By Cyndi Snyder Dionisio
Projects are getting more complex. One of the ways we see this manifesting is with the increasing utilization of hybrid approaches in delivering projects. Hybrid approaches provide a framework for value delivery while balancing the need for discovery and evolving scope.
One of the more daunting aspects of working on a hybrid project is figuring out how to build a schedule that shows the sequence and duration for predictive approaches while remaining flexible enough to incorporate evolving scope and adaptive approaches as well. After all, how can you develop a realistic schedule if you don’t even know what the final output will be?
 An approach for creating deliverables that seeks to define the scope, schedule, and budget toward the beginning of the project and minimize change throughout the project. See also waterfall.
An adaptive approach is an approach for creating deliverables that allows for uncertain or changing requirements.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a set answer to that question. But this article discusses some variables you can keep in mind as you build your hybrid schedule. It also describes some scenarios you can use as a guideline to help build your schedule.
Hybrid Schedule Variables
Hybrid schedule variables include the governance needs of the project, the development approach you will use for various deliverables, and the number and timing of integration points.
When you think about governance, think about decision points, phase gates and milestones. The more rigorous your governance needs are, the more prominent these should be in your schedule. A project that requires strong governance will likely have reviews, such as baseline reviews, readiness reviews and so forth. This type of schedule model is more likely to be used if you have a project that primarily follows predictive methods but has a few deliverables that will use an adaptive approach. Conversely, a project with minimal checkpoints, reviews, or phase gates points to a project that doesn’t require significant governance.
Another variable is the development approach. The development approach for deliverables is evident in the amount of schedule detail and the use of releases and iterations. A project with a lot of detail indicates predictive development approaches. Conversely, a project that shows releases and iterations indicates adaptive development approaches.
You should also keep in mind the number and timing of integration points. In other words, at what points in the project do deliverables that use a predictive approach and deliverables that use an adaptive approach intersect? If you have two development streams with one stream using predictive approaches and the other using adaptive approaches, and they only merge at the end, you have more opportunities to evolve the adaptive deliverables. However, if you have some predictive deliverables that are waiting on adaptive deliverables you will have to weigh the importance of an on-time delivery with the benefits of continuing to iterate the adaptive work.
Keeping these variables in mind will help you figure out how to build a framework for a hybrid schedule that meets your needs.
Hybrid Scheduling Scenarios
Let’s look at how these three variables play out with a few scenarios:
- Using a predictive approach for origination and planning, and an adaptive approach for development
- Working with some deliverables that use predictive development approaches and some that use adaptive development approaches
- Using an adaptive approach with predictive tools
Predictive approach for origination and planning and adaptive approach for development
The project planning and requirements documentation is developed according to the predictive approach and then an adaptive approach is used for deployment.
This scenario ensures the interfaces provided within the Waterfall model, particularly with defining and documenting requirements and establishing the plan and protocols for the project, provide well-defined up-front scope. The team develops and deploys using an Agile approach. Depending on stakeholder needs, there may be a fixed end date for iterations, or the team may iterate until the customer is satisfied with the final deliverables.
Some deliverables with predictive development approaches and some with adaptive development approaches
There are some situations where some deliverables and products require a specification-led approach while others need an evolutionary approach. In this scenario, there are two or more “streams” of work occurring, often with separate teams.
Depending on the environment you can use an overarching predictive approach with a master schedule and milestones; or you can use an adaptive overarching approach where each team is accountable for their outcomes and integrating the predictive work and adaptive work effectively.
An adaptive approach with predictive tools
In this scenario, all practices are predictive based, but the work is undertaken in an Agile manner. There is a predictive life cycle with phases, phase gates, status reports, and other predictive practices. The team works within each phase using an iterative approach. All necessary documentation is created within the iterations.
These are not the only scenarios you will come across with hybrid projects. There are many other scenarios. These are just examples to help you think through different ways of developing a schedule that meets your needs. In our class on Mastering Hybrid Approaches for Project Management, we cover more scenarios along with techniques for working with scope, risk, and tracking for hybrid projects.
Building a hybrid schedule isn’t as straightforward as building a predictive schedule or using release and iteration plans to organize work. However, by keeping the governance needs, development approach and integration points in mind, you can create a flexible and adaptable schedule model to reflect both the predictive and adaptive aspects of your project.
Cynthia Snyder Dionisio is the Practice Lead for IIL’s Project, Program, and Portfolio Management (PPPM) Practice. Cyndi has over 20 years of experience leading international project teams, consulting, developing courses, and facilitating training. She has received several awards, including the PMI Fellow Award in 2018 and PMI’s Distinguished Contribution Award in 2009. Cyndi is passionate about turning chaos in order, engaging with awesome teams, solving problems, and facilitating achievement.
Check out IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2023 Online Conference! Learn new agile approaches that will cultivate improved & prosperous business results. Register here!
Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.