A few months ago, I was asked to review an ‘Agile Practice’ team to assess their efficacy and maturity. Naturally, I wanted to know more about what they were expected to achieve before I looked to evaluate their performance.
Shortly afterwards, their Agile practice team charter, social contract and objectives landed in my inbox. After reviewing the artefacts, I could see we had a fundamental problem.
I met with the Agile Practice Lead again and posed the question, “Why did you implement Agile into your organisation?” They had a hard time simply answering this question and went off in search of the original ‘change canvas’ that was built by the Agile transformation several years earlier. Once this was pulled out of the archives and sat side by side with the current Agile practice document, it was clear that they did not align whatsoever. In short, the Agile practice had started to assess their performance based on their implementation and application of agile frameworks and tools. Focusing on objectives such as “All teams should have their backlog in JIRA” and “assess each team’s scrum maturity using the 3,5,3 checklist”.
The above objectives are fine if your organisational business strategy states something along the lines of “be the most disciplined Agile/scrum framework practitioners in Australia”. I’ll hazard a guess that it does not! If objectives like this sound familiar in your Agile practice, I’m here to say you’ve got some work to do because your Agile practice has lost its way.
Happily, only a week ago I was talking with one of Australia’s more forward-thinking Agile practice leaders. When I asked him how he assesses the performance of his Agile practice, his answer nailed it for me. He said, “The thing I care about most is how many more metric tons of earth they have helped their teams to shift”. Now let’s put that in perspective. I am talking with an Agile Practice Lead for one of the world’s largest mining companies.
Can you see the difference in his Agile practice’s value proposition compared to the other? It’s immediately obvious. He knows why his Agile practice exists. It’s to improve the company’s performance in regards to their primary mission.
In many organisations, I’m starting to see their Agile practice focusing on the discipline of Agile and tooling as their primary reason for existing, rather than being a purpose-driven Agile practice. An Agile practice’s purpose is not to win a ‘best in agile award’, they are there to help their organisation to succeed.
If your Agile practice cannot readily identify how it is that they are helping your organisation to ‘shift more dirt’ in your organisational context, then they have no clarity of purpose.
My suggestion is they should ask themselves, “How can the application of our capabilities improve the potential of our business to succeed in it’s mission, and how do we know we have successfully achieved this?” And then start building your success metrics from there.