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Does project management have to be 100% agile?

The agile approach became a “solution for everything". However, it may not be the best approach for every scenario, project, or team. 

11 July, 2022

The foundations of project management date back to the 20th century with the emergence of traditional methodologies through the work of two pioneering men: Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt. This traditional approach to project management - as it was known in the 1990s - dominated the market for a very long time, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was the need to manage projects and develop products in a more flexible and agile way. 

The main criticism of the traditional approach is related to its rigidity and project bureaucracy, as it was focused on detailed planning from beginning to end that would be successfully completed in accordance with the set deadline, budget, and scope. Once a plan was approved or initiated, any change in scope would have a great impact on the project cost and deadline. Therefore, this approach is more appropriate for managing infrastructure projects, such as apartment buildings, bridges, and others, as well as projects with a clear scope and very little uncertainty regarding its requirements or technology, or projects with a fixed and known scope. 

This led to the emergence of agile methodologies, which have adaptability as their main characteristic. In this new approach, the planning is done in an incremental fashion, where the end goal is defined, and the project execution is planned and carried out as deliveries are made. Furthermore, this approach makes it possible to manage projects with a dynamic scope, where the final solution is unknown due to a high degree of uncertainty regarding the requirements or technology, or projects where isolated deliveries add value for the user, among others.

In 2001, the publication of the Agile Manifesto, along with its innovative nature and the subsequent success of the agile approach, led many companies to start adopting this approach to manage any and all projects, even those that would not be characterized as agile – it suddenly became a “solution for everything”. However, it cannot be said that this new approach is better than the previous one, because not only are they different, but they must also be adapted to scenarios, projects, and teams with different characteristics. Likewise, a project cannot necessarily be completely agile or completely traditional, and there may be phases or interactions within the same project that are predictive in nature and others that are agile.


Thus, given the existing needs of each project and organization, conversations about a hybrid approach began to take place in the market. In a more traditional sense, hybrid project management marries the agile and the traditional approaches, by combining the flexibility of the agile approach with the detailed planning of the traditional approach, and this is exactly the most beneficial aspect of the hybrid approach. For instance, it is possible to combine waterfall project management with Scrum, and PRINCE2 with Kanban, among others. 

The hybrid approach is appropriate for managing projects where, for example, the scope and final solution are known in detail, but the requirements are identified later through the discovery process. Another example is projects that require greater agility in execution, for which the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) could be used for the initiation, planning, and monitoring and control phases. For the execution phase, the agile approach can be adopted, such as Scrum, which is based on iterative deliveries (short and continuous cycles for developing solutions through interactive processes). 

Hybrid project management offers several advantages, including a greater degree of compatibility, as it allows for the customization of a management approach that best fits the context and project, making it more easily applicable to any team or organization that needs to deal with a wide variety of project types.

It is safe to say that the hybrid approach is here to stay, requiring project management professionals to have knowledge of and develop skills in multiple methodologies so as to understand when to use only the agile or the traditional approach, and how and when to combine the two. However, it is important to note that adopting a hybrid approach does not mean randomly selecting practices and methods from different methodologies, but rather choosing two or more methodologies, with the full set of practices that make them up.

How to start? Understand the context of the projects and the organization, assess the urgency of the deliverables, respect the organizational culture, and define the value that the team and the organization want to deliver. With this basic information, the choice of methodology will be clear and the project will be on the right track.


Article published on dinheiro vivo on July 11, 2022