I recently spoke with Susan Parente while recording an episode of her Not A Scrumdamentalist column about the idea of hybrid agile. The definition of hybridization spans a wide range of territory ranging from combining methodologies and frameworks to changing techniques. For example, Scrumban combines Scrum and Kanban.  SAFe combines many frameworks and methodologies. Prima facie evidence suggests that hybridization at the methodology level is part and parcel of agile implementations. Hybridization of techniques is characterized as changing or combining techniques so they serve other purposes.  For example, changing the daily scrum from a planning meeting to a status meeting. Hybridization has the potential to generate value or conflagrations that destroy value.  

Evaluate Hybrizations using the following simple checklist:

__ Improves psychological safety – Changes to the environment or how a team works that improve an individual’s ability to be themselves without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or career are important to effective agile. Adopting team norms is a hybrid approach that is useful for improving psychological safety.

__ Reinforces agile principles – Any process needs to adhere to and support the 12 principles identified as part of the Agile Manifesto.

__ Increases the amount and speed of value delivered to the business.  – One of the core promises of agile is to deliver value to the business earlier than other methods.  Hybridizations that conflict with the imperative for speed should be avoided.

__ Reduces Overhead – Overhead is a tax on the engineering process that draws time and effort away from delivering functionality. Changes that reduce overhead can be translated into increasing the amount of value delivered. 

__ Improves the satisfaction of the business stakeholder. – I am a big fan of happy relationships between development teams and their business stakeholders.  Satisfaction reduces stress, turnover, and outsourcing. 

__ Required for regulatory compliance.  Fitting agile techniques directly from source materials into highly regulated environments often requires some customization. For example, many government projects specifically require a risk register that is not directly called out in Scrum or Kanban. 

Reviewing a hybridization after the fact using this checklist is easy; you can use a retrospective to evaluate the impact on performance.  Before hybridizing a method or technique, practitioners should discuss the six points in the checklist to predict the outcome. Answering any of the questions as “no” (yes or not applicable are acceptable) should set off alarm bells.  If we approach every change to an approach as an experiment using the scientific method, we reduce the risk of doing irreparable harm. Hybrids occur in nature, both natural and constructed. Those that have value survive. Nature is an experimenter. However, nature is also merciless – failures are discarded.