You want the flexibility of Agile. You need the reliability of Waterfall. Hybrid project management can give you the best of both. That’s why 39% of remote project managers use multiple project management methodologies.

project management stats 2021

As project managers know, Agile methodology alone can be impractical for large teams. It lacks the structure to hit long-term goals with precision.

Waterfall by itself could be better at adapting to change. It doesn’t produce working software until close to the end of the project.

Hybrid project management methodology aims to blend both approaches to eliminate their weaknesses. By definition, hybrid project management is the practice of mixing Agile and traditional Waterfall project management elements to create a custom approach.

Blended project management methods are popular among Agile teams. In 2019, PMI conducted a study of companies that are highly competent in Agile project management. They found that 60% of these companies use hybrid project management all or most of the time.

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What is hybrid project management?

Hybrid Project Management is an approach that combines elements of traditional and Agile methodologies to achieve project goals. It embraces flexibility, allowing teams to adapt to changing requirements while maintaining a structured framework for effective planning and execution. 

This hybrid model is particularly beneficial in dynamic environments where a balance between predictability and adaptability is crucial for project success.

Why hybrid project management is important

Hybrid project management (also called structured Agile) works for every kind of project and every type of team.

Blending Agile and Waterfall makes it easier to adapt throughout your project. Your team works more efficiently, and the outcome is better than Agile or Waterfall alone.

Hybrid works the way projects are run.

Oftentimes, not all deliverables are fixed and defined. When you start, costs and resources may not be thoroughly thought out or dedicated.

Applying Agile to uncertain aspects and Waterfall to fixed deliverables means having a flexible project better built for success.

Hybrid project management statistic

Customize your approach for each project to get the best results. In this post, we’ll talk about how you find the right blend and implement it in your team.

Who uses hybrid project management?

Blended project management is widely used by companies that see Agile’s benefits but struggle with a fully Agile approach. This includes marketing agencies, manufacturers, small businesses, and companies across all industries. Even software developers for whom Agile was created are increasingly adopting hybrid styles.

Project board

Here are some prime examples:

A company called Atypon used a hybrid approach to develop Sage Publishing’s new website. They needed to migrate 1,000 journals across systems, which was a big task.

Waterfall was proposed at the start of the project, but the team decided to blend in some Agile methodologies to maximize flexibility. It worked perfectly. The team delivered a quality product 3 months ahead of schedule.

use hybrid project management for all the advantage and fewer downsides

Like Sage Publishing, a United States federal agency used hybrid project management to improve results. Failed projects and poorly designed applications showed that their strictly Waterfall approach wasn’t working.

The development team overhauled its project management approach to include more Agile strategies. The result: application design improved, users were happier, and the agency became better prepared for the future.

These are not isolated cases. Hybrid project management is increasingly popular as teams seek ways to create better results with limited time and resources.

Mixing project management methodologies allows your team to plan projects with both flexibility and structure. The goal is to reap the benefits of both project management styles without the weaknesses of either.

Hybrid works for all projects and all teams, though you might not need it for small and simple projects. Whether you’re in construction, health care, software development, or architecture, hybrid is a good choice.

Finding the right Agile hybrid project management approach for your team

Hybrid project management looks different for every team that uses it. There are a few ways you can mix your methods:

  • Mix Agile and Waterfall teams
  • Use Agile for some phases and Waterfall for others
  • Use a consistent hybrid approach with elements of both Agile and Waterfall

Every project is different. Change your project management approach to meet your current needs with each new project.

Build your custom approach by looking at the details of your project. The idea is to choose elements from each project management style to balance potential downsides.

For example, Agile creates inefficiencies when working on a project with multiple teams. Stand-ups take hours when 29 people need to give an update, and large teams have a hard time adjusting to change on short notice. To balance that, use some Waterfall elements. Make your sprints more rigid to limit change. That will allow you to have fewer standups and get more done.

stick with your hybrid project management approach for the whole project

It’s wise to create your hybrid project management approach at the beginning of the project. Switching your strategy in the middle creates problems and delays. Make note of any inefficiencies, and address them by adjusting your hybrid approach for the next project.

Answering these questions will help you determine which elements to include in your hybrid approach.

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What are your project goals?

Project goals may or may not be flexible. Here’s an example:

Imagine your primary goal is creating software to upsell customers to premium products. While your team works on building it, they discover that it will be easier to encourage customers to buy an add-on product instead. If your goals are flexible, you can change your focus and work on the add-on feature. If your goals aren’t flexible, your team will work on making the upsell more effective.

Project goals

Agile methodologies are excellent for projects that must define some of their goals while the project is already underway. Waterfall is excellent when you need to keep the team on track, no matter what cool opportunities come up in the middle of the process.

What’s your deadline for completion?

Use the right hybrid project management approach for each new project

You may want more structure if you’re working with a hard deadline. A flexible deadline gives you the freedom to focus on other priorities.

Blending your project management styles can help you meet deadlines more efficiently. Agile practices help development teams get work done more quickly. Add Waterfall elements to help create efficiency for bigger teams.

Who will be involved?

Project teams come in a lot of shapes and sizes. You may have a small group of people from the same department. Your team may change throughout the project as you need different resources. Some people might be more comfortable in Agile, while others are used to Waterfall.

Use hybrid project management to address communication weaknesses, divide tasks between teams efficiently, and help each team member stay productive.

you may have a tendency to choose the same project management style, even if it isn't the best

What project management style do you usually use?

Some elements of your current strategy probably work well for you. There are probably some shortcomings, too, since you’re reading this post. Keep the things that work and replace the things that don’t.

You’ll tend to lean more towards familiar styles. Pay attention to this bias. It will take effort to change.

Has your team completed projects like this before?

Many teams use Waterfall for routine projects because they’ve already worked out the best process. You don’t need the flexibility of Agile when you’re doing a job you’ve done dozens of times before.

Agile is often a good choice when you’re trying something new.

You can add Agile elements to familiar Waterfall projects to help encourage your team to seek improvements to old processes. Use Waterfall elements to keep your team focused on a specific outcome, even when there are many new options to explore.

How to successfully manage a hybrid PM

using structured agile makes it easier to meet deadlines

Using the insights you gained from the questions above, you’re ready to start building your hybrid strategy. Here’s how to get started:

1. Decide what project management problems you most want to fix

Instead of making sweeping changes to your project management style all at once, it’s wise to transition more slowly.

There might be a lot of things you want to change. Where should you begin?

Start by talking to your team about the project management problems that annoy them the most.

A conversation between teammates

This does two important things: it shows you which shortcomings to address first, and it gets your team invested in the new system from the start.

You might have a long list of things to fix. If that’s the case, prioritize the top three to five things with the most significant business impact.

Let your team know that you’ll fix everything they’ve brought up. It will be a gradual process, so your workflow isn’t too far out of whack. Trying to do everything at once is overwhelming.

Keep trying hybrid project management until you get it right

2. Choose your first hybrid elements

Blending your project management approach helps you address the problems you found in step one. You might not get this right on the first try, and that’s okay. That’s why you’re taking it slow, right?

Here’s a simple way to get started:

Identify the parts of your project that are fixed and clearly defined. Look for deliverables, deadlines, requirements, and constraints that must be done precisely as defined. Use a Waterfall approach for these.

Next, look at the parts of your project that need more fixed definitions. These deliverables, requirements, or resources might change or haven’t been fully developed yet. These parts of your project belong to an Agile framework.

Review recent projects when you’ve experienced the problems you identified in the last step. Plan your next project with the correct hybrid elements to address those challenges.

change management tips when moving to hybrid project management

For example:

Let’s imagine that communication is a regular issue for your Waterfall projects. Different teams don’t talk to each other, and when there are small changes, it causes big delays and rework. For your next project, try breaking work into sprints and adding regular Stand-ups.

When you decide how to address your top challenges, you’re ready for the next step.

3. Train your team

Training is essential for more than just the information you share. It creates confidence and shows your team that you’re willing to invest time, energy, and money in their success.

train your team for hybrid project management

Even if your team members have worked in a structured Agile environment before, your approach will be unique.

Never assume that your team knows what you’re talking about. Training should be thorough, clear, and simple enough that a beginner can understand it. Avoid acronyms whenever possible, and define Agile terms clearly to avoid confusion.

Good training sets the tone. Here are some of the things you should cover:

  • What is Agile?
  • What is Waterfall?
  • Why are you moving to a hybrid approach? Note – remind your team of the problems they pointed out earlier.
  • What results do you expect from this transition?

Make it clear that everyone on the team is involved. As the people working within this system daily, their opinions and ideas matter.

4. Add hybrid components to your projects

The first three steps build a solid foundation for your project management shift. This is where that work starts to pay off. It’s time to tackle your first hybrid projects.

When you decide on your blended strategy, it’s essential to stick with it until the project ends. Changing project management approaches in the middle of a project confuses your team.

Plus, you’ll analyze your results to improve in the next step. If you changed approaches in the middle, your data isn’t as valuable.

We recommend using task management software like Hubstaff Tasks to stay on track, especially when you’re trying a new process.

Hubstaff Tasks

Simplify hybrid project management

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Encourage your team to discuss their experiences as you work on your first project. Change is hard, even when it’s for the better.

Staying open to feedback shows your team that you value their opinion and want to make their job easier.

Which brings us to the next step:

5: Talk about what’s working and what’s not

After your first hybrid project is done, bring your team together to talk about what worked for them and what still needs improvement.

If things go well, you’re ready to use more hybrid elements in your next project.

If it didn’t, dig in to find out why. You might have other issues that need to be addressed, or you might need to keep adjusting your project management approach.

Keep adding hybrid elements to new projects, then work with your team to refine your approach. When you’re comfortable with hybrid project management, you’re ready to move to the final step:

6: Adjust your hybrid strategy for each project

Hybrid project management experts tweak their approach for every project.

Keep learning and adjusting. After succeeding (or failing) at a few hybrid projects, you can spot potential pitfalls and avoid them with the right blend of Agile and Waterfall.

You can still use pure Agile or Waterfall sometimes, too. That’s the strength of hybrid project management — you use whatever style suits the situation, even if it’s not blended. There’s no need to shove Agile methodologies into a four-week, simple Waterfall project. Just use Waterfall and ship it.

Where to go from here

If you’ve read through this post, congratulations. We hope it helps you start building your hybrid project management strategy.

To help even more, here are some extra project management resources.

This guide to project management is a great place to dive into the details. It goes over different methodologies and helps you troubleshoot problems. If you plan to manage your projects without hiring a full-time project manager, use this guide to help.

Agile often feels strange for newcomers. It looks messy and unstructured to people who are used to Waterfall, but it takes more discipline to do it well.

If you’re new to Agile, learning more about the methodology and the different types of Agile project management is worth your time. 

Further reading:

Agile estimation techniques

Agile planning

Agile metrics

What project are you going to tackle? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us in the comments.

Category: Project Management