Hybrid project management combines different approaches

Many project managers like to use hybrid project management because it allows them to choose the best techniques from two different approaches - classic and agile project management. On Vogel.de, Monika Zwettler has dealt with the topic of hybrid project management. She titled her article "the best of two worlds" - and in doing so, she already points precisely to the great advantage of hybrid project management. She is convinced that both approaches have their weaknesses and strengths, even if it often looks in the professional world as if a kind of religious war has broken out. Monika Zwettler takes an unusually conciliatory and very pragmatic position in this discussion. In the following, we summarize her article for you.
Several hands hold a calculator, a pencil and point to printed graphs and tables

Risk of failure

Whether a company is more inclined towards classic project management or agile methods is primarily related to the corporate culture. Hierarchies and power relations play a role here, as does the industry in which the company operates. Whether a company is successful has only a limited connection with the choice of method for project management, because it is generally the case that about half of all projects are not brought to completion and fail. Agile projects can fail just as much as projects carried out using the traditional waterfall method. Monika Zwettler cites a study by the research company Forrester, which states that about half of all change projects fail because of the organizational collision of their methods.

Waterfall method and V model

Once again for a brief recap: the waterfall model and also the V-model, which is based on the waterfall model, consist of essential phases that follow one another. These phases are analysis, design, implementation, test and operation. In the first phase, requirement specifications are created and the requirements are defined. Usually, large task packages are broken down into smaller parts. In the Design phase, a solution is developed. Here it concerns the architecture (in the software development) and the system design. The implementation phase is completed with a software product, which is tested in the test phase. Usually the developers also carry out the tests. The tested product, the beta version, is given to previously determined end users, who use the product and check whether it meets the requirements set at the beginning. Only then comes the release and with it the final phase, operation. Originally, this method was intended to minimize risks in the schedule and in the use of resources. Projects, where in all likelihood the requirements will not change, can often be handled very well with this method. The method is perfect for a project that is to run exactly according to the scheme of an already completed project. Advantages of this method are that laws and regulations can be complied with perfectly, if this is necessary in the projects. Another advantage is that the documentation of the phases can be comprehensive. This can be important for projects in the medical field.

Agile methods

Agile methods have specifically emerged in software development and are also very popular, because especially in this area the waterfall method is often simply not flexible enough. It harbors many risks, especially in software development. This also applies to change projects. With the increasing complexity of projects, agile methods are becoming more and more attractive. In software development, the Scrum model is therefore now the order of the day. In Scrum, the project is not planned through from start to finish. There are no requirement specifications, but a vision. Work is incremental and iterative, i.e. in small steps that follow one another - with as many repeat loops as necessary. The core elements in Scrum are the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog and the Product Increment. Customers and their wishes are always at the center of events and are permanently integrated into the development process. Scrum projects are designed to be particularly transparent and are carried out according to specific specifications. Nevertheless, Scrum is of course no guarantee for success. Monika Zwettler identifies the moment when the developers have to assess and implement the requirements and wishes of the users as a major weak point. Often the developers are too optimistic and then the projects take longer than planned. This makes it difficult to plan and allocate resources.

What leads to success

Monika Zwettler is convinced that the key to success lies in the homogeneity and maturity of the teams. This in particular is often underestimated in companies that are transitioning from traditional to agile management. So how can you combine the best of both worlds? Trying out Scrum while leaving the old structures unchanged is often problematic and risky. Nevertheless, the transition phase must also be mastered. Monika Zwettler sees clear communication as the only way to manage the parallel worlds. It must be clear at all times which projects are being carried out according to which method. However, it is also important that all employees are at least roughly familiar with the various methods. Change projects may become necessary, or innovation or acceptance projects.

What happens next?

New employees must be clear about what they are getting into. If you hire someone as an agile manager and then present him or her with largely traditional projects, he or she will not be enthusiastic and will not perform at full capacity. Ideally, senior management gets an overview of the methods and the resources, and then decides which methods and which rules to use for each project, with input from stakeholders. Bogus agility is just as damaging to productivity as an open battle between opponents and proponents of each method. Try to create understanding that different approaches have their justification and celebrate successes together.

Hybrid management

Monika Zwettler advocates creating an ideal environment for all project participants through hybrid project management. Try to assemble a team that agrees to work undogmatically according to different methods. Work your way from the rough to the fine and precede each project with an analysis phase in which the perfect methods are to be worked out and defined. These may be agile or traditional. It is possible to run a project agile from a certain point or to run the individual phases of the waterfall as sprints. Let your imagination and especially that of your team run wild and develop the perfect hybrid structure for each project in this way.
Author: IAPM internal 

Key words: Project management, Hybrid project management, Methods

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