Hybrid Agile Popularity
Agile and Hybrid Agile approaches are very popular right now. As organizations respond to accelerating rates of change, they are adopting agile approaches and using hybrid agile approaches more than ever. This article explains the difference between agile and hybrid agile approaches. We will examine what constitutes each category and why organizations are adopting hybrid agile approaches.
What is a Hybrid?
First let’s define what hybrid really means. A hybrid is a combination of two (or more) different elements. Hybrid cars often combine internal combustion engines (ICE) with battery electric (BE) technology. They could alternatively combine ICE or BE technology with a hydrogen fuel cell. The type of propulsion system does not define a hybrid, only the fact it is a combination of different approaches. Hybrid vehicles can combine the benefits of low emissions with long range made possible by a large gasoline station network.
Hybrids occur in nature too. Mules are the hybrid combination of cross breeding a donkey and a horse. While both animals look similar, donkeys and horses are actually quite different animals. A horse has 64 chromosomes, a donkey has 62. A mule has 63 chromosomes and is a completely different animal. Mules are larger than donkeys, have more stamina than horses, along with tougher hooves, a better resistance to parasites and can eat a wider range of foods – making them great pack animals.
That’s the idea behind creating a hybrid. Combining elements to try and get the benefits from both sources. However we need to be careful that the effort and uniqueness are worth it. Hybrid vehicles are more complex and heavier than single power source vehicles. Mules cannot reproduce, you have to cross breed a donkey and horse each time to get one. More people know how to diagnose and repair a gasoline powered car than a hybrid one. If we create a fancy hybrid agile approach for our organization we will likely have to train every new recruit in its differences. It is much simpler to hire for a pure agile or waterfall environment.
So why bother? If the future of work is truly agile, why not just bite the bullet and full-on adopt agile? This is a great question and for many organizations that is exactly what I think they should do. If they are engaged in knowledge work then agile approaches work well.
What is Knowledge Work?
Knowledge work is where subject matter experts come together to collaborate on new and unique products and services. This might involve scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, software developers, or web designers working with the business to build something new. Each of these groups has specialized knowledge, typically no single person knows everything needed to complete the project. What is being created is new or sufficiently different to the sponsoring organization; as such previous project plans and estimates are not particularly useful to predict progress.
Unlike traditional, industrial projects, complexity, uncertainty, risk and change rates are very high.
Many knowledge worker projects are working on designs and solving problems. There is no visible building or road getting created, the work product is invisible and intangible.
Without visible and tangible reference work, it is necessary to use an iterative-and-incremental approach to determine fitness-for-business-purpose. Teams could attempt to analyze and predict all features and functions, but often initial use uncovers additional opportunities and requirements.
Trying to explain the nuances of iTunes or Netflix to someone who has never seen anything like it before is difficult. Incremental trial is faster and more useful than speculative big-design-upfront that cannot anticipate every interaction with user behavior or linked systems.
Diagnosing Project Types
To help identify the types of projects your organization undertakes, answer the following questions about the nature of projects you execute.
If you answered more on the left-hand side of the table, it would indicate you are engaged in mainly industrial type projects. This is good news for reliable execution and traditional project management tools and techniques should serve you well.
If you answered more on the right-hand side, you are firmly in the knowledge worker domain. You should consider moving from industrial project management approaches and adopt knowledge worker agile ones.
If you answered about equally from each column, you are in a hybrid environment. Here you likely need to draw on a combination of approaches to be successful. This is one scenario where a hybrid approach might be suitable, for projects spanning the industrial / knowledge work domain. There are two other scenarios to consider also:
1) As a stepping stone to true agile
2) In environments that demand additional rigor or controls
Our next article “Reasons for Adopting a Hybrid Agile Approach” explains each of these situations along with how to implement agile and hybrid agile approaches. It highlights strategies that have been proven to aid successful adoption and identifies risk areas and common pitfalls to avoid.