Managing The Hybrid/Agile Project Management Cultural Change

Managing the Hybrid/Agile Project Management Cultural Change

Moving to a hybrid approach to managing projects can be very effective.  However, to optimize the benefits, it’s important to invest in training for Agile and managing the cultural changes to accommodate it. Agile seems daunting to those project managers and project teams accustomed to working in a purely Waterfall environment.  Moving from one method directly to another, can be damaging to a project’s success.  Migrating to a hybrid approach allows for an easier cultural shift.  This is because:

  • As projects become more complex, Waterfall project planning becomes more difficult due to the long timelines and number of tasks required.
  • As well, organizations that insist on extensive documentation will find the transition from Waterfall to Agile more challenging.

Impact of Hybrid on the PMO

Before adopting Hybrid Project Management, it’s important for PMOs to re-think their approach to how they manage projects.  This includes managing the various traditional PMO requirements.

Agile reports are less detailed.  Teams report on their progress during each sprint; i.e., did the sprint team realize its 3-week goal?  Teams will now manage risk and change throughout each sprint.  Management will still expect reports on the progress of these projects.  PMOs must be prepared to report on the progress of the sprint teams and how these teams collaborated to build products according to sprint and daily goals they negotiated with their product owner.

PMOs need to adjust their training and coaching to align with a hybrid approach.  They must consider how combining Waterfall and Agile methodologies into a hybrid approach will enable their ability projects to be more successful.

Project roles will change.  Now there’ll be project managers, scrum masters, product owners, sprint team members, stakeholders, etc.  PMOs must define the expectations for each role and how they manage these within a hybrid environment.

Culture – Caution!!

Consultants who focus solely on Agile methods can create unnecessary and negative cultural impacts on an organization.  This is because they don’t understand the full impact of the change and how to manage the cultural changes required to move from traditional Waterfall frameworks to Agile ones.  Nor do they understand or consider the use of a hybrid approach.  They tend to throw out the old and expect an immediate adherence to the new.  There are many reasons for this severe approach to change, but one of them is that they only know Agile and lack an understanding of traditional project management models.   Hybrid-trained consultants can help organizations successfully migrate to a hybrid approach because of their combined knowledge of both Waterfall and Agile project management methodologies.

According to Brian Reynolds, managing director of Grant Thornton’s global public sector division and a speaker at the partnership’s event “We don’t want to abandon good practice here,” Reynolds said, arguing that traditional Waterfall development still has value in certain contexts. Agile, though, works best “where we have uncertainty,” he said. “When we really understand what we want to do up front, then we really need to think about Waterfall … or traditional ways of delivering systems. There, we’re focusing on efficiency.”

Effective Approaches to Gain Traction

  • Enhance migration by using Agile terms including user stories, artifacts, sprints, backlogs, etc.
  • Continuously review feedback on the adoption of the Hybrid Agile framework in the organization, including leadership, project managers, team members, etc.
  • Identify and address organizational and project impediments as soon as they arise.
  • Empower small, cross-functional teams.
  • Demonstrate value at the end of each sprint iteration.
  • Visibly track and communicate progress of hybrid projects using tools & metrics.

Develop the Hybrid/Agile Culture

  1. Start the journey – Organizations didn’t become bureaucratic overnight, and they won’t become Agile overnight either.
  2. Create a steering committee to oversee the journey – Include a cross-section of resources (different departments and leaders within the organization).
  3. Define “Hybrid/Agile Project Culture”  – What does it mean for your organization?  How can it be defined so that it can be clearly communicated?
  4. Research the organization – Determine what leadership, project managers and project resources expect from a Hybrid/Agile project culture. Use focus groups, surveys, the Hybrid/Agile project culture assessment, etc. to gather the data.
  5. Create a vision and strategies to build a strong Hybrid/Agile project culture – Create a vision that describes what an ideal hybrid/agile project culture will look like. Determine how the vision aligns and supports the organization’s strategic direction. Identify how success will be measured. Develop the strategies to realize the vision.
  6. Review organizational projects managed over the past year – To identify their challenges and to create the opportunities for improvement that a Hybrid/Agile project culture will provide.
  7. Train employees and leaders on Hybrid/Agile – Pilot a Hybrid/Agile project and focus the training on these resources. Communicate continuously throughout this project. Ensure leadership is engaged and understands the difference between how this project is managed and traditional methods to ensure they stay on the journey.
  8. Engage and manage the PMO and Leadership – Educate the PMO and leadership on the changes required. Focus on the benefits of a strong Hybrid/Agile culture. Ensure they understand the changes in reporting, resource commitments, etc.


It is difficult to find an organization today that isn’t “trying” to go Agile. The change, although never easy, if well managed can be an exciting journey. If you’ve been trained to work using traditional project management tools and practices, the transition to a hybrid approach may seem daunting. Explore this process to create a strong Hybrid/Agile project culture to enable your organization to succeed.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

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