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ZXM Agile IQ® Academy™

Agile capability maturity

Agile Stages of Maturity

Agile IQ Stages CMMI 1-5

There are distinct sets of behaviours that strengthen as a team becomes more agile. While their growth in these behaviours is not linear, it does follow a predictable pattern of development and team evolution.

Stage One: Starting

Delivery depends on talented people, but because skills are embedded on specific individuals, delivery isn’t scalable and success isn’t repeatable. A team at this stage of its agile journey is typically either just learning how to be agile, or hasn’t firmly committed to changing the way that they work. Choosing a framework and just doing the basics right is key to evolving to the next level.

Archetypal behaviours seen in this stage:

  • Management direction and task delegation.
  • Ad-hoc or waterfall practices.
  • Optimisation for ultilisation.

Focus for growth:

  • Managers must establish and promote guardrails for self-organisation.
  • Transparency of work.

What do avoid:

  • Don’t mistake self-managing teams for autonomous teams. Set the minimum set of rules, practices and roles to work within and let the team manage themselves to deliver within those boundaries.

Stage Two: Establishing

Teams at this level of their learning journey are focused on mastering the basics. Combined with self-organisation, these two key areas are vital to seeing improved throughput, lower costs and reduced delivery risk.

Archetypal behaviours seen in this stage:

  • Focus on getting the basics of agile right.
  • Alignment to industry standard roles and practices.
  • Keeping things simple (and not overcomplicating agile practices).

Focus for growth:

  • Master the basics.
  • Self-organisation.
  • Delivery within guardrails
  • Creating and encouraging consistency of agile practice and roles across teams, this includes tool usage.

What to avoid:

  • Avoid customising practices before you’ve mastered them. Many rules for certain practices might seem inconvenient at first, but they exist for a reason. Get to know why.

Stage Three: Evolving

Teams at this level of maturity should start showing higher levels of productivity, transparency and quality. They typically advance to even higher levels of effectiveness when they learning advanced patterns and practices such as Lean UX, Kanban, and Lean.Evolving

Predictability of quality and delivery will improve when the team and its Product Owner shift focus to creating a sustainable pace. Sustainable pace improves predictability and reduces team burn-out and fatigue. Encourage the team to find its rhythm and establish a state of flow supported by metrics.

Archetypal behaviours seen in this stage:

  • Delivery with empiricism ensures repeatability and scalability.
  • Customer-first mindset.
  • Delivery of value over “requirements”.

Focus for growth:

  • Addition of advanced practices such as Design Thinking, XP, Lean UX and tools like Kanban.
  • Moving to agile product management from agile “project” management.

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid tinkering with new practices that promote or reinforce traditional project management. The best teams move quickly in this stage away from project management and into agile product management.

Stage Four: Strengthening

Stage Four teams are high performers. They should regularly show consistent high throughput at a high level of quality and sustainable pace. It shouldn’t be unusual for these teams to double their throughput when the type of work is consistent over a few months.

Archetypal behaviours seen in this stage:

  • Optimising delivery through Lean practices.
  • Agile OKRs and Evidence Based Management.
  • Heavy use of metrics to learn, make decisions, experiment, and improve.

Focus for growth:

  • Flow.
  • Understanding, identifying and removing waste.
  • Optimising throughput and quality.

Things to avoid:

  • Groupthink is a real danger for teams that rapidly reach this stage. They internalise their sense of superiority and end up slipping back to Stage Two if they aren’t kept an eye on.
  • “But we deliver, leave us alone” is a common sign that the team has only implemented agile as a fixed process over a way to continously improve. They might ‘appear’ to be a Stage Four team, but they’re likely to be hiding deeper behavioural problems.

Stage Five: Optimising

Stage Five teams are agile leaders. They look beyond their own team to support others to be agile and contribute to the organisation’s ways of working to improve delivery, quality and the whole operating model. They lead by example.

Archetypal behaviours seen in this stage:

  • Investment in continuous improvement.
  • Systems Thinking.
  • Leading by example.
  • Helping other teams learn evolve and grow.

Focus for growth:

  • Agile leadership.
  • Lean leadership.

Things to avoid:

  • Avoid suddenly shifting a Stage Five Team’s focus to leadership. Iteratively give them more responsibilities.

Building Agile Behaviours and Mindset

Four key behaviours are paramount to building an agile enterprise: self organisation, agile values, continuous learning culture, and sprinting.

As these behaviours become stronger, enterprise agile outcomes grow, including lower costs and faster time to deliver, while maintaining high quality standards.

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