Adaptive Project Framework Methodology

Robert K. Wysocki introduced the Adaptive Project Framework Methodology in 2008.

Wysocki is renowned strategic leader and has authored many books on this topic. The main assumption of the approach is that each project is different.

A project will have an original scope, uncertain and changing requirements and therefore needs adaptive methods. Traditional project management strategies require teams to follow a set procedure no matter what the scope and requirements.

The presumption in Adaptive Project Framework Methodology is that this makes no sense.

The Adaptive Project Framework offers a framework that can be adapted to changing contexts.  The method is divided into cycles.

These cycles are often called mini-projects.

At the end of a mini-project, the team will evaluate results and then change procedures or work to improve performance in the next mini-project.  This will also be the opportunity where the team has a chance to adapt the scope.

Adaptive Project Framework Methodology In Detail

The principle of Adaptive Project Framework is that nothing is fixed.

A project is defined by differing levels of risks, costs, duration, market and customer experience.  Put basically, a client is an individual, and their requirements are bespoke.

Therefore, it is an adaptive, iterative approach – which sounds a lot like Agile.

The project scope is adapted at the point of each iteration, and the idea is that you learn and accept change as a natural point of project evolution, rather than resist it.

The main point is that the client has control over the adjustment of the project perimeter based on the maximum value added. This means the client needs to be involved throughout the duration of the project.

The Adaptive Project Framework is a five-step method.

The five steps include:

  • Definition of the scope of the project
  • The cycle plan
  • Cycle completion
  • Customer control point
  • Final report

Definition of the scope of the project

The first and most important part of the scope is the understanding of what it will take to satisfy the customer.

Therefore, the first action is to develop satisfaction conditions, known as SCOs.

This answers the question: what are the client’s needs? How do you meet these needs?

The obvious point here is to give a fixed goal for the project that gives the project a compass. When there is a chance to reflect and iterate between mini-projects there is also the opportunity for the scope to drift.

By having an SCO at the start, you give yourself a reference point.

From this point, you establish a Project Overview Statement (POS).

This is a summary of the problem, or indeed the opportunity. The POS will then lay out what will be accomplished and how it will be accomplished – as well as potential risks, obstacles and assumptions.

From this point, three other documents need completing.

First, there are the functional requirements, which is a list that prioritises actions.  This may change as the project progresses.

Second, there is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – which breaks down the work to be achieved.

Finally, there is the triangle scope – this is how time, cost and quality intersect.

The cycle plan

This is the start of the cycle that is repeated over and over again for the next three steps.  This is the iterative portion of the method.

The cycle plan defines each task to be performed in this mini-project and establishes the dependencies for the completion of these tasks.  This relates to the information provided in the WBS but may be changed and adapted between iterations.

The cycle plan also establishes meaningful groups of tasks and allocates these groups to team members or different teams.  The team member or team will respond with a schedule and a list of resources needed to accomplish the task.

Cycle completion

Now everything is planned and agreed; the work needs to be done.

The point is to work until the defined cycle point is complete – which is usually after an assigned period of time.  Anything not completed will be carried forward into the next cycle.

As the cycle is being completed, it is essential to write down any requests for change from the client and any ideas of improvement from the client or the team.  It is also important to keep a log of problems and track the status of resolution of these problems through the cycle.

Customer control point

This is a review point and will dictate the planning for the next cycle.

The client and the project team will meet and review the quality of what has been completed.  If necessary, the project team will be asked to adapt.

Once the review is completed then Steps 2, 3 and 4 are repeated until the time and budget have been exhausted and the project is complete.

Final report

The final report determines whether the operational results have been achieved.  In other words, have you done the job or not?

The report should also be reflective – considering the effectiveness of the methods employed and deciding which should be retained.

Why Choose Adaptive Project Framework Methodology?

The main reason to choose Adaptive Project Framework Methodology is if you know what you want to achieve but, you don’t know how to achieve it just yet.

Therefore, there is an end goal, but the nature of the requirements for this end goal is still unclear.

Arguably, this could be almost any project depending on your viewpoint – as no project hardly ever has a fixed outcome that goes unchanged throughout the project.

The one area of exception is construction – because there is usually little flexibility in the order and outcome of a project.

You would choose the Adaptive Project Framework if you accept the idea that all projects are unique, and the circumstances of a project are never repeated within the same circumstances.

If you agree with this, then you agree with the idea that project management approach needs to be adaptive.

Although the iterative process of five steps feels fixed, the point is that this framework is flexible.

The variables for the framework will change – whether it is the nature of the environment, the characteristics of the project, the business life cycle, the profile of the team or the profile of the client. It can also change dependent on the technologies available to support the endeavour.

The framework also allows for an assessment of the balance between staff, process and technology.

The triangle, created in the opening planning, divides the project into zones. Staff are given priority and determine the process, and the team and process assess technology.

Issues With Adaptive Project Framework Methodology

There are some potential negatives with the Adaptive Project Framework Methodology.

First, it can create too much flexibility.  This sounds a strange complaint – but if the customer has the chance to demand constant change, then budget and time are almost impossible to manage.

There is also every point that the client loses sight of what they originally wanted, and the scope drift leads to dissatisfaction at the end of the project.

Indeed, you have raised the expectations of the client and given them the impression that the results will be beyond reproach – which is pretty rare.

Ultimately, the project manager loses a lot of control over the project, as so much power is given to the client – and therefore there is chance for indecision and waste.


Adaptive Project Framework Methodology

The principal behind Adaptive Project Framework Methodology is sound.  

No two projects are the same. Therefore, applying a fixed methodology to all your projects is counter-intuitive and will lead to tasks being undertaken that add no value to the outcome of the project.

The process, like Agile, is iterative. There are short cycles of work defined by a set amount of time. This cycle of work is then assessed, and the team reflect, and the client is given opportunity to offer feedback and requests into the process.  Then, another cycle is planned and executed.

In many respects, this is a simple process that is customer-orientated, and customer driven.

The complete involvement of the client is essential if this method is to be successful. It is the iterative process of Agile but most claim that it takes Agile to a higher level – because of the involvement of the customer and the chance to heighten their satisfaction.

It ultimately will take an active leader to guide the vision of the client.

If the project manager is in anyway lacking in confidence or insecure when talking to the client, there is a potential for frustrations, mind-changes and wastes of time and resources.  It is the collaborative discussion during the review points that will dictate if the project will be successful or not.

Overall, potentially Adaptive Project Framework Methodology allows for a higher level of working than provided by Agile.

It offers the iterative cycles of Agile, and it offers the input of the client.

However, rather than keep the client and customer experience at a slight distance, this method puts the client at the heart of all reflections.

Read more about the Agile Methodology in Project Management.

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