How to Assess Your Business Agility?09 Sep 2015
Is making a business Agile as simple as getting a visual board, assigning the tasks to the team and
reviewing the process every once in a while? Surely, for some lucky ones!
But for those having to manage a large bunch of people on a team, an ever-demanding group of customers and a constantly evolving process - things get complicated and need keeping an eye on.
Here are some pointers as to what should be checked for, when doubting your Business Agility.
Are you setting the workload in such a way, that will allow for the overall goal to be visualized and achieved within a given time? This helps to assess how much a team can get done in a certain time, hence find out what can be expected in general from the team in the future.
The iterations are normally time-boxed, in a more or less rigid way.
BEST PRACTICE: Put a focus on delivering often, but in small packages.
In software development, which is a clear originator for Agile, it has become common practice to write user stories. These are feature or product characteristics, stating how something should look, behave or work. Written from a user perspective, they put emphasis on what needs to be accomplished in the final product.
BEST PRACTICE: Ensure each story completion before getting into the next.
Check if you're balancing the new work with the demand of the customer. Often times, while making the process perfect, teams lose focus of what was it that the customer asked for initially.
BEST PRACTICE: Update them regularly (a shared calendar is also a good common practice), as nothing is worse for a client, than staying in the dark.
These should be either eliminated - seen more and more - or kept to a minimum, as in a daily stand up meeting, which does not last longer than 15 minutes and aims at only touching base.
BEST PRACTICE: The fewer meetings, the better.
Ensure the team knows the ways and channels to communicate, as this helps to keep the work flowing with few hiccups, and makes the team stronger.
While on the subject, it's necessary to ensure that everyone in an organization speaks and understands certain terms in the same way. Especially important for the "done", "feedback" and "approved" terms.
BEST PRACTICE: Promote communication, define your "done" stage.
As new work gets done, there should be an accompanying documentation to go with it. This allows to trace back the team's steps and keep track of how things have been done, useful for both records and future improvement.
This is particularly valid for keeping track of common issues and periodically occurring problems (bugs).
BEST PRACTICE: Keep the way of documenting the processes unified throughout the organization and make sure people use it.
Most Agile teams keep track of the work on some sort of a visual board. While this is all great, game-changing and welcome, it's good to keep in mind, that it's actually the people that drive the process, not the other way round.
Also, this touches on a good practice of letting teams self-organize and choose their participants, rather than having them assigned from outside.
BEST PRACTICE: Focus on the people, not on the process.
Power to the Team
If the deadlines are to be met and the process is to be improved continuously, the team needs to know that they can make their own decisions. There needs to be a feeling of task ownership and responsibility, of course.
BEST PRACTICE: Product Owner, Project Sponsor, Scrum Master etc. are required to be actual working titles, not just labels, that have no added sense of power.
Keeping a Score
With Agile practices, more often than not, there come analysis of the progress. Whether it's an entire set of charts, or just one burn-down chart or a cumulative flow, the point is to gather and keep the information on the performance for both present and future analysis.
BEST PRACTICE: Perform an analysis once weekly and monthly - seeing things from a perspective is always beneficial. Don't limit the results to management only (remember empowering the team?).
Feedback Loops & Retrospectives
In order to keep the process Agile, it cannot get stale. Both your customers and team members need to be asked for feedback, which will allow to make necessary improvements.
It's important to keep in mind, that in situations, when criticizing is necessary, a great approach is in keeping the comments focused on an idea, a practice or activity, and not the person.
BEST PRACTICE: Make a habit of periodical look-back meetings, and don't make them personal.
Some more important than others, all of the above are characteristic Agile best practices, which can indicate how Agile your business actually is, or can point you in the right direction, when the practices got lost along the way.