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The Adaptive Project Framework: Beginner’s Guide

Project Closure Steps and Checklist

Do you know that only 36% of projects meet the requirements?

This brings us to the discussion that why do so many project managers fail to develop the accurate strategy to deliver projects?

Change in an organization’s priority is the leading cause of failure in 39% of the cases. This is the reason why a lot of businesses are often afraid of introducing changes. But, in this modern era, change is inevitable as it is the main factor influencing growth.

The changes in the requirements can’t be controlled and that’s because of different factors:

  • Evolving market trends
  • Vague business objectives
  • Changes in preferences or customers’ needs
  • Technological changes
  • Competitor actions

Sadly, the traditional or conventional project management approach often fails to adapt to the changing processes and companies end up compromising with their goals. Even if you determine the accurate requirements, things are evolving at such high speeds that project requirements can’t be fixed and they must also evolve during the course of the project.

So, trying to move ahead with the traditional approach is a waste of time and resources. Project management is constantly changing and it is the right time to load adaptive project management strategies to your backpack.

In this blog guide, we’ll learn:

  • What is Adaptive Project Framework (APF)?
  • Why do you need Adaptive project management?
  • How does the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) work?
  • Benefits of Adaptive Project Management
  • Adaptive vs Traditional Project Management

What is Adaptive Project Framework (APF)?

Adaptive project management is a systematic and structured approach in which you gradually improve your decisions and processes, based on the outcomes of the decisions made in the earlier stages of the project.

The Adaptive Project Framework (APF) introduced by Robert K. Wysocki in 2010 was all about adapting to the changing environment of a project. In short, adaptive project management is all about creating a new recipe rather than following an existing one.

The thing that makes this methodology unique is that the client is the central figure of the whole project. Without the client’s “YES”, there is no next step. The client has complete control over the project’s direction.

Project managers and team members should be willing to learn, adapt, and accept changes. Also, the client must be completely involved in the management of the project from initiation to completion, and there should be a good relationship of trust.

Why Do You Need Adaptive Project Management?

Most of us are aware of the fact that traditional projects have a clear, static, and straightforward strategy where the project plan is laid out, tasks and resources are allotted and project managers keep the entire team and project on track. But the fast-paced business environment and increasing demands of the market have changed project management a lot.

  • Work: Advancement of technologies changed the pace of work
  • Strategy: These are becoming more dynamic and difficult to predict
  • People: Working in a more collaborative environment to create a real team culture

Working with traditional project management in this changing environment would be futile and can lead to a situation where your efforts make no improvement in the project progress. The Adaptive Project Framework thrives in today’s work culture and is a popular, proven methodology for success. It can be implemented in any organization and on any type of project.

So, to overcome these changing demands and to consistently respond to changes with the development of technologies, an adaptive project framework is the perfect tool your team needs. Your team will not just be ready for the changing environment, but will also be ready to improvise if something goes wrong.

How Does the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) Work?

The principle behind the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) is obviously not fixed. It is an adaptive, iterative approach in which the project takes a different approach and turns at the point of each iteration to meet the requirements. In general, it is a five-step process and the phases are:

1. Project Scope

To begin with any project, it is important to first identify the objectives of the project. What are the client’s requirements? What are the expectations? Members from both your organization and the client’s side need to collaborate to lay down certain things.

  • Identify Conditions of Satisfaction (CoS): Stakeholders should identify the conditions of satisfaction. These include the project requirements or goals and the expected outcome. It is quite necessary to understand what you actually want to achieve or else you won’t know how to proceed. To avoid any miscommunication, have every stakeholder approve the CoS document before proceeding to the next phase.
  • Outline Project Overview Statement (PoS): The project overview statement is basically the outcome from the CoS. This document outlines the final and approved CoS that is agreed upon by all stakeholders. Project managers can refer to this document throughout the project to evaluate the efficacy. As an adaptive framework will be followed, the PoS should be adjusted with the changing CoS after approval.
  • Prioritize Requirements: The project managers and stakeholders collaborate to decide the overall scope of the project. This is mainly about the order of tasks. The requirements are organized and PMs and analysts assign the priorities in a realistic manner. Careful consideration is necessary to avoid omitting any critical requirements. Try to evaluate the consequences of not meeting certain requirements for business and you can prioritize them in a better way.
  • Create Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): The work breakdown structure breaks down the project processes into doable tasks and lets the teams estimate cost and create schedules. This might seem like a daunting task but with the help of a good project management tool, you can easily collaborate with your team members to create an effective work breakdown structure in an intuitive way.
  • Prioritize Scope Triangle: The last part of the project scope phase is to evaluate the scope triangle. The scope triangle is all about the quality constraints: cost, scope, and schedule. The limitations here can be easily classified as adjustable/adaptable, inflexible, or trade-off-possible. The inflexible constraints are crucial and the adaptable ones are negotiable. Limitations with possible trade-offs can compensate for other constraints.

2. The Cycle Schedule

As the project scope is now clear, it’s time to break down the project into mini-projects or adaptive management cycle/iterations. Each cycle should be planned with the aim to provide one or more deliverables. To create the cycle schedule effectively, PMs can follow four simple steps:

  • Define the tasks from the work breakdown structure.
  • Establish the task dependencies and outline them.
  • Group the tasks and assign them to team members.
  • Create an effective work schedule.

Pay attention to your goal here, i.e. to define and plan the tasks your team will be working on. Individual tasks should be defined according to the priority set earlier. Set the deadlines while assigning tasks to the team members and make sure to carefully check all the task dependencies as that can hamper the efficiency. 

Read More: Critical Chain Project Management: Everything You Need to Know

3. The Cycle Build

The actual work begins in this phase. The team members start working on the allotted tasks. As the team progresses, cycles can be adjusted. All the pending tasks that hadn’t been completed due to changes in some requirements move to the next cycle. The key components here are:

  • Starting the work as decided.
  • Monitoring the progress and adjusting the cycle build.
  • Ending the current cycle at the scheduled completion time.
  • Shifting the pending tasks to the next cycle.
  • Recording the feedback/ideas for improvement.
  • Tracking the problems.

The main difference to notice between the traditional and adaptive approach is that the timeline and schedule set here are fixed. If your team misses a deliverable on the deadline, the deliverable is set aside and prioritized accordingly in the upcoming cycles. All the problems faced here in this cycle are addressed in the next cycle. As for the improvement in the process, it is important to communicate clearly with the stakeholders.

4. The Client Checkpoint

The client checkout phase is the most essential part of the adaptive framework. It is time to get an evaluation of the deliverables or outcome of the cycle build phase. The client should thoroughly review the quality and provide feedback/suggestions.

Based on this analysis, the project manager can communicate with the client to address and schedule the adjustments or changes needed in the upcoming iteration. The course corrections are properly laid out to avoid the existing errors in later cycles.

From here on, the process keeps on repeating. The project manager and team members return to the cycle plan and then move on to cycle build and the client reviews the cycle. The iteration goes on until the project is completed.

5. The Final Report

At the end of the project, it is important to evaluate the success of the project. The project manager, team, and client can all collaborate and communicate to determine the success points and to talk about downfalls if any. Everything is documented and stakeholders share their experiences. This is all useful for future projects and the final report of the project can be referred to later to check the adaptive process or other critical points.

Benefits of Adaptive Project Management

As we now know the different phases of Adaptive Project Management, it is quite clear to figure out the benefits of this framework. The benefits are for both, clients and project teams. Let’s outline the benefits:

  • Focus on Client: The main focus of the team members is to deliver the client’s needs according to the project scope that is documented after an efficient process.
  • Client-driven: The framework allows you to include the clients in the project at each stage. This simply means that the meaningful involvement of clients will let them know the progress of the project and changes can be made iteratively.
  • Focus on Change: Changes in the project are important for a better solution and deliverables. From the early stages of the project, the development team stays ready to implement changes for improved results.
  • Prioritization: As the project scope is about prioritizing the requirements, it eliminates the work that doesn’t add value to the project. This is beneficial for teams to focus on important tasks first and deliver the project on time.
  • Continuous Feedback: As there is open communication between the clients and team, everyone can have their say. Continuous feedback helps in driving the project forward in the right direction to deliver positive results.

Adaptive vs Traditional Project Management

Adaptive Project Management Traditional Project Management
Planning is done after every mini-project cycle completes. Planning is done once at the beginning of the project.
Resources and tasks are scheduled after every iteration and can change during the cycle. Resources and tasks are scheduled at once.
Involvement of clients at every cycle. Clients generally communicate at the initiation and closure.
No speculation about the future. The goals are fixed and so is the future of the project.
Task prioritization is planned well in advance. Task prioritization on an as-per-requirement basis.

Think Like a Chef

To achieve success while working on the Adaptive Project Framework, it is important for you to understand a simple analogy: “think like a chef and not like a cook.” A cook usually follows the existing recipes that someone else wrote and finds themselves lost when there is some issue with the taste or an ingredient goes missing. On the other hand, a chef adapts and works with what’s available to deliver the same tasty food.

Similarly, all the projects are unique and a traditional approach to these projects might not be the right option every time. That is why adapting to the changing project requirements and priorities with the available resources is important. The adaptive framework is all about an agile approach and out-of-the-box thinking to creatively complete the projects.

To assist you with adaptive planning and execution, project management software can get things done smartly and quickly by keeping your project organized. The project managers and clients can easily track the progress of the project cycle and can collaborate with team members to provide feedback. So, combine APF with a smart project management tool and drive your projects to success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the incremental project life cycle?

The incremental project life cycle is where the project scope is determined in the initial stages of the cycle. The complete project is divided into mini-projects and tasks that pass through the requirements, implementation, and testing phases. The cost and time variables keep on changing as the project progresses.

Q. Why is adaptive planning necessary for agile projects?

Changes are inevitable in projects and responding in an efficient way to these changes is important. Adaptive planning is all about planning to re-plan to achieve the changing goals and requirements. Adapting to the changes is a key principle of agile and adaptive planning makes it easier for teams to manage these changes.

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About the author

David is a Project Management expert. He has been published in elearningindustry.com, simpleprogrammer.com. As a project planning and execution expert at ProProfs, he has offered a unique outlook on improving workflows and team efficiency. Connect with David for more engaging conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.