Eight Essential Questions to Ask of your Agile Organization

By: Jared Bergantino, Analyst

According to the 14th Annual State of Agile survey (which surveys members of the software development community), 95% of the 40,000 respondents reported their organization employs some form of Agile Project Management. While typically associated with the technology sector, Agile is quickly spreading to non-tech industries as well. Owen Williams, former Chubb Claims Technology Solutions SVP, has stated that “Agile is needed to respond to today’s relentless demand for technology-driven business innovation and increased speed-to-market.”

With the increased adoption of Agile techniques across a diverse array of organizational demographics, it is imperative Agile adopters ensure they are correctly implementing Agile.

What is Agile?

To start, organizations (and their staff) must have a clear understanding of what Agile is. At its core, Agile is a project management approach that constitutes a set of practices that enables organizations to deliver features and capabilities iteratively throughout a project life cycle to increase project visibility, productivity, and profitability while reducing time to market/time of delivery.

Obstacles to Agile Transformation

Too good to be true? In some cases, it is. While individuals within a team or Project Management Office may be familiar with some of the Agile practices and terminology, successfully transforming a team or organization into competent Agile practitioners can be challenging. To re-reference the Agile survey, respondents reported the top three most significant roadblocks faced when transitioning to Agile were “general organization resistance to change,” “not enough leadership participation,” and “inconsistent processes and practices across teams.” In an interview with McKinsey & Company, ING’s CIO Peter Jacobs and former COO Bart Schlatmann described the obstacles of ING’s Agile transformation: “some people formally embrace the agile way of working but do not let go of their existing organizational structure and governance[…]culture is[…]the most important element of this sort of change effort.”

A Healthy Agile Organization

So how do you help mitigate the risk of an unhealthy Agile organization to reap the benefits of Agile? Ask yourself the following eight questions:

  1. Do your deliverables fit your delivery model?
  2. Are teams right-sized, roles clear, and is there accountability?
  3. Do you have executive support, stakeholder buy-in, and vendor alignment?
  4. Are your Agile tools being used correctly, and is training effective?
  5. Are ceremonies meaningful and communications transparent?
  6. Do you have a reliable roadmap and backlog, with features and stories written correctly, and a clear definition of “complete”?
  7. Are teams delivering against the roadmap – what is their velocity?
  8. What scaffolding is in place to drive consistency and continuous improvement?

Just like Agile projects deliver capabilities iteratively, an Agile journey will deliver value iteratively into an environment – like all change management initiatives, it is not a “one and done” effort. The call to action is for organizations to have an efficient and repeatable way to ask the right questions, not only before the journey begins, but at many steps along the way. What tactics are you employing to align your sponsor’s objectives with your outcomes, and measure them along the way?

NEOS has a breadth of experience in establishing Agile methodologies and providing answers to these questions. Our Agile Health Assessment is an extensive examination of an organization’s Agile maturity through a variety of proprietary lenses. We identify pain points, remove roadblocks, recommend improvements, and provide direct administrative support for your Senior Leadership and Project teams. Contact NEOS via our website or by phone so that you can have your “AHA” moment.

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