Adaptive Project Management

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Adaptive project management (APM) is a method applied in project management. The method adapt and changes in response to requests from the stakeholder. The process in the method allows the manager to improve decisions and practices during the project life cycle based on experiences from previous results obtained during the project. The method accommodates uncertainties where the process is an adaptive structured and systematic iterative process [1]. The method derives from agile project management, however, in APM the methodology allows the team to respond to unexpected challenges and adapt new improved methods towards reaching the project goal [2]. The method can be implemented in nearly all project types with a defined goal but an undecided process to reach the goal. However, one exception is in construction project, where little flexibility is accepted during the project lifecycle. An example of application of the method is during restoration of coastal ecosystem projects [3].


The method was introduced in 2008 by Robert K. Wysocki [4]. Often, most project management methods include a static strategy, well-defined work, and people working on projects directed by the project manager [5]. However, a strategy may rather be dynamic and unpredictable, and as a consequence, project often fail if the project management approach do not deal with and accommodate uncertainties that may exits towards the way reaching the goal of the project. The APM approach can be compared to the evolution in biology, where favorable traits are adapted in time, and correspondingly, in the adaptive management approach the project manager can adapt new more favorable decisions during the project life cycle to reach the project goal. A change in strategy is accepted as more knowledge, experience and information becomes available, which will be adapted in the strategy [6]. The APM method can be viewed as a response to the complexity of projects, where the two most common failure reasons for complex projects are because of re-prioritization and change in strategy [7].


The key principles of the methodology are:

  1. Accommodation of change
  2. Learn from during
  3. Client driven

The method is distinguished from other management methodologies by placing the client as the central figure, where the demands of the costumer can change the direction of the project [8]. In contrast to a static strategy, the APM method has a dynamic and iterative strategy approach, where the uncertainty is accommodated [9]. The method prepares the team to respond to the unexpected, and results and decisions are continually being evaluated with a flexible mindset of the team members [10].


The method approach has an adaptive and iterative approach, where the project is adapted and improved after each iteration, in agreement with the clients demand and wishes. The method is divided into cycles, where each cycle represents a minor project. After each end minor project, the project team will evaluate results and improve work and procedures if needed. The method demands a frequently contact with stakeholders for the team to adapt and deliver the project goal.

Project Life Cycle

The project life cycle can be related to the life cycle of a living organism with three major events:

1. Project “DNA”: Building the project; the initial evolution and the DNA string defining the building blocks for the project. This phase includes project scope, budget, schedule
2. The living project: The project is breathing and living with planning, design, go-live, development, and delivery. Here unexpected events may occur, and more favorable decisions may be adapted.
3. End of life cycle: The project goal is reached.

The life cycle of the APM project is illustrated in the figure below and is divided into five phases: project scope; cycle pan, cycle completion, client checkpoint, and final review. In the following, a detailed description of the five phases is given.

Schematic diagram illustrating the project life cycle in Adaptive Project Management


1. Project scope

The first part of the project scope is to recognize how the costumer would be satisfied.

1.1. Develop Conditions of Satisfaction (CoS)
In this step the conditions of satisfaction for the project is identified where stakeholders defines project goal and successful outcome. This step forms a reference point and assists the manager to direct the project on course throughout the subsequent phases.
1.2. Writing the Project Overview Statement (PoS)
The project overview statement is the deliverable from the developed CoS. With this step the potential risk, obstacles, and assumptions are identified.
1.3. Functional requirements
A list of priorities actions. This step can change the project progresses.
1.4. Work breakdown structure (WBS)
The work is divided into smaller parts
1.5. The triangle scopes
Intersection between time, cost and quality

2. Cycle Plan

This part is the start point of the iterative project cycle which can be repeated unlimited. The cycle plan defines all of the tasks to be conducted and creates the dependencies for the completion of the tasks. In this part, the information defined in the WBS step is assessed and may be changed and adapted between the iterations.

3. Cycle Completion

At this point, all tasks are planned and agreed, and the work is in progress. The work will continue until the cycle point is complete. Any requests for changes and improvement are being written down.

4. Client Checkpoint

This step is a review point and will control the planning for the succeeding cycle. The project team will review the quality of what has been completed and assure this is in correspondence with the client opinion. If needed, adaptations are implemented in the following cycle. After the review, the cycle is repeated until the project is completed.

5. Final Review

The last step is a final review of the project results. This will determine whether the achieved result meets the client satisfaction. In addition, the report should be reflective and consider the effectiveness of the methods implemented.


The approach may be limited by its flexibility for the costumer to change need and request for improvements, where time and budget may be difficult to control in order to meet client demand.


  1. name= M.Mrsic > M. Mrsic (2017) “Adaptive Project Management” ActiveCollab. Link:
  2. name= ThinkThyme > Alex (2018) “Adaptive Project Framework Methodology” ThinkThyme. Link:
  3. name= article > R. M. Thom (2000) “Adaptive management of coastal ecosystem restoration projects” 15(3-4) p.365-372. Ecological Engineering
  4. name= ThinkThyme
  5. Lucidchart (2018) "What is adaptive project framework" Blog. link:
  6. name= Think Thyme
  7. name=Lucidchart
  8. name= Think Thyme
  9. name=Lucidchart
  10. name=Lucidchart

M. Mrsic (2017) “Adaptive Project Management” ActiveCollab. Link: Alex (2018) “Adaptive Project Framework Methodology” ThinkThyme. Link: R. M. Thom (2000) “Adaptive management of coastal ecosystem restoration projects” 15(3-4) p.365-372. Ecological Engineering Lucidchart Team (2018) "What is adaptive project framework" Blog. link:

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