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How would you determine the success of agile within your organization?

How would you determine the success of agile within your organization?

Welcome to part 9 in our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.

That’s an interesting question because there are several ways of measuring success, yet I often come across measures that make no sense.

Measures that don’t make success

  • How well the team adopt scrum.
  • Are the team following the correct behaviours as outlined in agile values and principles
  • Are the team following the scrum guide to the letter?

I’m not sure how these measures matter to an organization?

Agile, or an agile framework such as scrum, has no intrinsic value. Scrum is a great framework but in and of itself, it doesn’t create or capture value. It is simply a tool, and like all tools, it is the application of the tool and the context within which it is applied, that truly matters.

Instead, we need to be thinking about why the organization adopted agile in the first place.

We need to think about the problems we are trying to solve and the business objectives we are trying to achieve.

What is important to the organization and has the introduction of agile or scrum helped them move the needle on the metrics that truly matter?

We can get caught up in measuring:

  • Agility
  • Maturity
  • Adoption

And so forth, but your focus, as a scrum master, needs to be on metrics and leading indicators that demonstrate how organizational agility is helping to achieve customer or organizational objectives.

Customer Measures

Scrum is built on the value proposition of delivering twice the work in half the time, but it doesn’t matter how much we are producing if the customer doesn’t want or need what we have built.

  • Is customer satisfaction improving?
  • Is customer acquisition improving?
  • Is customer retention improving?
  • Is customer revenue increasing because of increased demand for our products?

Is the adoption of scrum helping to move the needle on these metrics, and if it is, then you have a great measure for success in the organization.

Operational Measures

It has been said that scrum doesn’t solve problems, it reveals them.

The framework exposes our weaknesses and creates an empirical process loop of feedback that empowers us to solve complex problems quickly and effectively.

  • Have we improved our time to market?
  • Have we decreased unnecessary delays in delivering products and features to customers?
  • Have we improved the effectiveness of the scrum team?
  • Have we developed the capability to solve complex problems?
  • Have we increased stakeholder and leadership satisfaction?
  • Have we increased employee satisfaction and equity?

Often, teams recognise that the traditional style of waterfall project management creates more problems than it solves. The red tape, the delays, and the focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness is what creates the need for a new style of working.

If we find that the adoption of agile or scrum is demonstrating that our teams are more effective, and the organizational agility has resulted in significant improvements in operational efficiency and effectiveness, then those would be great measures of success for the organization.

Measuring what matters

The adoption of scrum or any agile framework should be treated just like any other experiment.

You have a hypothesis, and you design an experiment to prove or disprove that hypothesis. You also decide which measures would be leading indicators of success and which measures would indicate that you are not able to create or capture value and should abandon what you are doing.

If a scrum team are awesome at scrum yet fail to create or capture value for customers or the organization, there is no point in persisting with that approach.

If a scrum team are newbies at scrum and consistently failing to master the framework yet have started to make progress on moving the needles that matter, you should persist with the adoption and implementation of scrum and focus on incremental improvement.

The team don’t have to be great at scrum to start delivering results and you can take comfort in the fact that a poor performing scrum team is producing better results than a good, seasoned, and experienced project management team.

As the team’s agile capabilities grow, so should the impact of their efforts.

Slow is smooth and smooth is steady.

So, in closing, you could find that the team are battling to find their feet with the scrum framework and yet their performance against business goals and objectives demonstrate that this experiment is working. That the adoption is a success.

A scrum team might be the textbook example of what scrum looks and feels like, and yet their performance against business goals and objectives demonstrate that there is a decrease in velocity, impact, and value for both customer and the organisation.

That would indicate that agile is not creating or capturing value for the organization and should be abandoned in favour of a new experiment or approach.

About John McFadyen

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