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OUTSIDE THE BOX Forum: 12 Requirements of an Effective Hybrid Project Manager: Is this the Next Generation? Part 1

Complex Projects have been recognized as a major part of the project landscape…

  for the past two decades and have given rise to several agile project management models since the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001.

In 2017 Mark Mulally published the results of a survey (Mark Mulally, All is not the same in the World of Project Management,, 3/27/17). He reported that less than 2% of the organizations he surveyed operated at CMMI Level 3 Maturity or greater.

If his conclusion came as a surprise to you, you probably wondered what the other 98% of the organizations were doing? They probably are using approaches that range from some informal “Do It Yourself” model to a carefully crafted and monitored adaptation of a commercial model defined by their organization and to be used on all projects. I know I did and I would like to share an answer with you. I am labelling my answer “Hybrid Project Management.” In my opinion Hybrid Project Management is not new to the practice but it is new to the body of knowledge.


The project landscape is shown in Figure 1. The complex project quadrants are the primary focus of this article.

wysocky 012918aFigure 1: The Complex Project Landscape

The Hybrid PMLC Model applies primarily to the projects that fall in the complex project quadrants. Testimonial worldwide data suggests that over 80 % of all projects fall in the 3 quadrants that define the complex project landscape. Many complex projects do not fit existing PMLC Models. The project managers know this and attempt to adapt or design project management approaches that do fit the specific situations and conditions of the project. Adaptations do not work very well and a complete design effort should be undertaken. These customized approaches are the Hybrid PMLC Models. You won’t find them in the literature because they are unique to the needs of a specific project and often include organizational business processes. Few will be documented and if they are they are probably proprietary.



DEFINITION: Hybrid Project Management
Hybrid Project Management is a project management approach for a specific project based on:

  • the physical and behavioral characteristics of the project
  • the organizational culture and environment of the project
  • the dynamic conditions of the supply and demand markets

that are used to custom design a project management approach specific to the needs of the project using an organization’s vetted portfolio of tools, templates and processes.


This is intentionally phrased to be a robust statement of what constitutes Hybrid Project Management. It is not a model. Rather it is a framework that is used to design a model that aligns to the characteristics and environment of a specific project.

A Robust Hybrid PMLC Model

Figure 2 is a robust and high level depiction of the Hybrid Project Management Life Cycle (PMLC) Framework. These three phases apply regardless of the model or approach you might envision for managing your project. This framework is more useful than Agile or Extreme Models in those situations where very little is known about the solution or the specifics of the goal. The framework will lead you through the uncharted waters of any unique project. There will be many situations where the commercially available models or those in use in your organization do not fit the project situation for any number of reasons. The Hybrid PMLC Framework has been designed for just those situations. Keep in mind that solution discovery is still the focus of these Hybrid Models. Each iteration in a Hybrid Model must address not only task completion for newly defined functions and features, but also further solution definition through function and feature discovery.

wysocky 012918bFigure 2: A Robust Hybrid Project Management Model

Ideation Phase

The Ideation Phase of the Hybrid PMLC Model is a high-level activity because not much is known about the solution. For the Hybrid PMLC Model, the Ideation activities merely set the boundaries and the high-level parameters that will be the foundation on which you proceed to learn and discover. The Ideation Phase answers the following questions:

  1. What business situation is being addressed by this project?
  2. What does the business need to do?
  3. What are you proposing to do?
  4. How will you do it?
  5. How will you know you did it?

Set-up Phase

At this point in the Hybrid PMLC Model, planning is done in general for the entire project and in detail for the first or next iteration. That planning is based on:

  • any changes to the project or its performance
  • the current environment in which the project is being conducted
  • competitor changes, emerging technologies, new products/services, shifts in demand

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High-level planning might be part of the Ideation Phase. Based on the known functionality and features that will be built in the coming cycle, a detailed plan is developed. This plan utilizes all of the vetted tools, templates, and processes defined by the organization.

Execution Phase

The Execution Phase will often include establishing team operating rules, the decision-making process, conflict management, team meetings, and a problem-solving approach.

During project execution there will be some oversight monitoring and controlling functions pertaining to the current iteration. A cumulative history of project performance metrics should also be maintained. These metrics should inform the project team about the rate at which convergence to an acceptable solution is occurring. Frequency of changes, severity of change, and similar metrics can help. As part of that control function, the team collects whatever learning and discovery took place and records it. All change requests go are also retained for later processing.

At the close of the project lessons learned, validation of success criteria, installation of deliverables and a post-project audit will occur.


For the purposes of this chapter there are two types of hybrid project managers:

  • Occasional Project Managers (OPM)
  • Career Project Managers (CPM)

The Occasional Project Manager

The first type of project manager is the Occasional Project Manager (OPM), sometimes referred to as the incidental or accidental PM. For the OPM, project management is a tool in their toolkit. Their primary avocation is to a functional business area or line of business. They are seldom members of PMI or any other project management professional society. They have no interest in having the PMP designation added to their name.

The typical OPM will have limited capacity to create a unique management approach and may only be able to adapt existing models. If they choose to use or adapt an existing PMLC Model they will be using a model developed by others and endorsed by their organization. If they cannot follow the recipe for any reason, they may not be able to do their job or be forced to fit their project into the existing project management process that may place it in harm’s way.

The Career Project Manager

The second type of project manager is the Career Project Manager (CPM). They are usually members of a professional society like Project Management Institute and have earned professional certification like the PMP. Project management is their avocation. They are always interested in improving the processes they use and their practice of those processes. Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written about their challenges and adventures. This is the type of project manager that practices Hybrid Project Management based on defined processes and practices.

A CPM is not limited to pre-existing project management recipes, even ones they may have created themselves from a previous project. When faced with project anomalies that don’t fit existing models, they either adapt an existing model or create a new one to align with the characteristics of the project. The CPM does not rely on any specific approach but generally follow their own preferences.

What Does a Hybrid Project Manager Want?

A HPM wants to use a “path unencumbered by fixed processes” and under their complete control. They avoid non-value-added work and by nature are “lean practitioners”” whether they know it or not. However, without some structured guidance their “lean practices” might unknowingly put them and their business unit in harm’s way. Their project management processes are not fixed but are adapted by them to the nature of the project at hand. Convention and established practices are of little importance. What is important is to complete their project to the satisfaction of the project sponsor, usually management. Ideally their project management environment is characterized by the following 12 general parameters:

  • A Portfolio of Intuitive Tools, Templates and Processes
  • Minimal Documentation and Reporting
  • Minimal Non-value Added Work and Waste Avoidance
  • A Lean Systems Perspective
  • Flexibility and Adaptability of Tools, Templates and Processes to Meet Project Needs
  • A Working Knowledge of Traditional, Agile and Extreme Project Management Processes
  • Available Coaches, Consultants and Mentors as Required and When Requested
  • A Supportive PSO not a Compliance Monitoring PMO
  • Meaningful Stakeholder Involvement
  • A Collaborative Engagement with Subject Matter Experts
  • A Partnership with the Business Analyst
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategies

These 12 parameters will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.

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