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I frequently see questions asked in project management discussion groups about hybrid projects. As I wrote in last week’s article, projects themselves can’t be waterfall, agile, traditional or hybrid but how we approach them can be.

But what does “hybrid” really mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition relates to the zoological use of the term which isn’t too helpful, but the second is: “A thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.” In the context of projects, the most common usage relates to the combination of predictive and adaptive approaches.

Using this definition, we can see that there are quite a few ways in which a project can be delivered using a hybrid approach including:

  • Using a life cycle which uses both predictive and adaptive phases. An example of this is “Water-Scrum-Fall” which is a common interim step which some teams adopt when moving from a predictive to an adaptive life cycle.
  • Using different life cycle approaches to complete different deliverables within the overall project scope. For example, the automation of an existing business process might involve an adaptive approach for the business process and the supporting system whereas the change management deliverables such as end user training materials might be produced in a predictive manner.
  • Using a combination of methods drawn from predictive and adaptive toolkits. For example, we might use a work breakdown structure to help define project scope to a manageable level of detail, but then use work boards and hold daily coordination events to support the delivery of that scope.

Given that there are so many ways of being hybrid, it is a reasonable assertion that the majority of projects will in fact follow a hybrid delivery method. Predictive and adaptive approaches are just extremes on a continuum and most projects will fall somewhere between those points.

So when someone asks the question “What is hybrid project management?”, the answer should be the same as it would be for any project management approach. Tailor your approach to fit the needs of the project drawing on predictive, adaptive and any other applicable toolkits while remaining aligned with enterprise standards and policies.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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