How Would You Measure the Level of Agility of an Organization?

If you have a look at today’s job postings in engineering, UX/UI and product management, we all seem to be living in a truly agile world. Everyone’s working in a lean fashion and is totally focused on delivering value to her customers–and not just meeting requirements from upper levels in the hierarchy. They are actually so committed to the ideas of the Agile Manifesto that they have come to the point of practically abandoning traditional corporate management structures.

Has Agile become the new black of management ideas?

Unfortunately not, as Steve Denning already pointed out in his recent article “Is Agile Just Another Management Fad?”. In my eyes Agile has become one of the most abused ideas recently. (Probably, the associated issue of the MVP is breathing down its neck, though.) Reports from the trenches show that Agile has fallen victim to cherry picking in a lot of cases:

  • Project managers like the level of risk mitigation, when they switch to two week sprints–suddenly everything becomes much more granular and thus easier to account for. (Yes, I am aware that Agile doesn’t equal Scrum.)
  • Degrade the Product Owner to a JIRA monkey and Scrum turns into a marvelous incarnation of Waterfall 2.0. All you need now is a product steering committee and your inner control freak will be totally fine with your version of Agile. (Remember, it’s more a framework than a methodology.)
  • Product discovery is overrated. We know what we need to build–always have, and always will.
  • And if those practices fail, management might introduce one of the Scaled Agile Frameworks. (That should ultimately free the organization of any ideas in the spirit of Agile Manifesto while preserving the precious term Agile for PR, investor relations and job postings.)

How to measure agility?

Now, I am researching for a new book — current working title: “101 Ways to Drive Agile Into Failure: The Best Worst Practices to Prevent Any Agile Metholody From Succeeding” — and I was wondering whether there is a set of metrics that would provide an understanding of the level of agility an organization is working at?

In other words: How can you figure out in advance to what extent an organization is working in an Agile way?

Various factors come instantly to my mind, for example:

  • How does the organization create a shared understanding on products among stakeholders?
  • How does product discovery work?
  • What’s the cycle-time to test hypotheses?
  • Scrum: Has team velocity already reached a plateau
  • Scrum: how large is the average backlog?
  • Scrum: Who is attending sprint demos and stand-ups?
  • Who is talking to customers?
  • How are roadmaps built and maintained?

What are you favourite agile characteristics at an organizational level?

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