Today nearly every business is pursuing some level of improvements to overall Agility. Agility, as defined by Webster, is the ability to change the body’s position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, ref lexes, strength, endurance and stamina. In business, agility is defined by the capability of rapidly and cost efficiently adapting to change. This same capability is now the intense focus of mainstream companies striving to transition their software and product development stakeholder community to a more “Agile way.”
If becoming more “Agile” is the goal, how will you measure your progress towards this outcome? It is this question that we believe deserves a better answer and a better set of tools than those commonly used or advocated by those promoting Agile in the Software and Product Development context. Since the outset of the Agile Software Development Movement in the late 90’s, those of us helping lead and shape best practices around Agile process and engineering techniques have been critical of heavy-handed management controls that do little to improve the outcome of software and product development initiatives.
In place of these rigid controls we have advocated a new value system based on a model leveraging small, cross-functional teams that are empowered to make most development and collaboration decisions without intervention from management. This new way of thinking and organizing software development stakeholders is supported by many well-publicized successes that have produced outcomes uncommon in the software industry. Unfortunately many organizations have had great difficulty in replicating these prominent Agile successes. Why? In our experience the Agile community has largely resisted the idea that Agile maturity can be measured and effectively managed. Many Agile thought leaders suggest that it is the team that decides how best to achieve agility and by default, crafting common metrics to track and encourage Agile progress is difficult if not impossible.
Over the last ten years our team has accumulated field experience working with thousands of software and product development stakeholders striving to become more Agile at the team, group, and enterprise level. During this time we have been rigorously observing and documenting those patterns of collaboration that are “causal.” By “causal” we mean, what behaviors, practices, values, and mechanics, have we been successful in isolating and observing that have a positive influence on the team, group, or enterprise towards outcomes that routinely produce improvements to software and product development speed, agility, innovation, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and ultimately compelling financial results.
In the last year we have codified our field experience into an Agile Maturity Model that we use for helping track and guide improvements to team, group, and enterprise agility. This model and the associated measures help us to assess and measure maturity across seven key disciplines that we have shown to directly influence Software, Product, and Enterprise Agility outcomes. I’m going to spend my next series of posts talking about the seven key Agility disciplines and how they drive business impact relative to the achievement of business agility. I’ll also address the specific practices we advocate measuring, tracking, and improving.