What Is the Adaptive Project Framework? (With Stages and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 30, 2021

Business conditions can change quickly in many industries, and choosing the right project management method to employ might help organizations respond to these changes effectively. The adaptive project framework is a style of project management that encourages flexibility and can help businesses deliver the strongest results to clients. If you're interested in this approach, understanding how it works can help you employ it successfully to create dynamic, relevant work. In this article, we define the adaptive project framework, discuss why it's important, outline the stages of this method and share some helpful tips about using it properly.

What is the adaptive project framework?

The adaptive project framework is a project management approach where team members establish flexible plans and adjust project elements to account for fluctuating circumstances. Many components can impact an ongoing project, such as changes to a particular market, business objectives or client preferences. The adaptive project framework aims to minimize revisions by establishing tentative guidelines and making plans immediately before beginning a particular phase, rather than planning weeks or months ahead.

Businesses might choose to use this approach for projects with clear goals but undefined methods to achieve them. The adaptive project framework might also be an appropriate choice for projects that feature vocal stakeholders because the team can integrate their input into each phase of a project. This framework can also be useful for projects in rapidly changing industries, such as technology or finance, because it helps mitigate the risks of speculation.

Related: Guide to Project Management Framework

Why is the adaptive project framework important?

It's helpful to understand the adaptive project framework because it can add value to your business and simplify your work processes. Here are a few reasons why the adaptive project framework may be important to implement:

Saves time

By encouraging flexibility within a project, you might be able to ensure a more efficient work process. With the adaptive project framework, team members typically wait to make decisions until right before a particular phase begins. This allows team members to meet their project's updated needs, and it may minimize the amount of revisions needed. In the adaptive project framework, you only commit to performing tasks that increase a project's value, so team members can focus on the work that's most important.

Client satisfaction

Adaptive project management tailors a project to a client's specific, evolving needs. This flexible approach allows you to integrate client feedback continually throughout your process and aims to deliver the most valuable product, regardless of prior expectations. This might result in more satisfied clients, communicative relationships with clients and an improved final product.

Fosters growth

The adaptive project framework also allows a team to continually learn by performing tasks. The approach considers new discoveries or changes and allows team members to implement them immediately instead of waiting until the next project to perform new strategies. By continually trying new approaches, the team might develop their skills quicker, practice problem-solving in real time and discover new strengths.

Responds to changing market conditions

This approach helps teams maximize the value of their product and remain competitive by reacting to current business conditions. When using the adaptive project framework, a team typically monitors market activity, analyzes trends and interprets updated data to develop an optimized product. This can help you launch an updated product that meets current business needs and challenges competitors effectively.

Decreases costs

With the adaptive project framework, you can also budget more effectively because you only spend money on solutions that work. This method encourages you to eliminate low-value or dysfunctional tasks early, which affords you the freedom to use those resources on more worthwhile methods. The flexible nature of the framework also saves you money on making big changes because outcomes might be more likely to meet a client's most updated specifications.

What are the phases of adaptive project framework?

The phases of the adaptive project framework include:

1. Project scope

In this stage, team members collaborate with stakeholders to determine the expectations of a project. Together, these two groups define expectations for the final product and agree on non-negotiable goals. During this stage, it can be helpful to aim for clear, detailed communication because aligning stakeholders at the beginning of a project can help you understand its boundaries and process before you can ensure flexibility. In this stage, you might aim to:

  • Establish the Conditions of Satisfaction (CoS), which are a set of agreed-upon objectives that please stakeholders.

  • Write a Project Overview Statement (POS), a written document detailing the CoS.

  • Define the project's requirements and prioritize them by importance, though this is subject to change.

  • Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), a basic framework for a project's steps and tasks that are typically in chronological order.

  • Determine the Scope Triangle, a tool for understanding how much a project's time, cost and scope can change.

Related: Project Management: What Is Scope?

2. Cycle plan

Next, you can divide a project into smaller cycles, also known as iterations, and start developing an actionable plan. During this stage, you might define the iterations of a project, group related tasks together, assign tasks to team members and establish deadlines for project components. It might be beneficial to refer to the WBS when defining and assigning tasks.

3. Cycle build

During the cycle build stage, a team executes its plans. As team members complete tasks and finish cycles, they might adjust plans accordingly. For example, if a competitor launches a similar product during cycle build, stakeholders might request a change to differentiate your product. You might adjust the plans to spend more time developing features to ensure a more advanced product than a competitor.

4. Client checkpoint

After a team finishes developing its project, the client typically evaluates it. This stage is especially important when using the adaptive project framework because final project elements may differ from early plans. Clients usually review the product and determine whether the result meets their needs and quality standards. The team then implements the client's feedback and presents a revised product. This process repeats until reaching the budget's established maximum amount or satisfying the client.

5. Final review

With a completed project, the project manager, team, client and stakeholders typically reflect on the final product and process. You might evaluate the quality of the outcome and measure how successfully you adhered to the CoS. It can also be helpful to note any important lessons that might guide future adaptive project framework processes.

Tips for using the adaptive project framework effectively

Here are some tips that may help you implement the adaptive project framework effectively:

Communicate openly

Constant communication is crucial to ensuring a project's success when using the adaptive project framework because conditions are always changing. Ongoing feedback from all parties is an essential feature of the adaptive project framework, so it's typically vital to ensure that stakeholders remain informed during each cycle so they can share valuable input. It might be helpful to maintain a record of all problems and solutions that occur during the process and consider using project management software that offers real-time updates that are visible to all team members.

Related: How To Create an Effective Stakeholder Communication Plan

Analyze risks

To ensure that your team makes data-backed decisions, consider performing a quantitative analysis to measure risk. Tools such as simulations and project scenarios can help you gauge options and choose the best course of action. The adaptive project framework focuses on eliminating estimates and providing the client with a more reliable result, so encouraging a team to identify and thoroughly evaluate potential risks is beneficial.

Related: How To Perform a Risk Analysis in Project Management

Focus on what's necessary

It might also be helpful to reassess your priorities often when using this framework. As conditions change, certain tasks might become unnecessary, and the adaptive project framework is typically at its most efficient when team members only complete tasks that add value. You can cut costs and eliminate waste by continually evaluating your WBS and only assigning tasks that contribute significantly to a project's outcome.

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