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Tuesday, 02 May 2017 08:30

OUTSIDE THE BOX Forum: On Changing Horses in Midstream

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We started out using Scrum but as we learned more about the solution we have had to adapt Scrum to the realities of the project and its environment.

After so many changes our project management model is held together by bubble gum and hairpins. It is very inefficient and ineffective as well. We are right in the middle of the project, and the solution is now known. All that is left is to build and deploy the solution.

I contend that there are situations in Complex Project Management where changing PMLC Models during project execution will be a good business decision. So for the above example, should we abandon Scrum in favor of a more traditional model? What factors should we consider in making that decision?

The Situation

The Complex Project Landscape is one where either the Solution or the Goal are not clearly defined or understood at the outset of the project. Through iteration, the deliverables converge on the final Goal and/or Solution. Then there is the acceptance of the deliverables, and that is measured by delivered business value compared to planned business value. Obviously, these are high-risk projects. It is what happens during the execution of these projects that is my interest here. First of all learning and discovery will have taken place and perhaps after some number of iterations the Goal is known (you chose an Extreme Model because the Goal was not clearly defined at the outset) or the Solution is known (you chose and Agile Model because the Solution was not clearly defined at the outset of the project). Your team is not experienced in the Model you chose originally and would be much more effective if they could switch to a more Traditional Model.

The Factors

Such a change may sound simple but let's consider some of the factors that we will have to deal with if we decide to change PMLC Models.


There are three costs to consider:

Cost of abandonment - This will include documenting the current status of the project if a new team will be brought on board. Any contracts that may not be carried forward and will have to be closed will also be added to the cost. If any deliverables produced so far will not be part of the final solution, there are sunk costs to be added.

Cost of creating the new plan - These are labor costs and facility costs that would not be otherwise incurred. In some cases, these costs will be offset by iteration planning costs that would have been incurred using the initially chosen model.

Cost to execute the new plan - These costs will have to be compared to the cost of executing the original plan


Most likely the time to re-plan the project will have to be added as will the time to execute the new plan as compared to the time to execute the original plan. If there are changes to the team composition, the availability of those new team members may adversely affect the new schedule.

Team Composition

The skill profile of the new team may be different from the skill level of the original team. Project team membership should be expected and the need for hand-off documentation identified.

Scope Change

There is still the possibility that scope change will affect the new plan going forward, but at least the deliverables and expected business value will have been defined.


Following an agile or extreme methodology leaves open the final deliverables and the business value that will result. Following a traditional methodology removes those uncertainties and gives sponsors and executive management a criteria for portfolio decision making. That is more in their comfort zone.

Putting It All Together

This is not a definitive analysis because that is not possible without a specific project situation to consider. Rather, I hope I have defined the factors that must be considered when making a decision to change PMLC Models in mid-project. It is a complex decision with multiple criteria to consider. In my experience, the decisions have ranged from no-brainers to complex. There will be evidence supporting the change and evidence for no change. There will be intangibles too. For example, the team may have established momentum and what value do you place on that? The simple gut feel of the team may be the ultimate decision criteria.

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Robert Wysocki

outsidetheboxRobert K. Wysocki, Ph.D. President EII Publications, LLC, has over 50-years experience as a project management consultant and trainer, author of 25 books on PM and BA. His materials are used in over 450 colleges and universities worldwide. His interests include Hybrid Project Management, Digital Transformations and customized textbooks. His website is and he can be reached at

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