Teams and organizations must regularly evaluate their commitment to agile principles and practices as agile methodologies continue to gain popularity in the software development industry.
In 2023, agile assessment has become a crucial tool for identifying areas of strength and improvement and developing a plan for implementing change.
This article will explore the importance of agile assessment, how to conduct an assessment, and the key elements when evaluating your team’s application of agile methodologies.
What is Agile Assessment?
An agile assessment provides a way to evaluate a team’s performance and understand the current state of agile transformation.
It is a process of examining the team’s practices and culture to identify areas of strength and places for improvement.
By conducting regular assessments and understanding your team’s current operations, you can identify areas for improvement promptly and develop an actionable plan for implementing necessary changes.
How to Do Agile Assessment?
There are several ways to conduct an agile assessment, and the following are our recommendations for you.
- Observing the team’s workflow: As a team leader, setting daily stand-up meetings or retrospectives is the most common and essential practice. The discussion usually starts with reviewing the team’s Kanban or Scrum board.
- Interviewing team members and leaders: Having a 1-on-1 conversation or interview with team members regularly is very important during the process. This can provide valuable insights into the team’s practices and help discover any challenges they may face.
- Conducting Surveys: Surveys are good tools to provide a broad overview of the team’s commitment to agile principles and practices. By asking the right questions and providing proper guidance, good surveys will quickly help your team to identify improvement areas.
- Using assessment tools: There are several commonly used tools for conducting agile assessments. You will find more information and guidance in the following section. We recommend the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum Maturity Model (SMM), Agile Maturity Model (AMM), and Agile Assessment Framework (AAF).
- Internal or External assessment: agile assessment can be conducted internally by the team or externally by a consulting company or agile coach based on the team’s internal resources and budget. However, the key to a successful assessment is what to measure and how to conduct it encouragingly and effectively.
What to Measure during the Agile Assessment?
To conduct a thorough agile assessment, it is important to examine various factors, such as the team’s adherence to agile values and principles, utilization of agile practices, degree of collaboration and communication, flexibility, and other related aspects.
- Commitment to agile values and principles: Principles show what the team needs to follow consistently during the transformation process, such as customer focus during negotiation, working product over documentation, and individuals and interactions over the processes, etc.
- Use of agile practices: It is also essential to monitor how the team executes based on best practices, for example, Scrum or Kanban, their checklist or definition of a project considered to be “done,” and their process for handling changes.
- Collaboration and communication: agile methodologies strongly emphasize teamwork and communication. Assessing the team’s level of collaboration and communication can provide valuable insights into their performance.
- Flexibility and adaptability: agile methodologies are designed to be flexible, so assessing the team’s ability to adapt to change can be a helpful metric.
- Team’s culture and external factors: Last but not least, the overall company’s culture or other projects that might affect the resources can also impact the team’s performance. So it’s important to take these into account during an assessment.
Agile assessment should be a holistic evaluation of the team’s performance, not just a checklist of practices. Just as you would not evaluate a person’s fitness only by weight, agile assessment should not be limited to practice evaluation.
Agile Assessment Questions
During an agile assessment, the team may be asked various questions to evaluate their commitment to agile methodologies and practices, as discussed above. We provide some example questions below that we usually use in our internal assessment.
- What is our definition of done?
- How do we handle changes to the backlog?
- How often do we need to hold retrospectives?
- How do we prioritize and manage backlog?
- How do we handle conflicts and obstacles?
- How do we measure the team’s performance?
- How does the team ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals?
- How do we build communication and collaboration?
- How do we handle dependencies and inter-team coordination?
- How does the team handle stakeholder management?
The Key of Agile Assessment: Conversation Rather Than Question
Agile assessment questions should be open-ended and designed to encourage conversation, not just a checklist of answers.
Like a detective would ask open-ended questions to get more inspiration, the agile assessment questions that we recommend above aim to invite everyone to join the discussion and learn entirely about the team’s practices and culture.
Rather than just asking a series of questions, it is important to have an open and honest conversation. This will help identify the team’s strengths and areas for improvement and provide valuable feedback.
Agile Assessment Tool
In addition to the commonly used tools such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum Maturity Model (SMM), Agile Maturity Model (AMM), and Agile Assessment Framework (AAF) mentioned earlier, there are also several agile assessment tools available to help teams and organizations evaluate their commitment to agile methodologies.
Some examples of agile assessment tools include:
- Agile Self-Assessment (ASA): This web-based tool allows teams to self-assess their commitment to agile methodologies and identify areas for improvement.
- Agile Readiness Assessment (ARA): This tool assesses an organization’s readiness to adopt agile methodologies and provides recommendations for improvement.
- Agile Transformation Assessment (ATA): This tool assesses an organization’s current state and provides a roadmap for achieving an agile transformation.
These tools enable us to design a structured approach to evaluating the team’s commitment and gradually discover the areas for improvement. However, it’s important to note that the best tool to use will depend on the specific needs and culture of the team or your company.
In conclusion, agile assessment is essential for evaluating a team or organization’s commitment to agile methodologies. It is a way to understand better how the team is currently operating, identify areas for improvement, and develop a plan for implementing change.
The key to a successful agile assessment is approaching it as an open conversation rather than just a series of questions. Every participant needs to be intellectually honest about their practices and culture with the team.