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Hybrid Project Management – What is it and when do we use it?



Having done most of my project management in an environment, that was not very much aware of what project management is and what the standards are, I quickly found myself in situations where I had to stretch standards of traditional project management to fit the environmental situation and requirements. I had no idea I was actually using some agile techniques to achieve the tailoring I needed and I was in fact practicing hybrid project management.

There are 2 typical situations where we as project managers find ourselves often challenged to significantly adjust our processes and standards.

1. When the environment is not very aware of project management standards and the corporate set-up is not conducive.

Often these situations include situations, where the project manager is actually appointed very late in the project. In my environment it is quite normal that the PM has no direct influence whatsoever on the Sales Process. Then once the project is kicked off, all the baselines are set, often based on uninformed sales decisions and the PM is expected to perform miracles.

2. When situations change to fast for traditional project management to be effective in all areas.

In our day and age, the environment changes extremely fast and often our ongoing projects need to be adjusted quickly.

Based on my experience I believe firmly that most of us will be practicing hybrid project management in the near future, if we are not already do so. Neither traditional nor agile or any of the other iterative methods will completely fit the needs of a project end-to-end. We will find ourselves having to adapt and completely tailor our approach in different areas to the specific needs.

Just like no artist can reach the height of their performance and creativity without having understood the basic foundation stones of his craft, be it musical scales, be it the color wheel or be it the basics of different materials used, no project manager will be able to perform at their best without a solid foundation of knowledge. In this day and age even just having a solid foundation in traditional project management is no longer enough. We need to understand the fundamentals of agile, waterfall, scrum and so on. We need to keep learning the newest developments in the project management approaches and learn from experiences of others.

I remember when people first started talking about agile, many in my environment, seemed to think that this will save them from having to prepare meticulous project plans. They thought you just go along with the flow and voilá they manage the project miraculously. However very soon they started understanding that agile approaches actually require daily re-planning or iteration of plans. With that they quickly understood that agile plays by it’s own rules and you need to update your skills and learn the foundation of agile first. Similarly

What is Hybrid Project Management?

Here is a definition I found in a blog on https://www.theprojectgroup.com

“Hybrid project management” refers to methods combining approaches from the traditional PM environment and the agile world.

I think this summarizes well what hybrid project management is for me. I don’t think we can expect a fixed rule book on hybrid project management any time soon, since that would beat the purpose. It will take a lot of experience and learning to develop the fine skill needed to balance when what approach is the right one. Tailoring is the one skill we all need to develop.

The hybrid approach seeks to reap the best from the traditional WBS and the agile world.

How do we use it?

I started using hybrid approaches out of necessity, because in the situation I was in. I would never get full disclosure of certain project details – often cost related – from Senior Management. Neither did I have any influence on the procurement process. However I was fully aware that this was more of a stop gap measure, hence I kept working on the Senior Management’s mind with my reports and lesson’s learned, until they slowly started giving more information and allowed some influence on subcontracting. Hence a more traditional approach internally became possible