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Time to Adapt to Agile: Explore the Results from Our New Research on Feb. 20

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

Since there has been so much talk about Agile over the last few years, I have been trying to better understand how it “fits” into project management. PMI has helped by emphasizing different approaches to project management and nudging organizations to consider new approaches to planning, tracking, risk, and change in an agile world.

Of course, most project management practitioners are familiar with the traditional approach (also referred to as predictive or waterfall).  This approach is where requirements are identified in as much detail as possible upfront.  The project deliverables are defined at the beginning of the project. Control is key and change is constrained.  This approach  is good for building-type projects where there are well-understood procedures and low levels of execution uncertainty and risks. 

Then we have an opposite approach, the “adaptive” where requirements are elaborated frequently or at periodic intervals based on short, iterative planning and executing cycles.  Deliverables are subsets of the result and occur frequently.  Change is embraced and key stakeholders are regularly involved.  This more Adaptive Approach is for software development type projects that may have a high rate of change, complexity, and risk. It can be a pure Agile approach ... or some version of it that is customized to the organizational environment.

The final approach is a Hybrid approach, where adaptive and traditional are mixed, depending on the project.  In these types of projects those elements that are well known or have fixed requirements follow a “predictive” (traditional) life cycle.  Remaining elements of the project that may be still evolving follow an adaptive development life cycle.  Our research has shown that this Hybrid approach works better than predictive or adaptive approaches alone.

However, although 84% of the respondents in The Adaptive Organization study reported using adaptive or hybrid approaches, they are making this shift cautiously with only half (55%) of their projects using these methods.  Organizations are more confident using the predictive (traditional) approach to project management because you tend to trust what you know.  But they are cautiously combining the traditional with the adaptive making the “hybrid” the approach of the future!

If this is the trend you are also seeing, you need to train up for it!  The research showed that the capability of today’s project manager to use the hybrid approach is lacking.  Almost half of the organizations in our research use contracted resources to manage projects that use adaptive/hybrid approaches.  The answer…start training and preparing your project managers and team members to use these new approaches.  The more successful organizations are training in fundamentals, methods, skills, and agile PM.  Where is your organization headed?  Are you keeping up and seeing the results you want?  Or do you need to consider taking the leap and committing to a more hybrid approach to PM? 

Tune in to our webinar on Feb. 20 and find out more about how organizations are "adapting to agile"! Here's the link.

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