Special Parking For State Police

A hybridization of parking rules!

As we complete our 2019 arc on hybridizing how teams use agile, I want to draw a distinction between messing with frameworks and messing with techniques. Less than a decade ago during a Keynote at a Scrum Gathering, Ken Swaber described user stories as barnacles on the ship of Scrum. He used the metaphor of barnacles to describe the impact of increased drag and reduced efficiency. In 2019, user stories are almost as ubiquitous as Daily Scrum meetings because they are useful and facilitate agility. Frameworks are scaffolds that by design are not complete methodologies. When context demands, the right techniques can be used to augment the framework. Most hybridization issues stem from techniques that conflict with the framework and/or agile principles.

In response to our first simple checklist in the hybridization theme, Anthony Mersino shared his experience that ”the driver for hybridization is ignorance or resistance to change” (explore Anthony’s thoughts on the topic at  https://vitalitychicago.com/blog/what-is-hybrid-agile/).  I would like to echo these ideas while at the same time suggesting a casual elephant in the room: fear. Middle managers are in an ambiguous position in agile organizations. They are not part of an agile team and rarely are involved in the day to day activities of the teams that report to them.  They are however responsible and ACCOUNTABLE for the performance of these teams. Fear causes people to hybridize agile approaches. Middle managers often revert to command and control behavior because they fear for their livelihood. Real-life hybrids based on middle management fear that I have observed include: 

  • Daily Scrums/ stand-up meetings chaired by a middle manager, project manager or administrator whose job is to collect status so that the manager isn’t surprised. 
  • Managers who assign work rather than letting teams organize to address the work.
  • Monthly all-hands meetings to review and interrogate every project in the organization (the meeting is named after a popular charcoal grill due to the intensity of the grilling). 

Each of these hybrid behaviors is a reaction to fear; fear of not being in the loop, fear of teams making the wrong choice, fear of being irrelevant, and/or the fear of being unemployed.

The simple checklists can help practitioners and coaches, providing a tool to identify good and bad hybrids. There are good hybrids, very few practitioners have an issue of adding pairing, mobbing, or test-first approaches to Scrum or any other agile framework. The elephant in the room we are not addressing is middle managers fear which leads them to force bad hybrids. In order to avoid bad behaviors, coaches and agile leaders need to address the needs of the middle managers as well as teams and stakeholders.