Home > The Basics of Project Management > A Comparison of the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

A Comparison of the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

A Comparison of the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

Over the past several years, I have noticed a change with the mentality and means that clients approach projects in the construction management industry. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the construction projects that our firm was involved with were following a more Traditional Project Management(TPM) approach with the customers giving clear goals and specifications and a clear solution or outcome.  Our contracts were based on Lump Sum and there was little or no room for change orders, scope changes, and or client to contractor interface. The projects were awarded specifically on cost and schedule with no consideration for systems evaluations or value recommendations. The design team was not part of the construction management process and had little involvement or interface with the contractor.  From the mid 1990’s until present there has been a dramatic shift in the methodologies that our customers use that has ultimately shifted the Project Management Life Cycle(PMLC) from the Traditional Project Management(TPM) approach to more of an Agile Project Management(APM) approach. I believe this change was a result of improperly programmed spaces, cost overruns, litigation, and a number of failed projects. Our contracts are now based on Cost plus with a Guaranteed Maximum Price(GMP)and the client mentality is one of becoming more involved with the construction process and in turn being part of the team process. This change has prompted our firm to expand and add a complete architectural and engineering division. Our projects now begin with a more client centered approach with defined goals and objectives but the solution or outcome is still not clearly specified or defined.  There is now more emphasis given to the preconstruction phase; and the design development process is one of working together with the technical, financial, administrative, and owner representative members to work in unison to develop the best designed value oriented project. Due to the nature of this change in methodology, there has been an increase in the use of the Adaptive PMLC approach and in some cases the use of the Extreme PMLC approach. The Adaptive PMLC model in somewhat of a hybrid form is used now more frequently during the construction management process. In this report, I will identify and evaluate the Adaptive PMLC model and  the Extreme PMLC model, perform a comparative analysis of their similarities and differences, and discuss the conditions that would suggest the use of one model over the other.
I will also give brief examples of how the APM and xPM models have been used on past construction management projects that I have been involved with.

Understanding the Adaptive PMLC model and the Extreme PMLC Model

The two PMLC models that we will be discussing in this report have a number of similarities and differences in their project management styles, techniques and practices, and in the sequencing of the five process groups; scoping, planning, launching, Monitoring & controlling, and closing (Wysocki, p. 300 2009).  The author outlines these two models and presents a thorough examination of each of the model’s characteristics as listed below:

  1. Adaptive PMLC Model – This model is a form of the APM approach and has minimal information that is known about the solution and also is missing the functional aspect of searching for a solution.  This process is used in construction management when dealing with very complex, unordinary, and one of a kind projects. This model is in between the Iterative and Extreme models since it deals with a higher level of uncertainty in the solutions possible to meet the projected goals for the project. There are four Adaptive models defined(Wysocki, p. 405 2009):
    1. Adaptive Software Development(ASD) – This Adaptive model has three phases; speculate, collaborate, and learn. The Speculate phase is an educated guess of what the final outcome or solution might be. The techniques and processes of the Scoping process is used during this phase. The Speculate phase is when the client and project management team access what transpired in the Speculative phase and determine what projected solutions would be. The Launching and Controlling and Monitoring Process groups would be used in the Speculative phase. The Learn phase is determining what lessons were learned and provide a quality review of the defined solutions.
    2. Adaptive Project Framework(APF) – This approach is not limited to software development and is used in product design and process design projects.  One of the main characteristics of the APF is that the scope is variable, within defined time constraints, and optimizes business value by adjusting scope at each iteration(Wysocki, p. 414 2009). At each iteration, the client may change the course or scope of the project therefore realizing great business value.  The Planning process is very integral and key in the success of the APF process. The APF process parallels the Design Development process in the construction industry as evidenced below in this brief synopsis:
  1. i.   Conceptual design with preliminary program budget – The client and team work together to develop a concept of what the project will consist of, preliminary drawings, and financial feasibility.  Like the APF approach, this process can go through a number of iterations until it is finally released to the next stage.
  2. ii.   Schematic design with preliminary budget tied to feasibility study – The client and management team work through the needs assessment and the goal is to have a preliminary budget and design approved in order to be released to the next step. This phase may also have a number of iterations until it has met owner defined project goals.
  3. iii.   50% Design Development (D/D) with revised preliminary budget – During this step, the client and management team might be faced with making many changes to the drawings and specifications primarily due to the need for staying within the approved budget.  Like the APF process, this step encourages changes to reach the overall objective of the project in both design and budget.
  4. iv.   100% Design Development with final D/D budget – This step, like the APF process, is very client focus as the management team strives to finalize project parameters in order for a client approved sign off to proceed with the construction document phase.
  5. v.   50% Construction Documents with C/D Budget – Similar to the APF process, this step ensures maximum business value for the time and dollars expended due to the fact that competitive bid packages are released with a number of value engineering options that result in substantial cost savings.
  6. vi.   100% Construction Documents with final C/D budget that will be the basis for the GMP – This is the accumulation and result of a very lengthy, client focused, value driven, and change tolerable planning process.  Like the APF process, this framework is usually 100 percent effective with minimal problems for the client and construction management team.

As evidenced by the aforementioned example, the APF process does parallel the design development process in the construction management industry. There are a number of key factors to consider that make the APF process a viable framework, based on its core values, to use within the construction industry which are(Wysocki, p. 416-417 2009):

  1. i.   Client-focused
  2. ii.   Client-driven
  3. iii.   Incremental results early and often
  4. iv.   Continuous questioning and introspection
  5. v.   Change is progress to a better solution
  6. vi.   Don’t speculate on the future
  7. i.   Active client involvement is imperative
  8. ii.   DSDM teams must be empowered to make decisions
  9. iii.   The focus is on frequent delivery of products
  10. iv.   Fitness for business purpose is the essential criterion for acceptance
  11. v.   Iterative and incremental development is necessary to converge on an acceptable business solution
  12. vi.   All changes during development are reversible
  13. vii.   Requirements are base lined at high level
  14. viii.   Testing is integrated throughout the life cycle
  15. ix.   A collaborative and cooperative approach between all stakeholders is essential
    1. Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM) – This process is similar to the Linear PMLC model except that there are some distinct features that make it quite different. The DSDM is an iterative model and follows nine key principles described by Wysocki p. 449 (2009):

Even though many aspects of the key principles are conducive for construction management, I believe that this approach in itself cannot be effective as a process in the construction industry.

    1. SCRUM – This process is the most chaotic and the most client driven approach.  According to Wysocki p. 450 (2009), the process is self directed, operates in successive one month iterations, holds daily team meetings, continuously offers the client demos of the current solution, and adapts its development plan at the end of each iteration.  This process is more conducive to software development and not for use in the construction industry.
  1. Extreme PMLC Model – This model is the most complex model and is  appropriately used on research and development projects. It involves heavy client involvement and is a process used when the goals nor the solutions are known and that the phases repeat all process groups in a linear fashion(Wysocki p. 464 2009). This model uses both the xPM and PMx approaches and are titled extreme just by the nature of attempting to initiate or complete a project with so many unknowns. In this model, ach phase learns from the previous and it is continuously adjusting and adapting itself in order to meet some future goal or objective. There are three basic characteristics described for xPM model (Wysocki p. 485-486, 2009):
    1. High Speed – The projects are fast paced and are groundbreaking, innovative, and critical to the organizations future.
    2. High Change – There is continuous change as there are new discoveries and are similar to APF projects except that the changes are more frequent and regularly accepted.
    3. High Uncertainty -  Due to the nature of not knowing the goals or solutions, there is a high degree of uncertainty on where you are going with the project.

Similarities between an adaptive project management life cycle model and an extreme project management life cycle model

There are a number of similarities of the Adaptive PMLC and the Extreme PMLC.  It must be noted that even though there are these similarities, the models as a whole have very different and distinct processes that may only be conducive to certain types of projects. The similarities are:

a.  In both models the solution or outcome is unclear. The Adaptive PMLC does have a defined goal that may set the path for the solution, while the Extreme PMLC has neither the goal or solution identified.

b.  Both models require client involvement and feedback during the process.  In the Adaptive PMLC, the projects are client-focused and client-driven as there is a set format in planning to engage the client to express their needs and direction for the project. In the Extreme PMLC, the client involvement is even greater as the project may move directions as the client gives their inputs during iterations.

c.  The five process groups are used on both models. As in all PMLC models, the Adaptive and Extreme PMLC models use all five of the process groups; planning, scoping, launching, monitoring and closing, and closing. Both models open with the planning process and end with the closing process.

d.  Both the Adaptive and the Extreme PMLC models require a degree of creativity as the management teams are encouraged to discover, create, learn, and improve during iterations to strive toward achieving some solution or outcome for the project. They are both very complex by nature and are initially both high candidates for risk management. In the Adaptive PMLC, the risks are reduced as each iteration forces the group to a clearer understanding of the project outcome, inc comparison, the Extreme PMLC risks are constant due to the possibility of complete change in direction during the cycle of the project.

e.  The planning process in both the PMLC models does not waste time as it is encouraged to move as in a rapid fashion in order to achieve some sort of result or outcome. The Adaptive and Extreme PMLC models are by nature very complex and it is logical that in both models the management team must be experienced in facilitating information to achieve results.

Differences between an adaptive project management life cycle model and an extreme project management life cycle model

The differences of these two models is what defines the types of projects that they are suitable for.  As I mentioned earlier, the Adaptive PMLC model, specifically the Adaptive Project Framework(APF), is suitable in a hybrid form for the construction industry while the Extreme PMLC model would be difficult by its nature to be used in the standard construction management arena.  The differences of these two models are as follows:

a.  In the Adaptive PMLC model, the goals and project objectives are known while the Extreme PMLC model has no clear goal or objective.  In the construction industry, the Adaptive approach would be acceptable due to the fact than many proposed projects have a clear understanding of the project goals and the parameters of those goals or objectives, while the Extreme process would only be plausible in construction on a research and development project similar to the development of some new standard or process.

b.  In the Adaptive PMLC model, the Project time and costs are more defined and the solution becomes clearer through each iteration.  In the Extreme PMLC model, the time and cost constraints are not as defined and in many cases can seem to be fragmented or chaotic.

c.  The Adaptive PMLC model gives more business value within a given time in comparison to the Extreme PMLC model.  The Extreme PMLC model may require stages or processes to begin over from an initial starting point therefore bringing no value to the costs spent to date. The Extreme PMLC model has no guarantee on deliverables or results.

Conditions that would suggest the use of one model over the other

There are some definite conditions that would preempt the use of one model over another. In the construction management industry, a hybrid of the Adaptive PMLC model using the Adaptive Project Framework(APF) is a process that I have used on numerous projects. I have also used the Extreme PMLC model in rare occasions specifically on researching a process that would resolve certain situations. The following are some conditions for each of the two models with a brief example of how I used these model’s processes and applications.

  1. Adaptive – This PMLC model offers a mind set of change that continuously adapts as each iteration is completed. The APF adopts tools and processes from the TPM and xPM to meet the special needs of the APF(Wysocki p. 415, 2009), therefore, making this approach a more viable and realistic option in the construction management industry.  As I mentioned earlier, this process is followed in design development phase of a project.

Our firm has an extensive background in private large scale development projects and there are certain processes and procedures that we have followed over the years that parallel the Adaptive PMLC model.  As an example, we have a client that will come to us with a land parcel(usually in a downtown metropolitan area), an overall budget, a basic idea of what he wants, and he wants to be a an integral part of the process. Therefore we would begin the preconstruction process basically following the core values of the APF.  As we go through the various iterations, we become closer to our end solution or outcome.  Our client gets very excited a she can see the birth of a new project.  He enjoys the openness and client-focused approach, always making and adapting changes to achieve a maximum result. As in the APF, there is constant questioning and the team is encouraged to make recommendations and changes to improve the overall final solution or outcome. This specific client challenges the team in certain brainstorming sessions and ultimately we develop a number of good results early in the process.

  1. Extreme – This PMLC model is the most complex and least structured PMLC model. This model uses repeated phases as it attempts to find the goals and solutions of a given project.  The model has a high failure rate, however, I have used a similar approach in trying to determine the goals and solutions to specific processes.  

As an example,  I have used an Extreme Project Management approach when dealing with a major material defect on one of our projects.  In this case, I was informed by one of our material suppliers that the Dens-glass provided on the project was materially constructed with an admixture that was susceptible to mold.  The dens-glass material is specifically constructed to be mold resistant and this project had several millions of dollars of this material already installed on the facility. Needless to say, once I received this call, an Extreme PMLC approach was necessary to find what our ultimate goal and solution would be for the remediation of this problem. We set up some specific project meetings and the group was encouraged to be creative in determining what the project goals and solutions would be in order to solve the problem arising from the defective dens-glass.  During the process, many ideas were given and we would go through the iterations but then discover that the goals and solutions wouldn’t work.  Ultimately, we used the INSPIRE(Wysocki p. 479 2009) framework to identify the goals and the final solution for remediation. In this case, the xPM approach was quite effective in solving the problems associated with the defective Dens-glass.

Summary Evaluation

A project manager must have a clear understanding of the best approach to use prior to starting a proposed project.  There are both internal and external factors that enlighten us to what approach is most effective. It has been my experience that the APM PMLC model using the APF approach is most fitting for the construction industry. The Extreme PMLC model can be used in cases where there needs to be some research or unusual development of a process, technique or strategy.

Reference List:

1.  Wysocki, R.K. (2009) Effective Project Management: traditional, agile, extreme. 5th ed. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. (pp. 297-488).

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  1. Ragi Ramzi
    August 13, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Great artcle, exactly what i was looking for.

    Many thanks

  2. March 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    This is indeed a very detailed and well written article.
    Thanks very much.

  3. June 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Wysocki has been misquoted in this article several times – Adaptive PMLC does not have both an identifiable goal and solution. At the end of the day one can force fit, within reason, any solution into a model. Wysocki writes a lot of good articles but his version of Adaptive and Extreme is full of contradictions. Typically, in the sixth edition he states that the project team for Adaptive PMLC must be co-located. A couple of pages later he contradicts himself. The whole section contains continuity issues. This particular article does not provide sufficient academic material to be rated.

  4. February 5, 2013 at 6:34 am

    Hello Mr Thomas Franchina, thank you for posting that insightful topic ( about adaptive and extreme project management models) on your blog. I found exactly what I was looking for. In your years of experience on construction projects, have you encountered any case where some of the top management guys of the organization running the project embezzle the project funds or mis-manage it. Thereby leading to delayed payment to vendors/ sub-contractors and project team members which causes a drop in motivation. My company is currently facing this on a current project to deliver several housing units. I am in the Project Management Unit and work as Project Support. Provides timely report on schedule, sales and cost. At the onset, the plan stated that we’re to deliver the project in 6 months but right now, we’ve spent more than 15 months on it. Please, what do you advise as way forward?

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