February 5, 2018
I’m experienced enough in the Scrum community to remember several early attempts at assessing the maturity of agile and Scrum teams.
- Around 2008 – 2010, the Nokia Test was originated by Bas Vodde in his work at Nokia. Jeff Sutherland and others have referenced it.
- Then the Nokia Test evolved into the infamous Scrum-But test around 2010. Aka, “We are doing Scrum, but…”. Below is a publication from 2011 that Sutherland shares about the evolution of the test –
- Around the same time these were evolving, in 2007, Ahmid Sidky wrote his dissertation focusing on an agile assessment framework. He called it the Sidky Agile Measurement Instrument or SAMI. And to my knowledge, it was the first attempt at a holistic instrument or framework.
My point in taking you down “history lane” is that agile assessment tools and frameworks have been thought about since ~2007. So, for the past 10+ years.
The problem is, that none of these, and the ones introduced later, have really done an effective job of helping teams improve.
Quite a few years ago, while I was working at iContact, a fellow agile coach approached me with a free offer.
It seemed that he had developed an agile maturity assessment (framework, tool, approach, strategy, etc.) and wanted to try it out somewhere. I’d known him for quite some time and he had some solid agile coaching experience under his belt.
I politely told him “thank you” and that I would “think about it” and quickly closed down the discussion. To be honest, I was initially close-minded to the idea. Here I was an internal technical leader and agile coach in my company. And, to be honest, we were kicking-ass when it came to agile performance and delivery.
But the more I thought about it, the more I started to convince myself that it would be a good idea. Regardless of our performance, we could always get better…couldn’t we?
Last year I scheduled a Product Ownership class that was entitled: Scrum Product Ownership 2.0. The description alluded to more advanced topics and I worked hard to weave them into the course materials and my plans.
Folks seemed to be interested in more advanced topics and I was trying to fill that need in the agile market – beyond the pervasive basic certification courses.
But something interesting happened when I delivered the class. I had three primary discoveries:
- Everyone in the class was clearly struggling with more basic skills and tactics;
- As I tried to convey more advanced topics, I realized that they really weren’t. Instead, they were based on doing the basics…well;
- And finally, the class was looking for silver bullets. That is, they wanted advanced topics that would solve all of their challenges.
I was sent a request to gather my idea on what Agile Maturity looked like from a column writer. Here’s her request:
Here's my thinking: In 2015, I heard many software pro's talk about "Agile maturity." But you had to listen hard to hear the phrase. Nobody shouted it from the rooftops; it’s not a buzzword, or even a new idea. It was more of a whisper, an aside that came up in the context of other topics: continuous delivery, better business alignment, mobile testing—to name a few. Yet it seems to me that this whisper is crucially important – that a mature Agile practice is the key underpinning for successful software development.
But what exactly does "Agile maturity" mean? It appears to run that gamut from advanced beginner teams flush with their first solid success to those are that doing continuous delivery, with high levels of test automation that entails.
What is your definition? Is your Agile mature? What are you working toward?