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Agile IQ®

Stage Three

Agile IQ® Score: 93-130

What is a "Stage Three" team?

A team at this stage of its agile journey is establishing its agile behaviours in the Ha stage of Shu Ha Ri. A Stage Two team has an Agile IQ® of 93-130.

A Stage Three team has mastered the basics of agile and is now typically focused on learning advanced patterns and practices to add to their team’s agile ways of working.

Moving to Agile Product Management through adding advanced patterns like Lean UX, Design Thinking, and Kanban help create stronger agile behaviours in this stage. The outcome should be improved quality with lower costs and improved speed to market.


Archetypal behaviours

The types of behaviours that are commonly seen in Stage Three include:

  • Delivery with empiricism – inspect, adapt, improve.
  • Customer-first mindset over a focus on asking business “what do you want?”.
  • Understanding value, impacts and outcomes over delivering “requirements”.

What to expect in Stage Three

  • Cost Savings: Low.
  • Improved Productivity: Medium. 
  • Improved Quality: High.
  • Improved Transparency: High.
  • Improved speed to market: Medium.

Teams in Stage Three are capable of:

  • Delivering the same outcomes in less time.
  • Doubling their throughput when the work is highly familar.

Diagnosing agile and delivery problems

Issues most often occur in Stage Three teams when:

  • There is churn in the team. They’ll revert to Stage Two while they work out how to operate as a new team. A team can take up to 3 months to go through its Storming and Norming phases.
  • The Product Owner keeps changing. This is typically due to the Product Owner being mistaken for the business stakeholder instead of a member of the agile team.
  • The team still thinks in terms of delivering “requirements” over assessment of work and its contribution of value.
  • The team’s size of work in each Sprint, and the number of items in-progress at any one time it still too large. This slows delivery.
  • Agile is still in “Water-Scrum-Fall” / hybrid mode. Until the upfront and downstream handovers are integrated into the team’s work, speed to market will remain relatively slow. Hybrid is an important step in becoming agile, but it should only remain a transition stage.

Where to focus

Agile Product Management

Shifting from project management approaches to an agile product management structure

Add advanced patterns

Stage Three Teams should be focussed on learning how to increase their capability to reduce delivery risk, higher productivity and lower costs.


Investment in automation whether teams are from finance, marketing and comms or software development


Key to improvement

Diversification of the types of skills, practices and patterns the team has experience with improves their ability to adapt to new situations.

Adding practices like Design Thinking, Lean UX, and DevOps, results in:

  • An improved perspective on what constitutes “value” for stakeholders and customers.
  • An improved practice for prioritisation by value from the Product Owner.
  • A stronger ability to pivot.
  • Improved ability to innovate.

Action #1: Move to Agile Product Management

Agile Product Management focuses on a longer-term relationship between teams, the Product Manager, and customers. In product management, the team remains focussed on supporting, iterating, and improving the product (or service) until that product is no longer of value to its users and stakeholders. This is a very different way of working to project management where, after the product has been developed, it’s handed over to its owner with a transition to “business as usual”, and the project team is disbanded.

Shifting to Product Management evolves the Team/Stakeholder Relationship

Organisations that start down agile ways of working evolve through three main steps from project to product management.


Actions for Product Owners

  • Connect team and Product Goals to the rest of the organisation.
  • Align team work so it contributes to organisational goals.
  • Ensure Sprint Goals add progress toward the team’s Product Goal.

Actions for Scrum Masters

Scrum Masters are expected to coach stakeholders and business through the transformation of continuous improvement toward agile product management. This includes:

  • Supporting and growing long-lived teams.
  • Phasing out of project management roles, practices and reporting.
  • Training and coaching others on agile product management.

Focus on Agile IQ® improvement actions that impact:

  • Empiricism – get velocity to a predictable place.
  • Continuous learning culture – learn how to ensure Waterfall practices and behaviours are actively retired and that work doesn’t “roll over” into subsequent Sprints.

Actions for Leaders

Managers and agile leaders should now be focussed on:

  • Creating agile operating models based on Product Management.
  • Assessing and understanding the capability – people, process and tools – that is needed to support Product Management.
  • Assessing and growing that capability, not task managing teams.

Team establishment exercises, like the Team Charter and Skills Matrix, that were created in Stage One are key assets to use to focus on capability development over purely “people management”. 

  • Establish, grow and nurture Guilds and Chapters.
  • Ensure product investment starts to include the capability investment needed to advance product goals.

Action #2: Add advanced practices

Stage Three Teams should be focussed on learning how to increase their capability to reduce delivery risk, higher productivity and lower costs. Key practices for Stage Three teams include:

  • Lean UX – to improve methods to understand users and stakeholders more effectively with reduced costs and waste.
  • Kanban – to improve flow of value.
  • Design Thinking – creates a natural flow from research to rollout. Immersion in the customer experience produces data, which is transformed into insights, which help teams agree on design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions. 

Focus on Agile IQ® improvement actions that impact:

  • Managing products with agility – using Design Thinking to help set Product Goals and Sprint Goals.
    Optimising flow – by learning how to use Kanban effectively.

Action #3: Automation

Automation reduces time, effort and cost, whilst reducing manual errors, giving your business more time to focus on your primary objectives. Repetitive tasks can be completed faster. Automating processes ensures high quality results as each task is performed identically, without human error.

With automation, teams should see the following improvements:

  • Higher quality.
  • Faster to market.
  • Lower operational costs to deliver the same work.

Automation isn’t only for software teams, doing testing and deployment. 

  • Marketing teams – automating publication and dissemination of social media; capturing people’s details, automating email responses based on workflow.
  • Finance teams – automating invoicing, debt recovery, and approvals workflow.
  • HR teams – automating recruitment workflow, communications and engagement.

Stage Three Learning Areas

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