OUTSIDE THE BOX Forum: The Hybrid Project Management Framework
“Only 1 to 2% of organizations are currently at a (CMMI) Maturity Level 3, where there is a consistent process that is consistently adhered to.” Mark Mulally, 2017
From the above quote one might wonder what the other 98% of the organizations are doing.They probably use approaches that range from some informal “Do It Yourself” model to a carefully crafted and monitored adaptation of a commercial model. The Adaptive Framework [Wysocki, 2010] is a robust project management environment that thrives on business challenges and creativity of the team, with the change process as the driver to solution discovery and the courage of conviction.
WHAT IS A HYBRID PROJECT?
The project landscape is shown in Figure 1. The complex project quadrants are the primary focus of this article. The work of Mark Mulally [Mulally, 2017] concluded that fewer than 2% of organizations practice project management at CMMI Maturity Level 3. Don’t you wonder what the other 98% are doing? I’m going to describe that at a high level.
Figure 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 of the complex project landscape. Many complex projects do not fit existing PMLC models. The project managers know this and attempt to adapt PMLC models to fit the specific situations and conditions of the project. Adaptations do not work very well. 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.
WHAT IS HYBRID PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
So, what are those other 98% of project managers doing if they are not practicing project management at Maturity Level 3 or above. For some it will probably be a “Do It Yourself” effort. Let’s hope that number is very small. At the other extreme will be those who must comply with a model designed by their Project Management Office (PMO) and monitored for compliance. In between these two extremes is what I am calling Hybrid Project Management (HPMgt). This is intentionally phrased to be a robust statement of what constitutes HPMgt. 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.
Figure 2: A Robust Hybrid Project Management Model
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:
- What business situation is being addressed by this project?
- What does the business need to do?
- What are you proposing to do?
- How will you do it?
- How will you know you did it?
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
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.
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.
The Hybrid Project Manager
The HPMgr will encounter project management situations where some type of hybrid approach will be needed. They have two options: adapt an existing PMLC model to the specific needs of the project or create a unique management approach using the tools, templates and processes that they are familiar with or have used before.
Business units will often use OPMs in standardized repeatable projects that fall in the traditional project quadrant. From past projects the OPM will have acquired the necessary skills to manage these projects. But your business unit will also have projects that fall in the complex project quadrants, and for these a CPM may be required. Except for large organizations the CPM cadre may be aligned with a Project Support Office (PSO) and be available for assignment to projects.
To a certain extent, your business unit’s project portfolio will be constrained by the mix of OPMs and CPMs. For many, that cadre may only contain a few OPMs. Future project prospects determine current professional development decisions. Your business unit manager will want to keep the OPM cadre aligned with the current and future project portfolio demands they expect for their business unit.
As an OPM you may not have a choice as to the type of OPM you want to be. Your job requirements will dictate the type of OPM you have to be. In a small business unit there may only be one position that includes project management responsibilities. Whoever occupies that position will have to develop the necessary OPM skills. In assigning an OPM to a project, the business unit manager may not give much consideration to the cadre of OPMs and CPMs they manage. If it is a project needing a manager and you are an OPM. End of decision!
Following and Creating Recipes
So, with all of that in mind, would you rather follow a recipe or know how to develop a recipe? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a chef is “the head of the kitchen; a cook who is in charge of the kitchen, as in a restaurant; is a head cook.” Conversely, a cook is a person who prepares food for eating. These definitions give us “food for thought.”
The OPM cook will need to lead the project and often a small project team. However, the OPM cook may not yet have the experience and knowledge to teach, model the correct behavior, and understand reality. These skills are things that are acquired over time. Typically, there is no substitution for time and tenure. However, we want to provide a framework from which the OPM cook can accelerate the learning curve to a level of leadership that allows them to surge forth as OPM chefs possessing the ability to manage change and lead through adversity in an agile manner.
To a certain extent an OPM chef is a mentor to an OPM cook. The OPM chefs, albeit, more experienced, still need a framework from which to apply their experiences and knowledge in a standardized manner that allows for change. The tools, templates and processes within the OPM framework will provide the standard for both the OPM cook and the OPM chef while still allowing for the ever-changing landscape of the OPM project.
Now let’s explore further this idea of the creation of recipes or the following of recipes. Webster’s defines a recipe as a list of materials or directions for preparing “a dish or drink”; any procedure for accomplishing something.
As an “at home” cook myself, I need that “list of materials or directions” and the procedure for assembling the same. But there is something else I need. What do I do when I am in the middle of the recipe and I discover that I do not have any baking soda? Can I substitute baking powder? Having tried this, I know the outcome is not the same. I lack the experience to know if I can make a substitute, or do I have to put my project on-hold and make a run for the missing material.
Characteristics of the Hybrid Project Manager
Yet despite the fact that the number of OPMs far exceeds the number of CPMs, their needs have been almost totally neglected. This is not acceptable, because as a group of professionals, their contribution to business and organizational projects is immeasurable. Most small-to-medium-sized businesses and organizations do not have the budget to support a cadre of CPMs and therefore leverage the OPM to accomplish a variety of projects and initiatives.
What Does a Hybrid Project Manager Want?
An HPMgr wants to use a “path unencumbered by fixed processes” and under their complete control. They avoid nonvalue-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 Nonvalue-Added Work and Waste Avoidance
- A Lean Systems Perspective
- Flexibility and Adaptability of Tools, Templates and Processes to Meet Project Needs
- An Operational Understanding 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
Mark Mulally, 2017. All is not the same in the World of Project Management, ProjectManagement.com,
Wysocki, Robert K., 2010. Adaptive Project Framework: Managing Complexity in the Face of Uncertainty, John Wiley & Sons.