Agile Assessment: Helpful Remedy or Harmful Toxin?
Agile is a set of values and a mindset. As such, it can be hard to answer questions that leadership often asks. These questions include: How agile are we? Are we getting more agile? What are the growth opportunities for our team?
Many organizations use assessments to determine their level of agility. This session will introduce several assessment approaches and tools. Like medicine, when used incorrectly, the results can be toxic. We will explore the merits, potential uses, and possible downsides of each approach.
You will leave this session understanding more about your options, as well as insights for framing an assessment that fit your needs best when trying to measure your organization's culture and teams.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
This session is intended to get participants thinking critically about assessments, the options for assessing "agility," and the potential pitfalls of various assessment methods. In the last three years, I have spent a significant amount of time delivering assessments for clients. During this time, I’ve seen clients with several different desires; a desire to scale, a desire to deliver more reliably, and a desire to figure out why “agile” doesn’t seem to be working for them. I have helped companies understand their current situation and challenges by using various assessment methods.The assessment approach has evolved from one that was primarily based on interview and observation to one that incorporates electronic data collection. The electronic data collection is complimentary to interviews and observations—not a replacement.
Minutes 1-5 Introduction of myself and the topic
Briefly answer the questions:
Who am I?
Why do I have authority on the topic?
I'll draw parallels between non-invasive assessments (weight, blood pressure) and invasive assessments of human health
We will use a healthcare-related metaphor in the session. Depending on use, the same concoction that might cure an ailment might also harm a patient.
Minutes 6-10 Why do companies want an assessment?
They struggle to understand why agile hasn't led them to nirvana yet.
They want to know which teams are doing well and which are not
Sponsors may just be looking for an outside entity to tell them what they already know, but for which outside validation will add credibility to their own perspective.
Minutes 10-20 What are assessments good for?
A point-in-time snapshot
Generating a conversation
Providing teams with additional information they might need for continuing to grow their agility.
Feeding a continuous improvement process
Minutes 20 - 25 What should you not use an assessment for?
A replacement for critical thinking
Avoiding a conversation
Explicit comparison of one team member to another.
Reward and punishment
A weapon that destroys psychological safety
Minutes 25 - 40 What is a good practice for conducting an assessment?
I share the phases:
- Data collection
- Interpretation of results
- Action Planning
I share strategies for helping ensure that:
People are willing to engage in the assessment.
Curiosity exists. The organization is truly trying to understand how to improve, versus judge.
No one perspective will give you a good understanding.
Need to look at organizations from different levels,
Includes the objectives of various groups and individuals
Looks at multiple functional areas,
Explores how groups interact and the how they respond to change.
Combining elements of all the above. This will show how we have used various approaches to gain a truly multi-faceted perspective on agility within an organization.
Minutes 40 - 45 Additional Q&A
I plan to handle some questions throughout the session. There is also some additional time for questions and discussion at the end.
Upon completion of the session, attendees will be able to:
- Articulate the reasons organizations invest in assessment
- Explain the possible beneﬁts of assessment
- Explain the possible unintended consequences of assessments
- Recognize assessment approaches that may damage team safety
- Apply the information from this session to their own organization's agile journey
Leaders and managers interested in understanding good practices for assessing agility. Scrum Masters who are interested in a framework for helping their team strive for continuous improvement