Mix and Match

by Cyndee Miller

It was almost like watching rival cliques at school, die-hard agilistas matching wits with waterfall purists. The drama was always quite civil, mostly limited to snobbish comments dismissing the merits of the rival approach.

But lately — and frankly, I never thought I’d say this — they’re learning to play nice. 

Some of this comes down to organizations not willing to take sides. They’re simply letting the best approach win.

“Most companies are becoming more results-oriented and less methodologically dogmatic,” said Bryan Berthot, PMI-ACP, PMP, project manager, AT&T Entertainment Group in a recent article on PMI.org. “They empower their project teams to choose their preferred project management framework — as long as they deliver results.”

Forget the preconceived notions. Teams are using whatever they need for the project at hand.

Check out the numbers in PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession: While plenty of project professionals said they relied on agile or waterfall for recent projects, 20 percent used hybrid. And 23 percent relied on something other than agile, hybrid or plan-driven approaches, which could be a further blend or customization of approaches.

Social networking king and Silicon Valley mainstay LinkedIn seems like a natural for all agile, all the time. But when the company launched an overhaul of its website, the project leaders decided to go hybrid.

Mind you, this is a company steeped in sprints and fast-track developments, and now it’s adopting an agile/waterfall hybrid approach. The rationale? Allow project managers to incorporate user and stakeholder feedback — while retaining a sense of urgency.

Sneakers and business shoes side by side on ground

“This hybrid approach enabled us to define requirements at the beginning of the project and provided the needed flexibility and transparency to adapt to the fast-changing requirements,” Ranjit Dhaman, PMP, senior staff technical program manager at the company, told PM Network. “We were building a foundation for future product innovation, and a quick turnaround time was needed to keep up the pace with daily product releases.”

It’s not just agile teams adopting waterfall ways, of course. 

French tire-maker Michelin says it’s developing an agile approach to project, program and portfolio management.

“We believe that agility could also be used in multiple ways — in everything we do,” Philippe Husser, senior partner, progress direction, said in PMI’s latest Pulse of the Profession. “The world is changing very quickly around us, so much so that we cannot afford anymore to have projects taking two to five years to deliver because, during this time, the initial requirements have changed.”

The company now has project managers, along with a steering committee and project sponsor, select the best approach for each project together.

It’s just like those fine ladies of En Vogue would say: Free your mind and the rest will follow.

What’s happening on your projects? Do you and your teams gravitate toward one approach? Or are you doing whatever you need to do?

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