Predictive and Adaptive Project Management

The terms ‘Predictive’ and ‘Adaptive’ Project Management are applied to the two main types of Project Management.

Predictive Project management

So what is Predictive Project Management? This is known by many names:

  • Traditional Project Management
  • Waterfall Project Management
  • Plan driven Project Management
  • Predictable Project Management

This sort of Project Management is perfect for those projects that have been done several times before. Product replacements, construction projects, etc.

In particular, Runner and Repeater (but not stranger ) projects. These are where nearly all of the tasks are known. The estimates should be accurate, and the risks should be understood.

In predictive Project Management the plans can be completed at the start of the project. These plans are then followed. Changes need to be carefully managed because changes will disrupt these carefully prepared plan. Certainly the plans might be fixed for the next 3-6 month period.

I have covered many of the Traditional Project Management tools in my blogs.

Adaptive Project Management

So what is Adaptive Project Management? Again, there are several names for this:

  • Iterative Project Management
  • Agile Project Management

Projects that are unknown, Strangers, or projects which use new technology are perfect for this approach. Perhaps they are complex or high VUCA, or the company has a fast changing and evolving strategy.

With this type of project you need to be prepared and ready to respond to changes. It would be foolish to try and plan the whole project at the start.

The planning phases for these projects should be short. That might be several days, weeks, or a month. Reviews can then take place. Changes are then welcomed, leading to new and revised plans being created. A change is a customer request. Implementing that change request will keep the customer happy.

Some of the tools of Adaptive Project Management are:

  • Backlogs, Story Boards or Feature Lists
  • Burndown Charts
  • MoSCoW prioritisation technique
  • Planning Poker
  • Sprints, Scrums, and Showcases
  • Daily Stand-Up Meetings

These tools help break a project into mini-phases, and encourage regular dialogue. This ensures customer engagement. This is especially useful when the end product, system or service is unknown.

Hybrid Project Management

So what is hybrid Project Management?

Basically, a combination of Predictive and Adaptive Project Management. Use a predictive approach for project phases that are well known . Use an adaptive approach for the project phases that are more ‘unknown’.

Complex projects, with many stakeholders may need a Hybrid approach. Break down a large traditional project plan  into several smaller project phases. That way changes and adaptions to the later phases are expected and welcomed.

There are some tools of Adaptive Project Management that can be applied to both Predictive or Traditional Project Management.

Use MoSCoW to help define the scope. Agile tools such as Showcases can keep stakeholders engaged. Burndown charts are a visual way of showing progress. A closer focus on the customer requirements, and expecting (and implementing) change requests.

Often dealing with change requests is time consuming. Streamline the process and make it more customer friendly.

This is employing a more adaptive approach to Traditional Project Management. A Hybrid approach.


The Agile Manifesto encourages a focus on individual interactions and a customer focus. Ensuring that we do this (even with a traditional plan) is partly to adopt a hybrid approach.

People deliver projects, plans help. This has always been my mantra in teaching Project Management. A focus on People is part of the Agile Manifesto, so I have always encouraged a (mild) hybrid approach to planning.

Posted On: 24th February 2021

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