Introduction to Hybrid project management methodology

There is a tug of war between those who truly believe and promote the Agile project management method and those who swear by traditional project management methods like the waterfall or WBS. But now there is a better option than those two methods, which is gaining traction among project managers. This method is called Hybrid project management.

Agile proponents argue that for the projects which involve some sort of research, the requirements are in flux and there is no point planning the project steps in detail.

They also argue short duration sprints help teams to focus on important tasks and discover flaws with design assumptions and development processes much faster. 

In addition, Agile can react faster to market changes and help to bring products to the market faster.

The traditional project management proponents argue that large projects especially those which combine multiple disciplines require traditional methods like the waterfall or WBS.

They also argue, without a clear blueprint, large teams consisting of multiple disciplines get distracted by their own little problems and lose the focus on the overall objective.   

Large projects need to adhere to processes that guarantee the outcome will match the requirements and specifications. This is especially true for government, military, aerospace, heavy construction, and pharmaceutical industries.

The traditional project managers say good luck to anybody who tries to build a suspension bridge using the Agile method.  

The truth as always is somewhere in the middle. The best project management method used in a project depends on the size of the team, the team’s experience, and the complexity of the project. 

Hybrid Project Management combines the best of what Agile offers in terms of speed of execution plus the detailed planning and clarity on objectives offered by work breakdown structure.

hybrid project management demo

Hybrid project management methodology is better suited for the majority of projects in which agile or waterfall methods don’t meet the need of the project.

With the exception of very small projects in which Agile is sufficient, most projects could benefit from using the Hybrid methodology.

What Is Hybrid project management?

The hybrid approach includes the best principles practiced in both agile project management and traditional methods.

In the hybrid methodology, the project is broken down into manageable components called sub-projects by discipline (hardware, software, mechanical, etc) or by functionality (navigational subsystem, computation modules, temperature control, etc).

This simplification of the project is accomplished by using a process called Work Breakdown Structure or WBS.

When multiple disciplines participate in a project, the project management methods used by each group is flexible. One discipline might use agile (software) and waterfall is used by others (hardware, mechanical, manufacturing, etc).

Most disciplines could use the Hybrid management method with little learning and without major disruption in the way the teams work. 

I am a strong believer that disciplines like hardware development, manufacturing, mechanical development, and chemical engineering can benefit greatly from the hybrid approach by combing both agile and waterfall from planning to execution.

project management free offer

When a project is broken down in terms of functionality, the waterfall is used to map out the path from the requirement and specification to the development, testing, and final release to the customer.

Each component is then specified in more detail and developed using an agile project management method like Scrum.

As a side note Scrum fits the Hybrid method better than all other Agile methods by far.   

To give an example and make this clear to the reader, let’s assume we are working on developing the next great electronic gadget.

The components of this gadget include Electronics, software, mechanics, display system, and so on.

WBS is used to plan the high-level development road-map for the gadget and what is needed to complete the development from start to finish.

Agile is used to develop, refine, and release each component and sub-component defined by the WBS process.

The beauty of the Hybrid project management approach is that all high-level tasks, their interrelationship (dependencies), and final product delivery are defined by the Work Breakdown Structure method.

Agile is used to speed up the development of each component and its sub-component in the plan.

This defines a clear interface between separate disciplines.  

The hybrid approach meaning is simple. It makes it possible for better quality products with less development time and faster reaction and adjustment to market changes.

After each component of the project is broken down into tasks that may take anywhere from one month to a few months, the Agile method comes into play.

These components are broken down further into four to six weeks product releases called sprints. Here all principles used for the agile project management method are applied.

The outcome of each sprint is tested and sent either to the market (if applicable) or used as the base for the next sprint.

These iterations continue until the final product is developed and ready to be shipped to the market.  

A few years ago I wrote an article called structured Agile in Collaboration Corner blog. In that article, I argued that Agile and traditional methods don’t always fit project requirements.

I argued a new approach that combines agile and waterfall will be a far more effective option for most projects.

In the hindsight, I believe now the name Hybrid project management is a much better description of the method I was describing than structured agile which I used then.

To learn more about agile project management, read an article I recently wrote about agile called Agile project management – A tutorial.

Check also, the in-depth review of the work breakdown structure and waterfall method to learn more about how WBS works and if it is right for your projects.

If you are in the process of buying project management software read project management software buyer’s guide it is an excellent resource for choosing the right project management software for your needs.

WBS Demo

For more information about Hybrid project management, read the hybrid PM manifesto. It includes the details you need for implementing the Hybrid methodology.

Recently I wrote a Case Study about the use of Hybrid project management. In it, I cover what was learned in a few large projects done by one of our clients using different variations of Hybrid project management methodologies.    

Did you find this article interesting?  We appreciate it if you leave a comment below and share it on your social media pages.


General FAQ

What is Hybrid project management?

Hybrid project management is a combination of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the Agile method.

Does the Hybrid method work for all projects?

he Hybrid method is suitable for most projects but not all (the same is true for WBS and Agile). I don't recommend the Hybrid method for small and simple projects.

Why Hybrid project management is important?

Agile and WBS work for some projects and not all. Hybrid is a new method that fits many projects in which Agile and WBS were not a perfect fit.

Who is using Hybrid project management?

From complex projects in design and development to manufacturing and construction the Hybrid method is gaining traction.


David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

  1. The issue is not just the level of complexity, but also the level of uncertainty. A very complex project with little uncertainty is well served by waterfall, but if there is both uncertainty and complexity, than a hybrid (or adaptive) approach is required.

  2. Interesting approach – almost making hybrid PM its own methodology, uniquely apart from waterfall and agile. I agree that nearly all projects are hybrid, and that they fall somewhere along the spectrum between waterfall and agile.

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