Successful Agile

Extract from my upcoming book "Directing the Agile Organisation"

Becoming an agile organisation is an incremental process. There is no point you say to yourself, "yesterday we weren't agile, but today we are. Success!". However, there are points you can say, "today we are more agile than yesterday!". The journey be become an agile organisation can be formal, through a transformation program, or informal, through ad-hoc changes addressing problem areas. Regardless of the mechanism, your agile journey begins with a set of clear organisational goals. What is your organisation trying to achieve by becoming agile? As every organisation will have different goals, so the process to become agile will differ as well. Generally, corporate goals relate to improving adaptability in a changing marketplace, driving higher quality work, improved Customer & staff satisfaction, sustainable management processes or reducing overheads.

To validate & confirm when you have achieved your organisational goals, you need to create a set of specific success criteria which define measurable targets for your staff & stakeholders. Success criteria should be concise, realistic, directly measurable and include both quantitative measures, based on facts & figures, and qualitative measures, based on feedback & opinion.

The success of your Agile journey can be quantitatively measured from your organisational maturity in 4 key areas; Staff, Customer Engagement, Technology, and Processes. For example:

  1. Staff maturity measures
    1. Staff are trained & experienced in Agile Business Management and associated methods (training measure).
    2. Staff have an understanding of the underlying reasons for moving to Agile Business Management (communication measure).
    3. Staff are directly empowered to engage with & deliver to the Customers (action measure).
    4. Staff are skilled in the supporting tool-sets (training measure).
    5. Staff are conversant in the work, QA, and release procedures (action measure).
  2. Customer engagement maturity measures
    1. Customer have been trained in their new responsibilities (training measure).
    2. Customers (or their representatives) are involved in the teams daily activities (action measure).
    3. Customers actively define & prioritise Requirements at least once per Iteration (action measure).
    4. Customers have the authority to make decisions regarding Work (action measure).
  3. Technology maturity measures
    1. There is a stable and well documented supporting technology stack (action measure).
    2. The supporting technology has clearly defined ownership and service levels within the organisation (communication measure).
  4. Process maturity measures
    1. Clearly defined business processes exist for all domains (action measure).
    2. Cross domain interdependencies defined for all business areas (communication measure).
    3. Service levels are agreed between all business areas (communication measure).
    4. Each process has clear business ownership and delegations of authority identified (action measure).

Note: Saying that staff have attended training is not sufficient to pass a success measure. You must be able to demonstate that staff can apply these new skills.

From a qualitative standpoint, there are really only 2 relevant success measures;

  1. Are your staff happy (action measure)?
  2. Are your customers happy (action measure)?

in that order.

Note: Quantitative success measures are phrased as statements, whereas qualitative success measures are phrased as questions.

Not all organisations will succeed in becoming agile. Organisation's with low morale, no staff or executive buy-in, high staff turnover, or a lack of trust between themselves & the Customer, need to address these issues before beginning any agile transformation program.


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