When we started the journey to create an app for agile coaching, I knew I wanted several things from it. Importantly, I wanted to help a number of key people across organisations, including coaches and managers.
We had numerous frameworks and ways to assess the growing agile maturity of teams, programs and the whole enterprise but the process was largely manual. We had an inventory of questions from the core agile sources – the Agile Manifesto and its 12 Principles, the Scrum Guide, and Lean Manufacturing – but it was in Survey Monkey. We had a large Excel spreadsheet to analyse the data and display some charts on trends, but analysis was largely a manual process.
This is when I understood that Agile IQ® needed to be an app.
For Consultants and Agile Practitioners
My consultants wanted:
- The results of an assessment instantly
- To see comparison data and trends.
- To share the data and the statistical insights immediately with the teams they were working with.
And they wanted all this instantly, rather than waiting for me to do the statistical analysis and reports days, sometimes weeks after a batch of assessments.
As we iterated reports, I quickly understood from our consultants that teams wanted to know:
- Were their results good?
- How did they compare to others teams, both in the same organisation and to other organisations we had helped through their agile transformation.
Comparing teams is tricky, though. Experienced agile coaches acknowledge that you can’t compare velocity across teams. Different teams have different work, have different experience, and so have very different conversations about what it takes for them to create an Increment of Done work. Fortunately, from my psych background, I could confidently say “yes, you can compare behaviour”.
But of course no one does a comparison between a junior tennis champion and the world’s seeded players, so in comparing teams I needed a different benchmark that was statistically sound, not some kind of world gold standard. So, comparing teams of a similar age was born. It enabled our consultants to have meaningful conversations about the pace of evolution of teams in their adoption of contemporary ways of working and what they were not doing compared to those teams.
Overall, when consultants wanted to show their worth, providing reports really helped people understand the value they brought and how sharing their experience and mentoring and coaching teams resulted in improvements in agile capability.
Managers love their reports. Importantly, we very quickly saw demands of them from Executive to explain how the spend in agile transformation was going. With the data we had across numerous organisations and their trends, providing simple reports and comparison data was essential.
There had been several standard reports we had been doing with managers for their executives: comparing programs to other programs, showing the trends within programs, and indicating which teams were at risk of delivery failure. With over 5 years of data, we were even able to start to predict the early warning signs of programs “going backwards”.
Ultimately, though, for the beta, I needed to work out what reports mattered in a minimal viable product to take to market and test, these became:
- Program trends – showing teams across time and their improvement in their agile actions and behaviours.
- Showing the primary and their sub-factor breakdowns within programs and across teams.
- Displaying program averages and improvement trends.
- Collating other data such as cost reduction, defect/rework reduction and time to pivot, and drawing correlations between their efforts and Agile IQ®.
With so many potential reports to create, though, with different slices and comparisons, rather than build every single one, we decided to allow access to the numbers through Microsoft Power BI and Excel using SQL queries. As of the end of 200, in the pipeline we’re adding additional queries that encompass:
- Psychological safety – what is the profile of teams and programs to call out problems they see for action without fear of reprisal?
- Agile leadership – what is the strength of the agile mindset for leaders to truly improve the speed of decision-making through supporting teams to be self-managing?
Unlike other tools that have separate assessment tools for different, specialised purposes, Agile IQ® provides these insights through one assessment. This is a growing area of research for us in the modelling we continue to do.
For Scrum Masters
As agile practitioners and team coaches, Scrum Masters have a tough job. They have no legitimate power (a Scrum Master isn’t a Delivery Manager or Iteration Manager) and have to influence by expert and referent power. For this group, I wanted to take the guesswork out of helping teams navigate growth in agile. We couldn’t be everywhere to support every team. Our consultants used Agile IQ® to identify and triage teams most in need of support. Agile IQ® became a way that we could help them to help themselves, and meant developing:
- Tips to help Scrum Masters help teams improve with curated coaching advice taken from our years of consulting and coaching experience.
- Linking assessments and recommendations to recommended blog posts by some of the most well known and experienced sources across the world – including Mike Cohn (my personal favourite), Jeff Patton, and of course linking to key resources in our blog.
- Ensuring that the assessment inventory of questions was work agnostic, so that Scrum Masters for teams for marketing, HR and finance could also benefit from Agile IQ®’s curated recommendations.
Every executive knows that access to credible, reliable and independent data is the key to making sound decisions. Yet, while many organisations are taking steps to empower their staff to make fact-based decisions, 41% of businesses struggle to turn data into decisions (Forrester, 2020) – most turn to intuition, gut instinct, self-reporting, and vanity metrics.
Rather than turn to surveys of “team happiness”, with Agile IQ® we were finally able to supply executives with:
- Live data about the agility of their programs.
- Comparisons and trends of growing agility between programs.
- The cost benefits – improved ability to pivot, reduce waste and rework, reduced defects and overtime – that a growing agile mindset was bringing them.
Unlike the inflated views self-assessments brought, Agile IQ®’s algorithms on the actions, behaviour and culture of their organisations, gave them reliable data that they then used to support decisions on which programs:
- Were at delivery risk when they moved their whole organisation to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Could pivot the fastest to deliver new products and services needed during COVID-19.
- How quickly new initiatives could be actioned.
With new custom dashboards in place built in Microsoft Power BI, strategies to strengthen fragile teams that were not able to self-organise when working remotely, were immediately recognisable.
We didn’t want to create an app for everyone. There are many assessment tools in the market that provide great choice. We wanted something that was both portable – to bring the data into conversations over coffee rather than over a screen – and simple enough to use. When agile’s focus is on the Law of the Small Team, Agile IQ® is now providing data-driven insights to all levels of the organisation. Through its use, we’ve seen consistency of agile practice improve at scale, and teams rapidly advance through difficult areas with advice based from supporting hundreds of teams.
We’ve found it very useful in agile coaching of our clients. I hope you find the same.
Forrester (2020) Data Literacy: What Is It, And Why Do Executive Teams Need To Care? Leveraging Data To Achieve Maximum Business Benefit Requires More Than Technology Tools