Project managers and the Hybrid methodology – How can they adapt?

Starting from the middle of the 20th century, project management could not be imagined without the Work Breakdown Structure (or WBS for short). Every project manager was trained to use it and with the Microsoft project launching in 1984, the WBS became an industry standard.

However, some cracks started to show.

In the early 21st century, the waterfall started to be considered too restrictive and unable to handle rapid market changes. The majority of projects would go over budget and finish later than planned. Everybody started looking for an alternative that could alleviate the issues. 

Agile seemed like a great next step. Due to its flexibility, the required changes did not derail the project as much as they did previously. However, the transition wasn’t smooth for everyone. The learning curve was pretty steep and a lot of industry veterans weren’t too happy to make the switch.

Then the term “Hybrid project management” started to be thrown around. Was this again something new to learn, only to forget about it when it started showing the first cracks?

Hybrid – new versus the old?

By its definition, Hybrid combines the formal and Agile methods to create a new project management method. Hybrid employs the thoroughness of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with speed and lean benefits of Agile for a new project management method that is both detailed and fast.

While this methodology doesn’t come with definitive answers, it does come with 3 guiding principles:

  • It is compatible with any industry and team of any size
  • The fusion starts at the very beginning of the project
  • Responsibilities are clearly defined

From here, we can see that there is still a lot of work put in place for both the PM and the organization. It’s also important to note that many organizations that decide to go hybrid are not going in a whole new direction.

They’re simply putting pen to paper and actually documenting the best practices their PMs have been using so far, regardless of what the “official” practice of project management was. This means that for some the switch will be minimal and easy, while some might struggle in adjusting their old ways.

How to handle the change?

There are several things that the PMs going through a bigger change in how they operate can do to handle the process better. 

Truly understand the benefits of Hybrid 

Your organization may have provided a training session or two, or you may have done a bit of googling on the subject — but that doesn’t mean you know what you and your team stand to gain by embracing hybrid. While being open-minded is easier said than done, digging deeper to understand why your organization decided to make this leap can make a world of difference. Was it to decrease time-to-market for new products?  Or maybe, to reduce the number of unsuccessful projects?

If you aren’t sure, starting a dialog with management is a great idea. Chances are, you aren’t the only one wondering. By clearly communicating the benefits that are anticipated can take the new practices from a nuisance to something that is welcomed and embraced.

KPI’s as motivation

For a long time, project teams were considered successful if they delivered what the project required, on time and within budget. But with uncertainty woven into the current market, the way success is measured needs to change. 

Improving the way we work, make decisions, and communicate should be the end goal at all times. With Hybrid, we can put our effort into measuring things that are constructive and in actual control of the team.

For example, project managers should strive to increase the number of decisions made based on objective input such as customer feedback, rather than subjective, incomplete assumptions. Try measuring how many new proposals are backed by market data, rather than just someone’s opinion or a hunch. 

While it’s not always possible to precisely quantify how this will impact the end result of a project, rewarding constructive thinking and hard work motivates the team to do their best.

Determine your own best course of action

While management might mail out a set of rules, principles, and guidelines, there is no reason for you not to see how to fit them in with what you already know. As you navigate through change, your success will depend mainly on continuously trying out ideas, evaluating what worked and what didn’t, and making changes accordingly. While some of the traditional tools and techniques will work well, others might not.

Seek feedback on how you can improve your processes from your team as well. There might be some room for improvement in areas you haven’t considered until now. Learn from the information you receive and adapt your approach to better meet their needs while improving the output you create. 

To adapt to hybrid project management practices, project management professionals need to understand their organization’s goals and how it affects their team, rethink their own success metrics in light of the changes, and bring a mindset of continuous growth to their development.

With a little effort, both project managers and their teams can get through the growing pains that always follow a major change. What then follows are better team results and projects that hit the mark almost every time.

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