gets readjusted. This is a very good way for the team to understand the goals of each phase and make any necessary adjustments at the end of each sprint.
We’ve already mentioned that one of the benefits of using hybrid project management is time and money efficiency. The hybrid sprints usually last between 4-6 weeks. That means that every 4-6 weeks adjustments and adaptations can be made if necessary. What’s more, it means taking action before too much time and resources have been spent.
What we’ve already said, but is worth repeating, is that although hybrid project management can be used for any type of industry, there are still situations where it might be better to use just one methodology. For example, very small projects would benefit more from agile than hybrid project management.
On the other hand, a hybrid methodology is great for companies that want to make the transition to agile. Using hybrid project management enables them a smooth shift and not so much of a cultural shock, so to say.
There are many ways to implement hybrid project management. Most importantly you need to match the solutions to the requirements of a project. In order to do so, you will probably have to provide answers to some questions:
- What type of a project it is ( what type of deliverables?)
- Is the final outcome clear and how much is it clear?
- What are your experience and skillset?
- What about risk control mechanisms, etc.
Once you think you could answer these and similar questions, you can match them up with a hybrid methodology you created.
Before we move on to the role of a hybrid project manager, let’s just quickly recap what we said so far.
Traditional and Agile can be combined within an individual project or even used concurrently in different business units. Depending on the size and a type of projects, only Agile or only traditional methodologies could be the solution. That’s why you need to work out what might be the most suitable approach for your project. Some organizations might have been using only one strategy for a long time. The best strategy is to introduce hybrid project management gradually so the team can get used to it. Nothing is set in stone and depending on a project your hybrid approach might vary. You can’t make it universal and then just copy-paste it to the new projects. Your solutions need to be tailored to a project’s specific need(s).
Last but not least in this chapter is the hybrid project manager manifesto which defines the hybrid management principles we have already mentioned. It is something of a guideline or a practical checklist, as you can see in the image below.
By now you should get a clear(er) picture of the hybrid project management. Let’s move to another important aspect and that is a role of a hybrid project manager.
A hybrid project manager
A number of Agile methodologies don’t have a role of Project Manager. The duties or responsibilities of this role are shared out. However, there is definitely a role of a project manager in hybrid methodology.
Since hybrid methodology is independent of management structure, there is no need for a formal PMO ( project management office). It would only lead to possible delays and additional expenses.
The project manager has a role of a Product Manager, whereas the sprints are run by the Scrum Master. They share direct responsibility for different segments of the project but the PM has an overall project responsibility. In addition, the PM is also considered the business owner of the project. The PM primarily focuses on the front end project flow( customer feedback. Components definitions and WBS), whereas the Scrum Master is responsible for the backend of a project flow ( backlog, sprints and releases). The PM gathers the team of Scrum Masters and other staff ( if needed). The Scrum Masters then form their own teams based on the requirements and delivery deadline. It goes without saying that teams need to constantly exchange feedback and collaborate together.
We could safely say that some of the functions of the PM might include:
- Coordinating multiple agile components
- Monitoring the whole process
- Establishing the project
- Its definition
- Contracts, etc
- Project communication and stakeholders’ engagement
- Project completion
As you can see, the role of a hybrid PM is quite versatile and broad. Thus, it is so crucial for PMs to think of ways to improve their skills and advance. If you want to be a successful hybrid project manager, you really need to have balanced knowledge. Don’t get too cocky thinking that if you are an expert in Agile it makes you an expert in traditional methodologies and vice versa. Don’t underestimate any of the methodologies. Knowledge is power, but without experience, sadly, it isn’t worth it. Make sure to know the difference between the methodologies you want to blend, and even more significantly, how to use each to best fit to your project’s needs. And of course, practice. Practice makes it perfect. It won’t hurt to pay attention to some problematic areas:
- Communication with stakeholders who might find it difficult to adjust to a new, more collaborative approach. You need to be a bit of a wizard to deal with their expectations.
- Reports- stakeholders and sponsors expect regular reporting so they could monitor the progress.In agile it is harder to see the achievements at the end of iterations.
- Team management-this one is quite self-explanatory. You can’t have a successful project with poor team management. It is really the key ingredient.
To sum up, people skills, communication and reporting need to be mastered and thought through so you can fully realize the benefits. If you are a PM, it is highly unlikely that you wouldn’t encounter a hybrid project management at least once in your business life. Until that moment invest in yourself, your knowledge and a skillset. You’ll be much more successful if you do. I just can’t help but share one of my favourite quotes: “ Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.”
Perhaps you are a bit surprised that we’ve come to the end of this article and you haven’t read anything about possible cons of hybrid project management. Well, technically, there are none. This doesn’t mean it is flawless, but it is amazing because it offers the best agile-waterfall ratio to suit your needs.
Hybrid project management is all about compromise.
If you come from a more traditional PM environment, you’ll have to give up a level of certainty, but you will get agile’s flexibility. The same is the other way around; somebody with an agile background would frown upon the limitations of Waterfall, but it would come with benefits from Waterfall’s schedule planning and budget.
Communication is a must in hybrid methodology since it requires joint work of PMs and Scrum Masters.
Keep learning and adjusting/ adapting. After you’ve done a few hybrid projects, you will realise potential weaknesses and areas of improvement even more. Don’t just copy-paste one and the same hybrid approach-you need to tweak it for every new project.
Don’t forget that stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is never pleasant, but it is almost always for the better.
Happy blending everybody!
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