Share this page:

Adaptive? Count Us In

Posted by Ruth Elswick

One of the most frequent questions we get these days, since the release of PMI’s PMBOK® Guide, Sixth Edition, concerns the perplexity a lot of practitioners are experiencing around what the changes to the standard really mean for their daily practice of the project management discipline.

My view is that the changes are mostly designed to encourage a more adaptive mindset. For those of us in the field for many years, this emphasis on iterative approaches may be an adjustment; for those just entering the field, it will simply become an integral part of project management … and that’s as it should be. As business becomes more nimble, those of us who perform the projects that are an engine of strategy have to be nimble, as well.

PM College is now updating our course materials to reflect the themes expressed in the PMBOK® Guide. Here’s my overview of what that means.

What’s New

While the previous versions of the standard primarily emphasized Predictive approaches where time, scope, and cost are determined in the early phases of the project life cycles, the Sixth Edition primarily uses an Adaptive approach. “Adaptive” includes Iterative and incremental, and at its extreme, a pure Agile approach. In the Adaptive approach, for example, Scope is determined early, but time and cost estimates are routinely modified.

A Few Comparisons of Agile, Adaptive, and Predictive

How we view planning:

  • Agile – plans change continuously throughout the project
  • Adaptive – uses regular, frequent reviews and makes changes based on the reviews
  • Predictive – well planned at the start of the project.

How we deal with changes:

  • Agile – Incorporated throughout the project
  • Adaptive – Incorporated at regular intervals
  • Predictive – Relies on a strong change control process

How we deal with risk and cost:

  • Agile – Controlled as needed as requirements and constraints emerge
  • Adaptive – Controlled/ reviewed throughout the project as scope is broadened
  • Predictive – Risk and cost are determined during planning

The Project Manager/ Project Team

In promoting an adaptive approach to project management, PMI is also expanding its focus on stakeholder involvement. It is impossible to pursue more nimble approaches to projects without close and constant communication with stakeholders. This approach also lends itself much more readily to the virtual project environment in which we increasingly all find ourselves.

Will there be times … industries … companies where a strong project manager, tightly controlled plans, and face-to-face teams are the best approach? Absolutely, and none of those attributes of the discipline are going away.

In my next blog in the series, I’ll talk a little more about how the new standard expands its focus on the environment in which projects operate, and the role of the project manager.

No comments yet. Be the first one!

Leave a Comment

search blog:


Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Most Recent Posts


Blog Authors

view all authors


Blog Archives