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Blog April 4, 2018

Don't Be Afraid of "Hybrid" Agile

Dennis Bowne

What are "hybrid" and "blended" agile methodologies, and what does it mean when people talk about "by-the-book" agile?

Two Descriptions of Hybrid Agile

Hybrid is an often-misused term. Many times, the hybrid label is used as an excuse for anti-practices. We commonly hear feedback in one of two camps:

  1. "We are hybrid, so we don't have to do it by the book."
  2. "We're in the change process, neither Scrum nor Waterfall… somewhere in-between."

That second description is a much healthier way to look at your agile transformation. There are a large number of team- and enterprise-level agile frameworks, and I recommend selecting the best and most appropriate elements of each to build a model for your organization. This does not mean that anything goes! Instead, think of this as license to actively seek ROI. As you mature, focus on those processes, ceremonies, and framework elements that will help change the mindset and increase the output of your teams. It is very common to be in an in-between state for some time, where you may have maturing agile teams in a predominantly Waterfall, PMO driven environment - and that is okay! In my opinion, that is a healthy application of the concept of "hybrid" agile.

A similar question we hear is, "I know I'm not doing agile right; what should I change?" That's not an easy one to answer because we're all on a journey to move toward improved efficiency, greater productivity, and outcome-driven delivery. The needs and readiness of your organization are unique, and your journey is unlikely to follow either a well-worn path or a "by-the-book" approach. Different cultures, histories, needs, budgeting cycles - all these factors will ensure that your path is unique from that of your competitors and peers. I strongly recommend that you avoid thinking about a "right" or "wrong" way to operate and instead look at your outcomes and seek to make iterative progress.

Embrace the Flexibility of Agile Methodologies

The scenario above is just an introduction to the complexity of organizational change. There are so many change variables that it becomes very important to look at agile as a set of frameworks, not strict methodologies. By nature, agile is non-prescriptive, and I recommend that you look at each relevant framework and take the pieces and parts that work for you where you are right now. Your needs will change over time, so you should also look ahead and lay the groundwork for the waypoints you will reach in the near future; however, it is important not to become overly focused on the long game. Keep an eye to the future but avoid analysis paralysis. Don't try to define a detailed transformation plan up front. It's okay to use a hybrid model that progresses and changes over time, as long as that in-between model is not your end state.

Basically, I am a clear believer in iterative, progressive change plans. Combining multiple complementary processes, tools, frameworks, and methodologies and layering them upon each other to make something better is a good idea. My recommendation is to focus on the things that make us better and give us the biggest return on investment in the short term, which then create runways for long-term expansion.