Active, Proactive and Adaptive Project Management

The success of any project is closely linked to the appropriate Project Management. To be effective, it must have several characteristics. In this document, I will present what it means and why the active, proactive and adaptive Project Management it’s necessary. Besides, in this order, these three attributes mark also different stages in the history of Project Management.

For each of them, I did a search in PMBOK* 5th Edition, I have interpreted the results and I have expressed various thoughts.

Active = Intensely involved (effectively) in an action; dynamic; hardworking
Proactive = (to a person or action) Creating or controlling a situation, rather than just responding to it after it happened
Adaptive = That can adapt (transform to meet certain requirements)

Active Project Management
Searching the word «active» in PMBOK 5th Edition: 22 results (strictly related to Project Management, without Annexes)
* 4 are related to Communication: Project Manager - Stakeholders, influencing and listening skills
* 11 are related to Stakeholders: their involvement in different activities, project stakeholder management
* 1 is related to Processes: managing process interactions
* 4 are related to Risks: risk management, strategies for negative and positive risks
* 2 are related to Procurements: managing agreements, resource calendars

Project Management is the engine that «pushes» the project to meet its objectives. This engine must continuously operate at high speed. In order to be always active, it must be supported by Communication, Stakeholders and Risk Management.

The communication within the project must be active, effective and collaborative. A Project Manager spends most of the time for communication (some say 90%, some less, some more). In this respect, it’s essential that the Project Manager have high communication skills (for example: active and effective listening, questioning and probing ideas to ensure better understanding, persuading a person or team to perform an action, etc).

The stakeholders’ involvement and attitude can be active or passive and their interest to the project can be positive or negative. For this reason, the Project Manager must perform active management of both stakeholders and their expectations, throughout the project life cycle. This is necessary in order not to be affected the project objectives and performances, as well its business value. Moreover, the project success is closely linked to the active involvement of the main stakeholders and the Project Manager must permanently supervise this.

Risk identification and assessment, as well defining and monitoring actions for risk mitigation and avoidance, are ongoing activities and require the involvement of the entire project team. The active project risk management first focus on planning, monitoring and fulfillment of corrective actions, in order to eliminate the potential problems or reduce their impact.

Proactive Project Management
Searching the word «proactive» in PMBOK 5th Edition: 10 results
* 5 in the chapter Risk Management: management of known and unknown risks, actions for risk mitigation and avoidance
* 2 are related to Communication: project team - stakeholders, networking
* 1 is related to Quality Audits: assistance to improve implementation of processes
* 1 is related to Human Resources: actions to raise the level of competence (training, hiring, etc)
* 1 is related to Stakeholders: wining their support

All indicated proactive actions are somehow or other related to the project risks, i.e. minimizing their negative impact. This is absolutely normal given the purely proactive nature of Risk Management and that the anticipation of certain project events involves the identification of risks (either negative or positive).

It’s obvious that we must be proactive when we are involved in a project (whether we are Project Manager or we are part of the team). The experience leads us to anticipate certain events but also the teamwork. Project meetings are intended not only to analyze the project progress and current issues, but also to identify new risks and associated mitigation actions. Or defining and reviewing the project checkpoints, which allow us to keep the project on track (on cost, duration, quality, etc). For this reason, the Project Managers must obtain regular feedback from stakeholders.

In terms of emotional intelligence, there are two things we need to consider: concern and influence. Proactive people expand their circle of influence. The reactive ones are worried about things they can’t control. In this respect, the proactive Project Managers are those that focus their efforts and attention on long-term, extend their influence on stakeholders and effectively manage the major risks.

Adaptive Project Management
Searching the word «adaptive» in PMBOK 5th Edition: 5 results (without Definitions and Annexes)
* 4 in the chapter Project Life Cycle
* 1 is related to Enterprise Environmental Factors

The Adaptive Project Management concept emerged after 2001, the release date of Agile Manifesto, although elements of Adaptive Management have been stated since 1970.

The Agile methodologies are using an adaptive project life cycle (change driven), versus the traditional methods which are using a predictive one (plan driven).

Currently, many project teams and organizations are applying the Agile approach and one of the basic ideas is the «flexible product development». This provides the ability to make changes in the product, even later in the development cycle.

A lot of articles, presentations and publications use the concept Agile Project Management. This is contested by a significant number of experts, for several reasons. For example, the fact that some understand that APM = SCRUM or there is a confusion between APM and the Agile development process.

The Adaptive Project Management is not necessarily based on Agile methodologies. It’s focused mainly on the organizational aspects of adaptation process. Two principles are the most important:
* Iterative decision-making or making choices based on learning from the outcomes of decisions previously taken
* Strategic flexibility or avoidance of irreversible decisions

The development of Change Management from the last years has decisively influenced the release of the Adaptive Project Management. More effectively is applied the Change Management, more successful is the project. Change Management and Project Management are complementary disciplines with a common objective. When integrated in the delivery of a project, they together provide a unified approach for achieving the desired results and outcomes.

The modern Project Management, adapted to frequent and sudden changes, both organizational and economic, must be an adaptive one. Projects are made to bring business value and in business no one stand on place.

The Project Management has evolved a lot. Currently, the Project Management is like driving a car on a busy street. We must be active on the machine controls, we must be proactive by anticipating the actions of nearby drivers and we must be adaptive to traffic conditions and adjacent events.

*Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the best known guide of standards, concepts and guidelines for project management. It is published by Project Management Institute ( and the last version is the 5th Edition (2013)


The level of involvement that a PM is allowed is a key factor in this equation. While a PM must always be keen to react, it is crucial that the PM have the leeway to do so.

The PMBOK makes an excellent point about how ACTING can make or break a project. Much like driving, experience is what teaches us to prioritize the events to which we react.

Posted by Florin on April 29, 2014 at 07:05 PM EEST #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed
Copyright © Kepler Rominfo Legal Notices