This is the fourth installment of our series exploring new and relevant terms in project management. Project management terms are changing. Keep on top of the changing trends with our deep dives into these methods and practices, and you can find them all in our Intro to Project Management category.
Hybrid Methodology [hīˌbrid meTHəˈdäləjē]
The term hybrid methodology isn’t as opaque as some new ideas that have sprouted up recently in the field of project management. The simple definition is that it’s a combination of two different methodologies or systems to create a new and better model.
Project management is rife with methodologies, from Waterfall to Agile to PRINCE2 to PMBOK to Lean, and the list goes on. They speak to the managerial interests of the profession, which is always looking for better and more efficient ways to carry a project to completion. New methodologies are constantly being developed to challenge the traditional models, and hybrid methodologies note that there can be synergy in combining aspects of new and traditional work methods.
Hybrid methodologies accept the fluidity of projects and allow for a more nimble and nuanced approach to the work. They can be applied to the full job or specific aspects of the project. But the bottom line is that the more ways you have to approach a problem the better chance you have of it being resolved.
Waterfall Project Management
There are many ways to think of how to employ a methodology and many points along a project at which to choose different methods to get different kind of work done. There are also different kinds of project methods in use depending upon your country of origin. In the U.K., the majority of project professionals adhere to a PRINCE2 methodology, an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, which addresses the larger questions of cost, time, resources, etc. Whereas in the U.S., a number of certified project managers follow the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK Guide for formal project management practice. It’s a book that collects the processes used in classic project management, with fundamental practices needed to achieve organizational results.
On a more tactical level, in both of those methodologies, the projects tend to adhere to the Waterfall method of planning project schedules according to a fixed, cascading plan. It is a classic model, one in which the executives and stakeholders on the project will want to see fixed costs and schedules, typically used for large infrastructure projects such as bridges, tunnels, construction and manufacturing.
Even with traditional, “macro” project management practices, professor, author and consultant Mario Henrique Trentim notes there is value in a hybrid approach, what he terms a “micro-management” view that can boost results. He suggests merging methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban, which break down a schedule of activities from the management view into smaller tasks that can be visualized to augment different views for team members.
“It’s very important to be ‘fluent’ in more than one project management ‘language,’” Trentim wrote. “The more you learn, the better equipped you are to tame wild projects that cross our desks every day.” Hybrid methodologies are tools that you can use to address aspects of your projects. The more you know, the bigger the toolkit and the more options you have to tackle the job.
Agile Hybrid Methodology
Agile is the poster child for hybrid mythology in that it was developed for a highly flexible environment with an openness to change and non-hierarchical forms of leadership. Agile is a big tent that holds a lot of methodologies, such as Scrum, Kanban and Lean. In fact, Agile is so strongly supported that there was an Agile Manifesto released on February 2001, composed by 17 software developers.
The Agile Manifesto is built on four basic values:
- Communications with parties is more important than standard procedures and tools.
- Focus on delivering a working application and less focus on providing thorough documentation.
- Collaborate more with clients.
- Be open to change instead of freezing the scope of the work.
There’s even a nonprofit called Agile Alliance that serves to promotes software development using Agile principles, yet some have charged that the Agile approach is the opposite of a methodology. “The Agile movement is not anti-methodology,” said Jim Highsmith, software engineer, “in fact many of us want to restore credibility to the word methodology. We want to restore a balance. We embrace modeling, but not in order to file some diagram in a dusty corporate repository. We embrace documentation, but not hundreds of pages of never-maintained and rarely-used tomes. We plan, but recognize the limits of planning in a turbulent environment. Those who would brand proponents of XP or Scrum or any of the other Agile Methodologies as ‘hackers’ are ignorant of both the methodologies and the original definition of the term hacker.”
Today, Agile has become so popularized and hybridized that you often hear people referring to Agile with a capital “A” and agile with a lower case “a,” the latter being a looser term some companies or teams use to refer to their more collaborative, less structured approach to their projects. Agile is used across disciplines, in fact, from IT to marketing, capital A to lower case a, and is frequently used in conjunction with other more structured approaches according to different phases of a project.
Indeed some would argue that it’s the fast-paced changing nature of technology itself that is making strict adherence to any methodology hard for companies and organizations to follow, and indeed flexibility and hybrid ways of working are more likely the way of the future.
Hybrid is the Future… and It’s Already Here
Whether you like hybrid methodologies or not, they’re here to stay. Project management isn’t a static industry, and those who aren’t willing to stay abreast of new developments in the profession take the risk of being left behind. Even if you’re unconvinced that hybrid methodologies give you the flexibility to pivot in a project and use the best methods for a specific aspect of the job, you don’t want to alienate yourself from the project management community as they en masse start applying these hybrid methodologies.
According to the ESI International 2015 Top 10 Project Management Trends research, “New, innovative business models and technologies will force project managers to adapt. With many industries undergoing rapid changes, project management methods that allow for accelerated development and rapid learning will become critical to serving the business.” The report went on to cite examples in such traditional sectors as finance and healthcare, which employed new methodologies to keep up with changing customer expectations.
As industry looks to adapt, “existing project management methods will become strained,” the report says. “Increased uncertainty and velocity will directly impact front-end processes and risk management practices, requiring many project organizations to make adjustments. Agile will continue to grow in importance and even more project communities will struggle with hybrid project teams.”
With hybrid methodologies the forefront of project management’s push into the future, it’s an exciting time to be leading a project.
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