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OUTSIDE THE BOX Forum: Waterfall + Agile ≠ Hybrid

The label “Hybrid Project Management” has been applied to projects that use Waterfall followed by Agile.

That is too restrictive and does not allow for the flexibility, adaptability and creativity required of most complex projects that arise in the digital world. Rather the term, Hybrid Project Management should be reserved to those projects which do not fit any known methodology like Waterfall, Scrum, DSDM, Prince2 or any one of the dozens of other models. These projects being unique require that a unique management approach be designed to fit their unique situation. That unique situation can be defined by the project characteristics, the organizational environment within which the project will be executed and the market situation where the deliverables will be deployed.


For some obscure reason hybrid project management was defined as an integration of Waterfall followed by Agile before any definition of what constitutes a hybrid project. Organizations have spent years and lots of money designing project management models. Their inventories will include versions of the Waterfall Model along with one or more versions of Scrum, FDD, DSDM and perhaps other agile models. So, CMMI Maturity Level 2 is well established but, according to Mulally, is seldom used. Assuming we have competent project managers, it is safe to assume they have found other alternatives than those provided by their organization and defined in the project management body of knowledge. Those alternatives are probably variations of what their organization has provided. These alternatives are not published but travel below the radar but it is safe to assume that these alternatives align with these three factors:

  • the behavioral and physical characteristics of the project
  • the organizational environment in which the project will be executed
  • the external supply/demand markets for the deliverables

All three of these are dynamic. They can change at any time and in unexpected ways. When any one of the factors change, the specific project management approach designed by the HPMgr might also need to change. The objective is to maintain the alignment of the project management approach to the project in order to achieve maximum business value and minimization of the risk of project failure. In other words, projects are unique and so should the best fit model for managing them also be unique. That is the basic principle underlying a hybrid approach and sets the stage for defining HPMgt.

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According to David Robins [Robins, 2016] HPMgt is built upon traditional project management (TPMgt) to get the project started and agile Project Management (aPMgt) to execute the project. Agile is a class of project management methodologies and therefore is not capitalized. According to Robins each hybrid project beings with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) from TPMgt and then uses agile practices such as Scrum from aPMgt to build the deliverables. That is too restrictive. A hybrid project is unique as defined by the three factors above and the Hybrid Project Manager (HPMgr) will find it necessary to take exceptions due to those three factors. Robin’s model is too restrictive as it forces the project to align to a specific model. The model should be defined to align to the project. The correct HPMgt is a richer framework which is defined by a vetted portfolio of tools, templates and processes from which the project team constructs a unique project management approach. This framework supports every project from a very informal approach to managing a simple project to a very formal approach to managing a very complex project. Robin’s model is far too restrictive to allow such flexibility and adaptability.

In order to achieve and maintain the alignment to any project a robust HPMgt Framework must be defined. At the highest level of abstraction, a robust framework must have these 3 phases:

  • Ideation Phase
  • Set-up Phase
  • Execution Phase

These were defined in an earlier work [Wysocki, 2014]. For the HPMGT Framework this is the starting point for further development. The development is unique in that it will always be robust. The days of fixed methodologies are gone. The ones we do have are relegated to template status. Organizations that are transforming to the digital world will find HPMgt Framework as the only way to manage projects.


Project Management Methodologies have traditionally been defined for classes of projects. They work as long as the project meets the pre-requisites specified by the methodology. That may happen in some cases but what about those projects which do not meet the pre-requisites. [Mulally, 2017] found that those projects may in fact be the vast majority of projects. He estimates that less than 2% of organizations are at CMMI Maturity Level 3 or greater. Does that mean that 98% of projects fail to meet the stated pre-requisities. Probably not, but what are these organizations doing? According to my definition they are probably doing HPMgt!

Assuming you buy my definition of the HPMgt Framework, we have a lot work to do to define this new approach to project management. It is an approach where the unique project is used to define the unique approach to managing it. If you are using HPMgt, you will not need any pre-defined methodologies. The methodologies that you do have (such as Waterfall, Scrum, DSDM, FDD and dozens of others) should be seen as templates from which a unique approach can be crafted. For example, lacking a Product Owner you might use Scrum but use a BA as the Product Owner. WalMart has a very similar situation that frequently uses this adaptation.

[Mulally, 2017] Mulally, Mark, 2017. All is not the same in the World of Project Management,, 3/27/17
[Robins, 2016] Robins, David, 2016. Introduction to Hybrid project management methodology, (HTTPS://WWW.BINFIRE.COM/AUTHOR/DAVID/)
[Wysocki, 2014] Wysocki, Robert K., 2014. Effective Complex Project Management: An Adaptive Agile Framework for Delivering Business Value, J. Ross Publishing. 
[Wysocki, 2019] Wysocki, Robert K., 2019. Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Hybrid, 8th Edition (EII Publications, forthcoming)

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