Adaptive project framework as a method of non-traditional project management

Models of traditional project management are not suitable for many modern projects. They do not cope with the challenges that arise when launching projects, such as constant changes, fuzzy business goals and actions of competitors. The definition of full requirements in the first stage became impossible, they have to be adjusted throughout the cycle.

Therefore, cyclic and recursive models are actual tools for project managers. The opportunity to review the previous stage of work, improve the current iteration or constantly check and update the data requires a large time and financial costs.

The purpose of the Adaptive Project Framework (APF) method is to harmonize processes and ongoing changes in the project, business climate and markets. It does not involve templates and a list of pre-prepared decisions. Changes in the approach are a non-standard response to changes in the project or in the environment.

The author of the method Robert Wysocki insists that the project manager (PM) should behave not as a cooker, but as a chef. Do not follow the recipes in which the absence of the ingredient leads to a stupor – you need to come up with recipes yourself, and do not look back on the availability of the required components. According to Wysocki’s observations, linear models of typical project management are not suitable for 70% of projects.

He identifies seven independent factors that affect the project:

  1. Characteristics of the environment in which the project will be implemented
  2. Characteristics of the project itself
  3. The life cycle of a business process
  4. Life cycle of project management
  5. Competence of the project team
  6. Customer Vision
  7. Quality of equipment or software

APF was born during two projects. The first project was aimed at improving the work of the company engaged in software development. The second one was to create information points for a chain of shops. Therefore, Wysocki emphasizes, the difference between APF and other Agile methods is that it is not sharpened for application in the IT field, but is universal for business.

Principles of APF

– Focus on the client. The customer is responsible for selecting the tools and approaches for the project, but will receive support from the project team.

– Dependence on the client. The adaptive framework of the project implies greater customer involvement than most project managers used to. They should be ready for the role of consultants who support the client throughout the project. The customer decides whether to continue or complete the project.

– Fast and frequent demonstration of results. The cycles in the APF are short. Thanks to this, the client quickly learns about the current results and is more reliably involved in the processes.

– Willingness to constantly ask questions and analyze. Many APF phases are based on questions that the PC and the client must respond to.

– Change is the way to a better solution. The frequency of changes for the APF project is a good indicator of how the parties go to the right decision. Ideally, when changes occur often in the early cycles and slow down in the future. Unlike typical project management, the Adaptive Project Framework sees the changes not as something bad, but as signs of a healthy project.

– Do not speculate on the future. Future forecasting is considered a process that does not add value.

APF algorithms

The Adaptive Project Framework consists of 5 phases.

  1. Framing

This is the initial phase. The objectives of the project are set, which should be clearly understood by both the project team and the customer. The criterion of success is fixed as the result, which brought obvious business value.

The definition of the framework is carried out in 5 stages:

  • Search for matching conditions. A meeting takes place between the project team and the customer representatives. It can be communication and one-on-one, between the PM and the client. At the end of the meeting, the client must make sure that his wishes are understood, and the contractor must ensure that he has informed the client how the project will be executed. All contradictions must be eliminated already at this stage.

During the successful search for a matching condition, two important results are achieved. Forms a dictionary – the language of communication between the PC and the client, and an agreement on the outcome of the negotiations is approved. It will be the starting point for the implementation of the project.

  • Drawing up an application with a review of the project. The agreement on the results of negotiations turns into a document that highlights:

– Problems and opportunities that led to the initiation of the project

– Objectives of the project

– Framework for project objectives

– Criteria for success

– Risks.

  • Defining the cycle parameters. The duration and number of cycles are set. Cycles may not have the same duration, but in total should correspond to the end date of the project.

Adaptive Project Framework cycles usually last 2 to 6 weeks. The earlier cycles should take less time than the later ones to immediately entice the client into the project.

  • Establishment of incomplete hierarchical structure of works, or project schedule. When planning a project in APF, the goal is known, but there are no known tools for its implementation. The structure is supplemented during project implementation, when important details are revealed.
  • Prioritization of algorithms. Although the future in the APF remains vague, at this stage, priority tools and approaches are identified that can be applied in the future.
  1. Cycle Planning

Adaptive framework of the project implies planning in accordance with the concept “just in time”. Only processes for which solutions are already selected are considered.

Cycle planning involves involving customers. They are easy to manage, it does not require technological solutions.

The planning is divided into 4 stages:

– Definition of the objectives of the cycle. It is discussed together with the client taking into account the time and available resources for the cycle.

– Distribution of tasks for subgroups. This is the first step to the formation of the project schedule with the indication of the performers. Processes that have dependencies are divided into groups that are already less dependent on each other. The participants in the project team are divided into subgroups that will plan and execute the tasks.

– Scheduling for processes with dependencies. Subgroups form the first task lists for each process. All that is required for this stage – stickers, markers and board. That is, the practice of kanban is applied.

– The work of subgroups. The final schedule for each subgroup is compiled. It can be executed in the form of a matrix, in the rows of which the participants of the subgroup will be indicated, and in the columns – the number of days in the cycle. On the cell of the matrix is ​​a sticker with a description of the problem. When the project changes, it’s enough to remove the stickers with unnecessary tasks. At the same time, the dependencies between the processes will not be violated, and the participants in one subgroup will not be transferred to another.

  1. Cycle Build

Unlike typical project management, in APF the execution time of a loop never changes. It remains the same as it was established during the first phase of “Defining the framework”. Another important feature is that changes are not made during the cycle. The introduction of new approaches occurs between cycles.

To build a cycle, you use these tools:

  • Schedule for micro levels. Participants in the subgroups make a work plan for the sub-tasks, of which the task in their schedule consists.
  • Work packages. Describe how the performer intends to perform subtasks. If something happens to him, then another member of the subgroup can replace him. He will be guided by the working package of the retired performer. In order not to create work with zero value, the PM should not request work packages for non-critical tasks. Important tasks include those that have a high risk or require performers who are hard to replace.
  • A repository for change requests. Proposals that arise during the execution of a cycle are considered after its completion. They are placed in a special place on the kanban board.
  • Information about the problems. Another place on the kanban board is given to describe the problems, risks and situations that need to be clarified.
  • PC meeting. It is held daily at the beginning of the working day and lasts less than half an hour. The person responsible for the task is accountable for whether he is in time for the schedule, and informs him if he has a plan of change. He also tells what his subgroup did yesterday and what he is ready to do today. If a subgroup needs help to complete a task on time, it asks for it from other project team members after the meeting. During the meeting, problems, solutions and conflicts are not discussed – brief discussions can only concern clarifying the goals of the project or its processes.
  • Work reports. The regulated framework of projects does not imply written reports, reports occur orally. During the working meeting, the PM briefly clarifies to the team how the problems affecting the project are being addressed.
  1. Client Checkpoint

A unique phase that is not present in typical project management. The project team and the client embark on the crucial negotiations, during which they analyze the project:

– which processes were performed on time, especially with the last completed cycle.

– decide together whether the project should go to the next cycle.

– examine requests for changes that were stored on the kanban board; tools and resources not involved in the last completed cycle; and tools and resources prepared for the next cycle; and make up new priorities.

– define goals for the next cycle.

After the analysis, the client and the project team are to answer four questions:

First – Do the overall project met the expectations?

There are 2 characteristics that help determine the success of the project. The first is the pace. During the previous cycles, the project team and the customer worked closely together, so they can feel whether the project has gained sufficient speed to the final stage.

If achieved in the plan indicators, and the client was actively involved in the discussion of the processes, the mood in the team will be good. If the customer is indifferent to the fate of the project, relations in the team do not add up, which affects productivity – the future of such a project is in question.

The second characteristic is interaction. If the cooperation of the project team with the client has developed fruitfully, then both sides will be able to jointly decide which tools and approaches remain to be applied in the future. It will be a sign that the project is healthy and should continue.

Second – Should the project go to the next cycle?

If both sides have seriously approached the analysis of the project at this stage, they will easily decide on its future fate. If there is uncertainty that the idea will not be realized, then it’s time to put it off. From the ashes can be revived a new project, which will take into account the errors.

Third – What tools and approaches will be given priority?

Throughout the past cycles on the board, the proposals of project team members for project changes have been accumulating. Tools and approaches that have not yet been given priority over previous cycles have been previously chosen. Now there is a new sorting. It will pass easier thanks to the experience of both the project team and the customer.

Fourth – What should we build in the next cycle?

A list of new tools and approaches that have received priority has been prepared. The duration of the next cycle is known. Goals can be set more ambitiously than for previous cycles. But do not promise to the customer impossible, so as not to lose the established confidence.

  1. Project Overview

As in the previous phase, you have to answer the questions:

  • Did the team find an acceptable solution?

This question can be broken down into two more. The regulated framework of projects did not initially clarify the solution for a certain project goal, so we need to first answer if we found it. If so, is this decision consistent with the success criteria that were established during the first phase.

Responsibility for the successful implementation of the project is borne by both the project team and the client.

  • Did the APF algorithms work for the project?

This question should be asked for each project, both successful and not. The developer of the Wysocki method encourages the sharing of information about the weaknesses of APF, as it follows its development and is ready to make corrections.

  • How well did the team use the APF algorithms?

Wysocki insists that during the coordination phase with the customer, both sides should discuss the future of the project as openly as possible. What turned out well and why? What ended in failure and why? What did the team not do in spite of expectations? The answers to these questions will provide information both for the next project cycles and for other teams using the regulated project framework.

What conclusion can we draw on the APF methodology?

  • APF requires a new way of thinking, ready for change
  • The method is constantly updated
  • A “just-in-time” concept is used
  • Tools, templates and typical project management processes adapt to new formats
  • APF is focused on customers and assumes complete communication with them, based on trust
  • All processes that do not bring values are identified.

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