Measuring agility with Agile IQ

Executives are generally unhappy with the speed at which their strategic initiatives are achieved. In 2019, Gartner highlights that 85% have adopted or are planning to adopt an agile product centric frameworks to deliver faster, without compromising on quality, with the advantage of reprioritising needs as requirements are better understood or the market changes. The benefits delivered through agile products frameworks over through projects are very real.

Agile needs a change in mindset, actions and behaviour

“Fake Agile” is the veneer created through just “tweaking” existing processes and creating the symbols normally associated with agile – visual boards, stand-ups, and replacing teams with squads. Very few benefits come from Fake Agile and its metrics encompass “team happiness”.

True agility, though, requires a shift in mindset, actions and behaviours of individuals (from executives through to teams) as well as a change to an organisation’s processes. The types of actions and behaviours expected of the agile enterprise were initially described by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka (Harvard Business Review, 1986).

Build in instability

Leaders create an element of tension by setting very challenging, yet achievable, outcomes.

Self-organising teams

Leaders set the vision and the rules for working, while teams organise themselves and work with autonomy, self-transcendence and cross-fertilisation.

Overlapping work phases

People use Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (P-D-C-A) pattern with short work cycles and fast feedback loops.

Multilearning

Encouraging people to work with each other to accumulate experiences in areas other than their specialty.

Subtle control

Instead of directing work, the emphasis for leaders is reinforcing the checkpoints in P-D-C-A to prevent instability, ambiguity, and tension from turning into chaos.

Organisational transfer of learning

Encouraging and promoting people to transfer their learning to others outside of their team.

Behaviours that predict agility

The six pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, forming a fast flexible process for new product development. Just as important, Takeuchi and Nonaka highlight, this approach acts as a change agent: it is a vehicle for introducing agility – creative, market-driven ideas and processes into an old, rigid organisation. If enacted, then, the strength of these behaviours will be the earliest measures of agility, and your earliest indication of reaping benefits:

Productivity

Cheaper costs

Faster to market

Reduction in waste

In 2001, these behaviours were defined in the Agile Manifesto and its 12 principles. Today, these elements are described by the agile mindset – actions and behaviours combined to promote a different way of thinking about work and, importantly, a different way to deliver work.

What is an Agile Mindset?

Read more about what makes up an Agile Mindset.

Measuring agility through measuring agile behaviours

For over 10 years, ZXM has been helping organisations to be more agile using a mix of customised and industry standard approaches to agile coaching, mentoring and training. In the last 5 years, ZXM has measuring the behaviours described in the Agile Manifesto, its 12 principles, Scrum (as defined by the official Scrum Guide, 2017, by Sutherland and Schwaber), and complementary practices from Lean and Kanban, and tracking these across hundreds of teams. The data highlights four primary factors for enterprise agility: agile values, self-organisation, Sprinting, and continuous improvement. In combination, ZXM calls these four factors “Agile IQ®”.

The results

When tracked over time, ZXM’s data showed that Agile IQ was strongly correlated with ability to pivot, reduced costs through reductions in rework, and reductions in cost through both improvements in productivity as well as reductions in overtime needed to produce the same output.

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Conclusions

Many organisations use vanity metrics to indicate whether their teams and their organisation is agile. Team happiness, velocity, attendance at agile events or town hall presentations on agile – while these can be useful, they don’t predict whether you’re on track to receiving the outcomes you’re seeking from agile.

Agile IQ® is an effective way to measure agile capability maturity over time. It’s a good leading indicator of the changes to mindset, behaviour and culture that’s needed to ensure that your investment in the agile enterprise is on track to deliver the results you need.

Find out more about Agile IQ®

ZXM’s Agile IQ® measures agility and provides teams across the enterprise with custom, curated coaching recommendations to help them be more agile.

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