Agile Hybrids and MVP-Focused Delivery Models

by Shawn Belling

Project development and delivery is an important function a company must be effective at in order to succeed. Over time, various approaches and practices in product and project development have emerged. These practices focus on the efficiency of identifying new opportunities and rapidly iterating in order to deliver value.  One common theme is agility. Whether one thinks of agility in product development or agility in execution and delivery, the ability to rapidly prototype and bring the various components and departments involved in product development and delivery together to work as an effective and efficient team has long been recognized as critical to successful new product development.

Agility is not a new theme in product development. In 1986, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka wrote a seminal paper called “The New New Product Development Game”. In this famous Harvard Business Review article, Takeuchi and Nonaka focused on tactics used by successful and well-known companies to develop new products in ways that focused on executing the process rapidly, flexibly, and as a team as opposed to old methods which tended to maintain operational silos and “throw things over the wall” in a rigid and sequential manner. Takeuchi and Nonaka’s paper is widely recognized in new product development and in agile software development circles as foundational to the emergence of agile practices in product development as well as agile values, frameworks and practices in software product development.

In all cases and across all verticals, cross-functional effectiveness, rapid solution identification, rapid prototyping, and speed to value realization emerge as common critical factors in agile development and delivery success. These factors are foundational values and practices shared across agile frameworks such as Kanban, XP, Lean, Scrum, and Design Thinking. Organizations taking a product-oriented approach to delivery of internal and external projects and initiatives do well to adopt hybrid approaches to delivery, melding the most applicable and complimentary elements of Kanban, XP, Lean, Scrum, and Design Thinking as well as waterfall practices to create the most effective delivery approach for the initiative. The focus in a product-oriented approach is always delivery of an initial Minimum Viable Product (MVP) consisting of only those deliverables deemed “must-haves” for the first release of the product.

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Depending on various characteristics of the organization and their projects, these organizations must select the best combination of practices in alignment with these characteristics to create an agile hybrid approach to delivery. This pragmatic approach will ensure that the focus is always on delivery. Hybrids such as AgileFall, ScrumBan, LeanBan, all incorporating practices of Design Thinking, will emerge from these organizations to become a de facto approach that is invisible to the customers and achieves value delivery without attracting conversations about the purity of the methodology.

Continuous attention to product development success and the application of hybrid agile practices enables the identification of areas on which to focus organizational energy and attention to further extend and improve the adoption of these practices. Keys to improvement and success include the organization’s commitment and ability to synthesize observation and measurement to identify areas for improvement and gaps in knowledge, and then take the disciplined steps to make and measure the necessary improvements and close knowledge gaps at all stages of the process and at all levels of the organization.

About the Author

Shawn Belling is a globally-experienced technology executive and project management speaker and instructor. In a career spanning 30 years, he has held executive and leadership roles in higher education, software, consulting, bio-pharma, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance, and is currently the Chief Information Officer at a large regional technical college.

As a member of the Project Management Institute, he has spoken regularly at conferences and seminars since 2008, including multiple presentations at PMI Global Conferences in the US and APAC.

Shawn teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in Engineering Professional Development and the Center for Executive and Professional Development, at University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the Master of Science - Project Management program, and at the University of Southern California in the Master of Science - Project Management program.

Shawn is certified by PMI as a Project Management Professional and Agile Certified Practitioner, is a Certified Scrum Professional and Certified Scrum @ Scale Practitioner, and is certified in Organizational Change Leadership from University of Wisconsin – Platteville.

This article was contributed by Shawn Belling, author of Succeeding with Agile Hybrids.