For every organization that embarks upon it, the road to agile adoption can be long and fraught with challenges. Depending on the scope of the effort, it can be run as a slow-burn initiative or a more frantic and rapid attempt to change the way we work. Either way, like any real journey, unless you know where you’re starting from, you can’t be sure where you’re going.
Unfortunately, it’s also true that we see many organizations go through multiple attempts to become agile and fail. Often, this is caused by a lack of understanding of the current state or a conviction that “we’ll become agile eventually.” This is where an Agility Assessment can help by providing a new baseline that can act as a starting point for planning or even provide sufficient information to adjust your current course.
What is an Agile Assessment?
An agile practitioner assessment is a way to evaluate how a team is improving its ability to be agile over time. There are many ways to manage an agile assessment framework. You can ask an objective third party, e.g., an agile coach, the team themselves, or both, to perform the assessment. Further, by comparing results between evaluators, the team can see their shared understanding of their agile maturity.
How you share and act upon the results is up to the team. Presumably, they would choose a single aspect of the assessment to improve upon, then continue to measure at regular intervals to review and learn from other results.
Start With a Frame of Reference
Similar to agile transformations, all agile maturity assessments need to begin with a frame of reference to guide the associated steps of scoping, exploration, analysis, and outcomes. The objective is to achieve a balanced representation of the organization’s maturity against a collection of proven best practices.
Hence, it’s vital to ensure all agility assessments leverage an accepted framework against which to measure the target group or organization. In addition, the selected framework provides us with a standard set of concepts, practices, roles, and terminology that everyone within the organization understands. In simple terms, it’s essential to create a benchmark model against which to gauge maturity. It would also help if you adapted the assessment for your unique needs.
Critical Benefits of an Agile Assessment
There are many reasons to conduct an agile assessment, and it helps your organization in the following ways:
- Gain a clear view of the agile skills critical to meeting your agile transformation goals aligned with organizational objectives.
- Document your standards for agile skill metrics.
Invariably, with agile, intent is paramount. It’s critical to conduct an agile assessment in conjunction with these foundational principles:
- Confidentiality: All results are owned by the target group or organization.
- Non-attribution: Compile findings by the organization.
- Collaboration: Emphasize openness and partnership.
- Action-oriented: Outcomes should provide actionable items that contribute toward building a roadmap for change. Additionally, mitigate disruption by making actions simple to accomplish.
Because you want to get better at what you are doing continuously, you need to know what areas to focus on. It is essential to understand key improvement areas for the next time around or the next budget cycle. Especially considering annual budgets, you need to know where to spend your money wisely so that you can optimize expenditures. Let’s look at how to initiate an agile maturity assessment:
- Document which agile skills to measure.
- Choose your preferred assessment method.
- Create a strategy to evaluate your team: Focus on the rollout and how to plan to communicate the assessment and with whom.
There are essential points in your agile journey where you might consider deploying an assessment:
- After the initial completion of the agile pilot: Track how well that pilot project performed.
- Subsequent to the agile rollout: Compare and contrast included projects.
- At regular intervals for each agile team or process: Monitor key improvement targets regularly.
Still, even if you have already adopted agile methodologies, measuring where your team or organization is currently will help you map out how to proceed. As a result, going through an assessment is an excellent exercise because it provides a clear point of reference.
Do You Need an Extensive Agility Assessment?
Not all assessments need to be large endeavors that require central planning and scheduling. Institute your comprehensive baseline first, then execute periodic and lightweight assessments as needed. Here are some simple examples of the three primary types of agile maturity assessments:
Self-evaluation: Have teams perform periodic self-assessments to track progress against goals.
Colleague assessment: Institute reciprocal peer reviews across teams to provide objective snapshots.
Complete agile assessment: Establish a baseline profile and deeper interim progress measurement.
What About Assessing Several Projects Simultaneously?
You can group and assess multiple projects similarly. Evaluating each project and comparing their values shows where one project team performs better in certain areas than others.
This is crucial when assessing company-wide capabilities you might want to evaluate. On the other hand, you can opt to identify key improvement areas across multiple projects.
For instance, if you wanted to measure predictability, you might use these measurements:
- Velocity variability
- Say-Do ratio
- Percentage completion of Sprint plan
- Unplanned tasks
To measure speed, use:
- Lead time
- Deployment frequency
- Cycle time
- Meantime to restore (MTTR)
To assess product quality, you might use the following:
- Ratio of fixing processes and workflows vs. feature work
- Production defects
- Change fail percentage
- Automated test coverage
Whether that agile maturity assessment is managed and implemented by humans, AI, or a combination of the two, it needs to be designed by someone with a deep enough background to ask the right questions. An assessor who understands the right questions to ask, “What do we need to achieve here? And are there other ways to view these processes?”
Given the complexities of human organizations, the key to any successful assessment is to discern patterns, analyze, and make relevant observations and recommendations. This requires a knowledgeable, technically experienced, collaborative, objective, and sensible assessor. Thus, choosing a suitable assessor is a critical consideration.
Remember to recognize and applaud achievements where you find them. Undoubtedly, change is difficult. It is challenging to change constantly. Still, a savvy business utilizes short-term milestones to celebrate success and instill a sense of confidence and urgency for the next significant achievement. If a team all succeeds in moving up a level or managing to change a single assessment statement from “mostly false” to “mostly true,” it may be cause for festivities.
Highlighting achievements promotes further growth on the path to business agility. By executing an agile assessment, an organization may also use them to gamify its ability to respond to change. This will drive greater focus among the people and teams involved, which will, in turn, help them accomplish their objectives and increase their overall value.