Have you heard of hybrid project management? It sounds like it'd be complex and confusing, but we promise it’s not. In fact, it can help you and your team get projects across the finish line even more efficiently and effectively.
Do we have your attention? We thought so. Let’s break down everything you need to know about hybrid project management.
An introduction to hybrid project management methodologies
The term “hybrid” is key to understanding this concept. As Merriam-Webster explains, hybrid means “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements.”
Here’s the next question you’re bound to have: What different methodologies can be combined? There is no shortage of options. Some popular PM methods include:
- Waterfall project management
- Critical path method (CPM)
- Agile project management
- Six Sigma
- Outcome mapping
In theory, hybrid project management means you could take any formal methodology and combine it with another.
This takes the flexibility and adaptability of Agile and combines it with the more traditional and rigid approach of Waterfall project management (where tasks are listed in sequential order — much like a waterfall).
What are the benefits of hybrid project management?
Why bother smooshing two different methodologies together? Wouldn’t it be easier just to use one?
In some ways, yes. However, the benefit of blended project management is that it allows you to get the best of various methodologies. This enables project managers to leverage the strength of their chosen approaches, while also navigating around their weaknesses or potential pitfalls.
In the traditional sense of hybrid project management (meaning, combining Agile with Waterfall project management), projects are planned using the Waterfall approach and a work breakdown structure (WBS). This gives teams a sense of the tasks involved and the overall scope of the project.
However, projects are executed using an Agile method, which leaves enough wiggle room to handle changes and reevaluate after short sprints.
Additionally, hybrid project management is a great way to dip your toe into new approaches. While more and more teams have adapted Agile methodologies (an impressive 71% of organizations have done so), it’s not always intuitive. This hybrid approach is a great way for them to boost their comfort level because it’s not such a drastic shift.
What are the challenges of hybrid project management?
While hybrid project management allows you to use the best parts of your chosen project management methodologies, this isn't without its challenges. Planning a project under two separate methodologies can be tricky, as both approaches may have differing timelines — you'll need to do more in-depth planning to ensure all your bases are covered.
Getting buy-in from stakeholders is also crucial when implementing a new project management methodology. Your project sponsor may be unfamiliar with your hybrid methodology and require additional support to communicate status updates to other stakeholders.
Communication gets more complex when using two different project management methodologies. As the PM, you'll need to have a fundamental knowledge of your chosen approaches and be prepared for increased variety and frequency of communications with stakeholders.
How do you blend project management methodologies?
There really aren’t any cut-and-dried rules for blending project management methodologies. You and your team have creative license to figure out what works best for you.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few quick tips to set you off on the right path.
1. Choose two methodologies
To avoid biting off more than you can chew, choose only two project management methodologies to start with.
This will probably be easier than you assume. As you were reviewing the available methodologies, you probably identified a couple that made you think, “Hey, that sounds like it could be helpful for our project…” This means you already have a good sense of which ones are a good fit.
Don’t worry about how you’ll mix them together right now. This isn’t the time to ask yourself things like, “What Agile methodology combines with this?” You’re simply selecting two methodologies.
2. Identify what you like and don’t like about them
This is the part where you get to take a magnifying glass to each of the methodologies you selected. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them?
Let’s stick with the traditional hybrid project management example of combining Agile with Waterfall.
Perhaps you like that Agile provides regular opportunities to reevaluate and adjust, but you don’t like that only planning short sprints means you don’t grasp the entire project. Maybe you like the level of detail involved with a Waterfall approach, but you worry about it being too rigid and restrictive.
This is important information to have as you move into the next step because it will help you understand how to leverage the strengths of each methodology.
3. Discuss how you’ll use each
You’ve selected each of your methodologies and you know what they each bring to the table. Now what? It’s time to figure out how you’ll implement them.
For example, will you just cherry-pick elements of each to be used throughout the project? Or will you apply them during different stages of the project — like Waterfall during planning and Agile during execution?
Involve your team in this discussion and map out a plan for how you’ll use each methodology. This will help you eliminate confusion and ensure everybody is on the same page.
4. Regularly reevaluate and adjust
Change is hard, and even with a plan in place, you aren’t going to be perfect at this right out of the gate.
Be ready to adjust when you realize things aren’t working or could be running smoother. At the end of the project, make sure you host a retrospective with your team to discuss what went well with your hybrid approach and what you’d do differently next time.
Once you have that information, make sure you actually implement it for future projects. Knowledge is nothing without action.
Better together: Use hybrid project management to get the best of both worlds
There are plenty of great project management methodologies out there. If you catch yourself thinking, “This methodology would be perfect if only…” don’t assume you have to take each approach as is.
Hybrid project management empowers you to combine methodologies to create something that works even better for your specific project.
With that custom approach on your side, you and your team can do more of what matters: delivering top-notch projects.
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