Perhaps your organization has adopted agile practices to obtain substantial advantages over your competitors. You believe that by being more agile than your competitors you can achieve superior business results by rapidly creating and adapting products and services that delight your customers. You’ve made a real financial investment in being agile as a means of achieving your business objectives. You have your own measures of business performance that provide insight into how well you are meeting and exceeding your business objectives. These measures are your ultimate gauge of how well your business is performing.
Agile practices are an important pillar of your business success. So, it makes sense to assess how well you are doing with agile and to look for areas that can be improved. Doing so could provide even better business returns that can help you outpace or eliminate your competitors. To fill this critical need, we have created the Comparative Agility™ assessment.
The Comparative Agility™ assessment is based on a simple, but powerful concept: "determine how good you are compared to your competitors." To understand the influence of this concept, consider an Olympic gymnast who strives for perfection—only a score of 10 will do, anything less sends the ambitious gymnast back to the gym for more practice.
Unlike gymnasts, competitive organizations do not pursue perfection. Rather, they seek to be better than their competition. Google is today’s dominant search engine not because its results are perfect, but because its results are usually better than its competitors’ results.
In Comparative Agility, we assume agile teams and organizations strive always to be better than their competition and their past selves. As such, there is no holy grail or “perfect ten” score to be achieved. In fact, there’s no predefined best-in-class or “Agile Maturity Level 5” to be achieved. Rather, Comparative Agility™ assessments present the results of a set of survey responses in comparison to some other set of responses. For example, using Comparative Agility it is possible to compare a team, project or organization to:
- the total set of collected responses;
- responses from organizations in the same industry
- responses from similar types of projects (such as commercial software, websites, and so on); or
- responses from projects with similar lengths of experience at becoming agile.
Comparative Agility™ was launched in June of 2007 and since that time over 400 people have used it to help them better understand how their current agile practices compare with those of other companies. Based on the information from these assessments, actionable steps can be taken to improve their agile practices thus assisting in better achieving their target business objectives.
How does it Work?
The approximately 100 questions of a Comparative Agility™ assessment are organized into seven dimensions and thirty-two characteristics. The seven dimensions represent broad classifications of changes to be expected of a team or organization as it becomes more agile. The seven dimensions are:
- technical practices
- knowledge creation
Each dimension is made up of three to six characteristics and a set of questions is asked to assess a team's score on each characteristic. For example, characteristics of the Planning dimension include: when planning occurs, who is involved, whether both release and iteration planning occur, whether critical variables (such as scope, schedule and resources) are locked, and how progress is tracked.
Questions are answered on a five-point Likert scale of:
- More true than false
- Neither true nor false
- More false than true
The questions for the "when does planning occur" characteristic include:
- Upfront planning is helpful without being excessive.
- Team members leave planning meetings knowing what needs to be done and have confidence they can meet their commitments
- Teams communicate the need to change release date or scope as soon as they are discovered.
- Effort spent on planning is spread approximately evenly throughout the project.
Through a combination of Dimensions, Characteristics, and individual Questions, a team or organization can see how they compare to other organizations, or to themselves say six months earlier. For example, a team doing web development may compare itself to all other teams doing web development and find that they lag their competitors at adopting agile technical practices as shown by their score on the Technical Practices dimension. This information on its own could be enough for the team to select items to add to its Improvement Backlog. But if the team wants more detail, they can drill down into the Technical Practices dimension to see the specific Characteristics where they most lag their competitors.
For an example of how the Dimensions, Characteristics and Questions of a Comparative Agility™ assessment see the Case Studies .