Adaptive Planning ApproachesSaqib Javed John, PMP, PMI-ACP, ITIL
Agile (aka “Adaptive”) and Waterfall (aka “Predictive”) are two of the most common project management approaches that organizations use for project management. The adaptive approach is relatively new where requirements and solutions evolve over a predefined period. Adaptive planning embodies a practical commonsense approach which is an action rather than a reactionary.
Agile embraces adaptive planning for incremental small deliverables through continuous evolving of understanding, rapid responses, continuous improvement, adoption and adaptation to change. This is an interactive approach to learning by doing and a real-time experience. Adaptive planning is best suited for evolving projects that face continuous change. Adaptive planning breaks a project into small components to allow ultimate flexibility and openness to change which may yield surprising outcomes and an overall result of a project may differ substantially from the original intent.
The adaptive approach needs adaptive teams who believe in a collaborative effort of self-organizing, cross-functioning and transparent relationship with the customer and end-user to deliver what they want. The agile approach gives prominence to teamwork, customer collaboration, and flexibility. The adaptive team proactively responds to changes.
Adaptive management is the best for highly-uncertain projects with high rates of change, complexity and risk. Adaptive implementation, monitoring and control play an integral role to reduce uncertainty. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the adaptive strategy is always better than a predictive strategy.
On the other hand, Waterfall is a traditional, linear and plan-driven approach, believing in sequential flow, upfront planning, predictable tools, a predictable experience where every project follows the same life cycle by giving importance to the factors like cost, scope, and time, completing one phase before proceeding to the next phase.
Adaptive planning has a definite capacity to run several plans simultaneously, however, to operationalize the adaptive approach, organizations must need a genuine transdisciplinary mode and a continuous generation of new knowledge to maximize the benefits and to achieve long-term and broad objectives.