Is Hybrid Really OK?

Published – LinkedIn – March 3, 2016

I find it interesting that hybrid development structures are becoming such a hot topic. A steady stream of articles are appearing to justify the hybrid landing point. My problem with the acceptance of a hybrid model is that it ignores the reasons why hybrid became the adopted model. I’ve been part of an agile transformation that is now at “hybrid”. Based on current available evidence this isn’t a place where will stop, revisit what happened, make changes and move back to the agile transformation. This is it folks, this is our new way of doing things. This is not an unusual story. I’ve spoken to numerous colleagues that have been becalmed attempting to navigate the same waters..

The failure to transform is not a reason to accept adopting a hybrid model. It’s actually a pretty bad reason to accept being hybrid. Agile fails for numerous reasons. Stopping at hybrid accepts and validates the failure points rather than exploring and resolving. Moving to Agile is not about transforming the Development department. It is fundamentally about changing the business. It is a change of mindset, it is a change of culture. Waterfall seems to be an excellent model for covering up dysfunction in a company. The “guess the requirements” game followed by rounds of rework and argument, the leveraging of change requests, the reliance on legal documents (not denying the need for the documents, just the way they can be used to defend deliverables or practices). These all serve to generate a layer of noise that masks poor practices. Transforming to agile practices simply lay these bare.

Facing down dysfunctional behavior is not easy. My experience (this includes talking to colleagues) is that the biggest layer of dysfunction anchors to a company’s Management layer. Many Managers acquire their role not because of their ability to deal with people but because they were good at the technical aspects of their job. In other words, “you understand what it takes to deliver a project, you can manage your role, by extension you can manage others”. That’s bad reading of a persons capability and often robs the business of a good, productive person. More companies than not assume that Managers have the “required skills”. More likely they have the mindset of their previous Managers –predominant command and control. Transforming to agile you ask Managers to give up command and control, to move away from micro-management. You ask them to hand power across to teams of people. Do we really wonder why transformation might fail? Leaders, on the other hand, will welcome the transformation power shift. Why? Because they have never been in to the command and control style, they have always been about empowering their people. Transformation will have traditional Managers staring “ïn to the abyss” wondering what they will do next.

There are numerous factors that may stall an agile transformation. I Have heard little to convince me that many companies really consider this, how many will present a real risk. Before you start transforming understand what is in front of you. Even with careful planning you will encounter the unexpected. If you hit the point of “being hybrid” don’t stop there. Inspect, adapt, move forward. Do not accept hybrid as “the destination”. More than anything else, if you are hybrid, do not tell others you are Agile. You’re not Agile. Saying you are is a lie. You are lying to yourself and your clients. Hybrid is to Agile what a VW Beetle is to a Porsche. So for all those that say it’s Ok to be hybrid, that’s cool, but only if you set out to be hybrid. Did you?


2 thoughts on “Is Hybrid Really OK?

  1. Is it ok to be hybrid if you set out to be hybrid?
    And if it is, then why isn’t it ok to stop there having set out to become Agile?
    I neither agree nor disagree by the way 🙂

    My organisation embarked on a journey to Agile. It never got there. But it is a huge organisation, and only my unit set off on this journey.

    IT management churn presented the biggest challenge. Those carrying the Agile torch left, replaced by others, who were less enthused and less committed.
    Business management will ‘go along with’ whatever we are proposing on a given project, but it is never truly Agile.

    Some of our projects are very nearly ‘proper’ Agile, but none are fully Agile.
    Others are entirely waterfall, when there are no project team members to drive the Agile agenda.
    Most are hybrid. And those are my favoured projects – Why? Because those that acknowledge that they operate as hybrid are far better than those proclaiming to be Agile, when they are not.
    I am happy to operate under any delivery method, so long as we all agree what it is at the start.. oh, and don’t change it half way through.


    1. Hi Sean,
      thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. It must have been a tough journey, one unit amidst the rest of the organisation. In terms of conveying progress, discussion, etc, it must have been difficult. I went through a similar thing where the Agile torch bearer at management level left. What vision there was at that level no longer existed and it became a fight for survival. It’s tough. I’m quite pragmatic about Agile, 12 principle and 4 values. If you are using these to guide your development then I think you can claim to be agile (even if it is in progress). If you’re not then you’re not Agile. My problem is that hybrid seems to have most of the baggage of waterfall and very few of the Agile benefits. Most hybrid models (that I know of) are really short cycle waterfall. That’s better than standard waterfall but not by leaps and bounds. Ultimately it’s up to companies or teams to find what they believe is their “sweet spot”. And yes, don’t change it half way through.



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