Let’s consider a common request from Agile Transformation teams and PMO offices: Have you assessed the Agile maturity of your teams?
This seems like a reasonable ask—after all, the teams are the ones responsible for creating the shippable software every two weeks. But do team-based metrics tell the whole story?
Now consider this: Is it possible for teams (even high performing teams) to be limited by the Agility of their executives, stakeholders, managers, and shared services?
The answer is a resounding yes. The software development teams might be Agile, but if the business is still in project mentality with expectations of Big Bang delivery and no measurable outcomes for the value of their ideas...then, realistically, how far can a SAFe® transformation get?
Well, we've got good news: ICON has a tool that not only allows the teams to assess their own Agile maturity, but also the maturity of their SAFe ecosystem. With the right assessment at your disposal, you can easily evaluate the teams, the ART, and the SAFe transformation—all without complicated tools or expensive subscriptions.
Download ICON’s free Excel assessment, and we'll walk through how to use it right now in this very blog post (although the assessment also includes an instructions tab). When we're done, you'll know exactly how to conduct an assessment that shows the maturity of both the team practices and the SAFe transformation. Ready? Let's dive in.
***Keep in mind that this should be a lightweight tool, used to inform on the maturity of the SAFe transformation; not to compare team performance.
Step 1: Identify participants, including the Lean Portfolio Management Team and System Team
When you identify teams to participate, think beyond software development teams. Include the Lean Portfolio Management team, Program Team, System Team, and shared services teams.
Also decide if the transformation coaches will be asked to assess the teams. There is a separate column in the spreadsheet for the coach of each team.
Step 2: Determine how to gather Assessment Responses
Will you survey individuals or have facilitated team discussions? Read on to learn the benefits and best practices for each choice.
Team Discussion Facilitated by Scrum Master or Release Train Engineer
One of the benefits of team discussion is that people may discover things they were previously unaware of, and this newfound knowledge may inform their assessment.
If you choose a team discussion, set aside 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time in a location where the team members can speak freely. The Scrum Master, Release Train Engineer, or another team member may facilitate the discussion.
Don’t go down rat holes; keep the conversation moving to reach a consensus and make it a point to hear everyone's voice. You may capture backlog items for improvement or risks to be escalated, but the primary purpose of the assessment is to take the temperature, not diagnose the problems.
If the team is distributed, use an online tool so that everyone can vote and then discuss and settle on a number. PointingPoker.com can be customized for numbers 1,2,3,4, and 5, and usually everyone can access it from a smartphone or computer.
Individual Survey Responses
If you decide to survey individuals, you will still aggregate their answers into one team response for each question on the assessment, so it is important to identify which team the respondent belongs to.
Step 3: Get everyone onboard with a SAFe® Maturity Assessment
Communicate the purpose of the assessment with the participants in advance so they can understand why it is important for them to participate.
Here is an example message that can be sent out in advance. Be sure to customize it for your organization and situation:
In an effort to understand the progress of our SAFe® transformation, we are asking several teams to participate in a short assessment. Some teams will complete the assessment as a group; others may do individual surveys and collate them into a team response.
We are on a transformation journey; we are stopping for a moment to check our compass and landmarks, to see where we are along the way, so we know how far we have com and how far we still need to travel. This will allow us to make any necessary course corrections.
The Agile Transformation Team wants to understand the reality of the transformation so we can provide practical and useful coaching to address our needs. We will be sharing the results with the teams who participate and <names of people who will get results>.
If you have questions, please contact <name of person to contact>.
Thank you in advance for your participation.
Step 4: Capture the Results
If the assessment is a facilitated discussion, the results can be entered into the team column of the Health Check tab of the spreadsheet.
If individuals are surveyed, the results of each team should be collated and the average response for each item should be recorded in the team column of the Health Check tab of the spreadsheet.The radar charts for the team tabs will automatically be updated as the numbers are filled in on the Health Check tab.
The SAFe Transformation Coach for each team should put their responses in the Coach column of the Health Check tab of the spreadsheet.
The Combined tab puts all of the team results on a single radar, and averages the coach’s responses into one response line.
Step 5: Review the Results for the Entire Agile Release Train
The results should be reviewed with the teams who participated and with the stakeholders who were previously identified. Below is an example of what the results might look like.
The combined view may show that some teams are farther along on their transformation journey, or they may be quite similar. Results may depend on when the teams started, how much training and coaching they have received, whether they are co-located or distributed. The results show opportunities for growth and successes to be emulated to other parts of the organization.
Early in SAFe transformation journey, teams tend to think they are much farther along than their coaches think they are. Agile transformation is not unlike growing up—when we are young children, we know we have a lot to learn; when we are in our teens and 20s, we know everything; in our 30s and 40s, we realize we still have more to learn.
Step 6: Use Newfound Insights to Create Strategies for the Coaching Backlog
This assessment is not about how well your teams execute Scrum or Kanban, but a way to measure the maturity of the SAFe transformation. The assessment results should stimulate conversations about how to mature weak areas and ensure that strong areas continue to thrive and become part of the culture. These insights will become part of the coaching backlog.
Assessments without follow-on coaching produce little value; signing up for a SAFe Transformation is like joining a gym without a trainer to show you how to use the equipment. You can guess, but you're probably not performing the exercises well enough to obtain the maximum value—or you might even hurt yourself. ICON’s experienced coaches can help you accelerate change and realize the promises of Agile and SAFe.
Other SAFe® Assement Tools
This tool has been developed by our coaches through years of experience working with clients on SAFe transformations. We also customize assessments for our clients. Of course, there are other tools available which may also serve your needs. We also recommend SAFe® Metrics, which are freely available; and AgilityHealth® Radars are a paid option that ICON coaches are certified to facilitate.
If you are unsure about which tool is right for you, don't hesitate to contact us. ICON specializes in meeting you where you are, gathering the full picture of your situation before offering guidance.
Written by Susan Strain
Susan is an Agile Transformation Coach who works with clients implementing Agile practices that span the enterprise. She coaches and trains Agile principles and methodologies, including Enterprise Business Agility Strategy, Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe®. She has experience with clients in a wide variety of industries including banking, financial, government, hospitality, insurance, investments, manufacturing, military, publishing, and retail. Over the course of her career, she has been a soldier, computer nerd (she went to Steve Jobs house to see his first Lisa computer!), journalist, and Agile coach.