Maturity tracking beyond Agile
27 February 2023
This is the third installment of our series on our experience with maturity trackers. For an introduction to the topic, please check out the first post: Agile Maturity – An Introduction. For an example of the implementation of the Maturity tracker, please check out the second post: Maturity tracker with ritual dissent.
In this post, we will share yet another implementation of maturity assessment. You will find the link to the tool we’ve developed at the bottom of this post, so you can freely use it and run your own experiment.
Once upon a time…
We joined a client, and they were “assessing” the maturity of their teams towards agility with an in-house developed questionnaire (spreadsheet). The current tool was filled in monthly by the Team Coach without involving the team members (see the School Report Risk here) and was biased towards software teams using Scrum (i.e. asking about DevOps practices and retrospective frequency).
The client had different needs though: the teams in question were not delivering software and not using Scrum, but they were still leveraging the benefits of an Agile mindset in their business domain. In fact, they were dealing with clinical trials management which is very complex:
- intrinsic uncertainty when running a clinical trial: it’s a big experiment, in the end;
- work spanning over multiple countries and time-zones
- strict country-dependent regulations;
- many dependencies and highly-specialised skills required to get the job done.
The idea of a new approach takes shape
What did we do then? We proposed designing a new process and tool to serve their team’s needs, and we did it by defining design principles first:
the team should be in charge of their tracking and path towards agility.
Agnostic & useful for all teams
we wanted to develop an approach that works for most teams, not only software teams using Scrum.
Can be completed regularly, with minimal effort
it’s important that any tracking activity is completed regularly so that you can change course as soon as necessary. Because of the frequency, the effort of running it should be minimal.
Inspires the team to keep growing
we envision the Maturity tracker not as an assessment but primarily as a trigger of valuable conversations that inspire team members to improve continuously.
Creates pride in what’s been achieved
change is hard, and it’s easy to lose morale. By comparing the data from previous sessions, improvement can be measured and made visible, showing how much progress has been achieved.
to make sure the teams align around key concepts and clarity is achieved, we have limited the amount of jargon as much as possible. Where a specialised word is used, a supporting definition is provided.
We also tapped into solid foundations and consolidated knowledge on the topic. In asking ourselves, “what are good statements that will indicate that the team is progressing towards Agile Maturity”, we kept in mind at least three sources of information:
- The Agile Principles
- The research around what motivates people (especially the excellent book and video “Drive” by Daniel Pink)
- The research around what makes high-performing teams (especially the extensive study “Project Aristotle” run by Google)
The new Maturity Tracker
After a few weeks, involving three of our best coaches, we developed the first iteration of the AR Maturity tracker tool, and we delivered it in the form of a Mural board.
A first glimpse and key features
The tool in a Mural board
The tool is an easy-to-use Mural board, created keeping in mind that:
- It should be interactive, engaging and done together with the team;
- can be part of already present continuous improvement events (i.e. retrospective);
- the scoring can be completed in ~15 mins;
- being principles-based, it doesn’t assume the team to be using any specific process;
- should be generic, it can be used with any group of people working together to achieve a shared goal.
The Maturity tracker covers four foundational areas:
- PURPOSE: How developed is your sense of purpose? When we have a clear purpose, our work has meaning, which can motivate and inspire.
- AUTONOMY: How much autonomy is there in your team? Autonomy, or the desire to be self-directed, is incredibly motivational as it empowers people with choice.
- MASTERY: Where is your team in their pursuit of mastery? Mastery is the itch to improve something essential to us. When satisfied, the team benefits both practically and motivationally.
- CULTURE: What is it like to be in your team? Team culture is a shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours that enable teams to be happy together and effective.
A closer look: anatomy of an Area
Let’s take a closer look at the Mural board, using the Culture Area as an example:
Sections of an area
We have highlighted four sections:
- The Area Header: contains a description of the area
- Statements, the sub-categories under the area
- Team Self-Evaluation section: the team members will use this to assess themselves as a team on the sub-categories
- Definitions/God Statement: to provide clarity on what we mean with some more specialistic jargon and what great looks like for the specific area
How do you use the tool?
The following diagram shows a high-level representation of the process around running the Maturity tracker (team level):
Process and roles at team level
The Mural board will be used by a team in a session to track their progress against the four areas and 18 sub-categories. Ideally, an Agile Coach or Scrum Master will facilitate the session. The session might be run as follows:
- In silence (optionally), all team members independently and synchronously place a dot on “Agree” or “Not yet” for each of the 18 statements.
- When everyone has placed their dot on all the statements, discuss each one of them:
- Where the team members have diverging opinions, use this as a trigger for valuable conversations that generate insights and alignment.
- Capture actions that will lead to a score improvement.
How is the process useful to the organization as a whole? We have been working on data collecting and their interpretation.
Process at the organizational level
Each team session will generate data that can be aggregated and visualised to generate insights. Some valuable questions/scenarios might be:
- Do teams in the same organisation department struggle in the same areas?
- Yes, then we should look into a systemic issue for the whole department
- No, then what is making some teams mature faster than others?
- Has a team reached a level of maturity that allows for self-organisation?
- Yes, then we might consider their coach focusing their effort on some other team
- No, what’s missing there to make further progress?
These insights can be useful for:
- The team being coached, as they can reflect on where they are, where they need to be and how to get there
- The coach supporting the team, as they will inform their targeted coaching interventions
- Company leadership, change sponsors or, as an example, the Guiding Coalition members in an Agile transformation (check out the Kotter model here for more information), to decide if the investment is getting returns and plan the following areas of intervention.
Data charts from the Maturity tracker sessions with two teams. No lion or tiger has been harmed in the process.
What have we learned?
This is what worked:
- The teams found the session engaging and useful.
- The statements have triggered valuable conversations that have achieved alignment and generated actionable improvements.
- The statements have been a discussion opener for teams to surface issues that aren’t often discussed.
This is what needs improvement and will be addressed in future iterations:
- At the moment, the statements only cover the first level of maturity (White Belt); the following three levels will be covered in future iterations and shared with you in future posts.
- The ability to collate and visualise data more efficiently (now done manually with a spreadsheet).
- Actions management.
Can I experiment with it in my team/company?
Yes, you can. Use the Mural template located here and start the journey of tracking your team’s maturity in what we believe is an inclusive, non-judgmental way.
Please let us know your thoughts on this blog article or the results of your experimentation with the tool by contacting us or commenting this article.