Self Assessment Tool for Transitioning to Agile

Over on agileconnection, a user asked about a self-assessment tool for measuring agile maturity. That’s not exactly the right question, because agile transition is a journey, not a destination. But, I can understand why he asked the question. I tried to be helpful. I supplied a set of questions to ask. Maybe you can go over there and add more to my list.

I still think the best question is this:

What benefit will you gain from learning this answer?

In any case, here are some questions I supplied to get the questioner (or you) started:

  1. If you are doing iterations, are they four weeks or less? The answer should be yes. Many of us like one or two week iterations. Why? Because you get feedback more often rather than less often. And, you get to see working software.
  2. Do you have demos at the end of each and every iteration? The answer should be yes. Why? To get the feedback from the customer/Product Owner.
  3. Do you get every item in the backlog to done at the end of every iteration? The answer should be yes. For many teams on their journey, the answer is “not yet.” This does not make you bad, it makes you “on your journey.” You want to discover why.
  4. Do you perform retrospectives at the end of each iteration to learn and inspect/adapt to improve your team’s agile process?
  5. Do you look at your work in process and monitor that?
  6. If you use iterations, do you measure your velocity with a burn up chart and make sure it does not look like a hockey stick?
  7. If you are using kanban, do you measure your cycle time? Are you happy with your cycle time? (Did I just use a word that did not make sense to you 🙂
  8. Do you measure cumulative flow? (You want to make sure you do not have a lot of work in progress. It does not matter if you use iterations or kanban. This Matters to a team. It matters a lot.)

Gentle readers, do you have feedback for me on these questions?

I wrote Agile is Not for Everyone because I don’t believe in these assessments for agile maturity. However, just because I don’t believe in them is not going to make them go away. Maybe I can be more helpful.

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10 Comments

  1. Michael Abugow

    I would also add:

    1) Are your teams empowered to make the right decision?
    2) Do your managers know when to get out of the way of the team?

    Reply
  2. Michael Abugow

    I’ve seen these anti-patterns too many times to not ask these questions during the same situation you highlight above.

    Reply
  3. Ben Linders

    Great list of questions, thanks Johanna!

    A while ago I wrote a blog post about becoming agile and lean, in which I refer to several self assessments tools and readiness checks. I’ve added a link to this blog post.

    Readiness checks don’t tell you if you are ready for Agile or Lean, my opinion is that everybody is ready. It is a matter of knowing where you are now (that’s where self assessments and readiness checks can help), and daring to take a next small step in continuous improvement.

    Reply
    • Johanna Rothman

      Ben, I am so glad you included your link in your reply. Thank you for including my post in your article.

      Yes, we agree it is a journey! And, you do have to know why you are doing this. If you don’t know why, you don’t know what path to take.

      Reply
  4. sulabh

    do think trust play a significant role in high performing agile teams

    Reply
    • johanna

      Yes, I do believe trust is an essential element in high performing teams, agile or not.

      Reply
      • Sulabh

        There is a positive correlation between trust and performance of agile teams what factors according to you affects trust in agile teams ?

        Reply
        • johanna

          I have not measured the “correlation” of trust and team performance. In my experience (empirical data), I have seen trust be a key factor in any team’s performance. If team members trust each other, they will work on getting features across the board. If they don’t trust each other, they work for themselves, destroying teamwork.

          I recommend you read Hackman’s article and book. Start here: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2004/06/hackman.aspx. I found it quite enlightening.

          Trust does not occur without a great environment. Leadership creates the environment, which allows the team to work together and build trust.

          Reply
          • Sulabh

            Thanks Johanna , I really appreciate your good work you are doing for agile fraternity. I will definitely go through this article and get back to you soon

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