Agile IQ®: Transformation Academy ™

Stage Five

Agile IQ® Score: 165+

What is "stage five"?

Companies at this stage of their transformation journey are in the Ri stage of Shu Ha Ri. Stage Five organisations have an Agile IQ greater than 165.

Stage Five suggests that your company has mastered its digital transformation and is engaged in continuous and relentless improvement at a whole ‘systems’ perspective over just teams.

Granting teams opportunities to lead is the key to sustaining this level of agility in an agile organisation.

Forecast cost savings

Up to $30M+

Average time to release value

Every day

Average time to pivot to change

< 1 week

Forecast psychological safety

Very high

Archetypal behaviours

Stage Five highlights that the company and its teams think about the "big picture' and optimising its parts rather than on optimising for outcomes for individual teams.

Teams optimise for its own outcomes
move to
The team sacrifices its own needs over the needs of the whole value stream.
Continuous improvement
move to
Product management actively invests in capability improvement.
Individual OKRs
move to
Product based OKRs and KPIs with teams' goal aligned to contributing to those.

Key to growth

While your Agile IQ® score is very high, there is always more to learn to optimise outcomes for customers.

Agile leadership
actions for growth
Executives and managers should lead by example and work in executive agile teams.
Agile capability management
actions for growth
Invest in improving time to market and ability to innovate as part of the improvement of products and creating capavbility to enter new markets.
Inspecting/adapting cycle for OKRs
actions for growth
Employ Sprint Reviews and quarterly review cycles on inspecting progress toward OKRs and adapting initiatives to ensure these are reached.

What to avoid

Data on the fastest path to sustainable growth, based on other companies' successes and lessons learned, is key to avoid the traps of transformation

Team level responsibilities
Leaving teams as teams. Give high performing Stage Five teams more responsibilities to teach others how to be more agile.

Diagnosing agile and delivery problems

Issues most often occur in Stage Five when:

  • Leaders don’t invest in time for teams to undertake capability development and improvement experiments.
  • Leaders and managers don’t support teams to take leadership roles and responsibilities. 

Where to focus

Systems Thinking

Support these teams to help optimise the value stream, create alignment in other teams

Chapters & Guilds

Support teams to mentor others and improve their agile capability maturity.

Investment in time

Product budgets must include investment in time to support improvements in Time to Market and Ability to Innovate.


Keys improvement actions

  • Drive investments using value-based (EBM) metrics – Actively reflect how the team, upstream and downstream processes, can become more effective using metrics from Lean such as cycle time, lead time, work item age, and then tune and adjust behaviour accordingly. Invest in capability development with EBM metrics to drive improvements in the whole ecosystem of work.
  • Lead Communities of Practice – Encourage team members to lead Communities of Practice, Guilds, Chapters and Agile Release Trains, to actively share their knowledge with others. Investment in capability is
  • Support alignment – Use the team’s expertise to improve alignment of other teams to organisational goals.
  • Think more about the “team of teams” – The team is part of a bigger system of work, including other teams. Understand how work arrives at your team through Value Stream Mapping and identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve flow.

Action #1: Encourage Systems Thinking

What is a “System”?

A system is a set of related components, such as people, processes and tools, that work together in an organisation to perform a set of functions required to achieve the organisation’s objectives.

What is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a way that high performing teams make sense of the complexity of product management by looking at delivery in terms of:

  • The bigger picture.
  • The relationships between teams, upstream and downstream.
  • Dependencies and whole of product risks.

Systems thinking draws on and contributes to systems theory and the system sciences to help teams consider how to solve problems from thuis big picture, rather than focusing exclusively on small details.

Actions for Scrum Masters and Agile Leaders

  • Look for interconnectedness – A systems thinker uses this mindset to untangle and work within the complexity of product delivery.
  • Use synthesis over analysis – Synthesis is about understanding the whole and the parts at the same time. When it comes to systems thinking, the goal is synthesis, as opposed to analysis, which is the dissection of complexity into manageable components. Analysis fits into the mechanical and reductionist worldview, where the world is broken down into parts.
  • Understand and apply emergence to design – Emergence is the outcome of the synergies of the parts; it is about non-linearity and self-organisation. The term ‘emergence’ is used to describe the outcome of things interacting together. 
  • Apply causality to metrics and improvement actions – Understanding causality leads to a deeper perspective on agency, feedback loops, connections and relationships, which are all fundamental parts of systems mapping.

Action #2: Support Chapters & Guilds

What is a Chapter?

A chapter is a collection of people who share a similar skill set and work in the same tribe. The chapter is led by a line member, who is also a squad member. Spotify popularised the term, using chapters as a way to build capability across different teams and to discuss ways of improving their specialised area.

Chapters and improvement of specialised capability areas should be a key part of a manager’s responsibility under an organisation’s operating model. Talented individuals in Stage Five teams should have leadership responsibilities in Chapters.

Example Chapters:

  • User and customer experience.
  • Business analysis.
  • Software development.
  • Testing.
  • Agility.

What is a Guild?

A Guild is a wider community of people who share the same interest. While Chapters typically span multiple teams in a single Agile Release Train or Product stream and focus on capability development of a single skill area, a Guild often includes members from all over the organisation and focuses on knowledge areas outside of common skillsets.

Stage Five team members make excellent guild coordinators. Their responsibility is to help:

  • Unite all the different members.
  • Bring people together to share their knowledge and best practices.

Example Chapters:

  • Monday Coffee Club.
  • Knowledge management.
  • Emerging technology.
  • Blockchain.

Actions for Leaders

  • Don’t delegate tasks to people in the Guild. Manage work through backlogs across teams based on investment guardrails set at the portfolio level.
  • Be accountable for the capability the Guild contributes to delivery.
  • Seek investment in capability development, capital and operational, to strengthen the capability.
  • Lead work collaboratively across all teams to improve technical/skills excellence for the product.
  • Use EBM metrics – Time to Market and Ability to Innovate – to understand the impact and outcome of capability improvement actions.

Action #3: Invest in Time to build capability improvement

EBM metrics reinforce:

  • Investment in time and money is needed to improve a capability.
  • Improvements in capability should reflect improvements in Time to Market and Ability to Innovate.

Improve Time to Market (T2M)

A Guild’s ability to quickly deliver new capabilities, services, or products is measured by “time to market”.

The reason for looking at T2M is to minimise the amount of time it takes for the organisation to deliver value. Without actively managing T2M, the ability to sustainably deliver value in the future is unknown.

Improving T2M helps improve the frequency at which an organisation can potentially change the current value of a product.

Actions for Leaders

Use Lean metrics to understand:

  • How fast the organisation can learn from new experiments and information?
  • How fast can teams adapt based on the information?
  • How fast can the organisation test new ideas with customers?

Improve Ability to Innovate (A2I)

A Guild’s The effectiveness of an organization to deliver new capabilities that might
better meet customer needs.

The goal of looking at the A2I is to maximise the organisation’s ability to deliver new capabilities and innovative solutions.

Actions for Leaders

  • Understand what prevents the organisation from delivering new value? What capability is needed to deliver new value?
  • Understand what prevents customers or users from benefiting from that innovation.

Stage Five Learning Areas



Learn to identify and reduce waste to increase throughput and flow of the team’s work.



Learn to improve ‘unevenness’ to increase throughput of work.



Learn to improve ‘overburdenning’ the team and its members to increase throughput of work.

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