All articles in our "Measuring Agility" series:
Do you remember Paul*?
At the beginning of our seven-article saga, Paul, a project manager at Scholesoft*, was caught between his management's desire to measure the agility of his teams and his organization, and his lack of knowledge of what agility is, and therefore what it would mean to measure it.
Then, he asked himself many questions about the perception of this measure in his teams. How will it be received? How can we get rid of the idea of a feeling of "police control" around the implementation of this type of approach?
Then there was all the misunderstanding surrounding the implementation of a huge gas machine. The dozens of meaningless indicators that he and his teams were asked to produce twice a day. What this generated in terms of wasted time and bad competition between the teams.
But that's all in the past.
Today, Scholesoft has succeeded in implementing a process for measuring organizational agility. This approach has brought satisfaction, whether at the level of the teams, middle management or the company's management. It was necessary to fall into the traps that we have described to you before getting up again.
In an empirical approach, experimentation and error are part of the game. You are bound to discover obstacles and solve them as you go along.
But if you want to avoid falling into ALL the traps, here are some tips we can give you. They are to be applied at different stages of your journey.
*Paul and Scholesoft are purely fictional.
Clarify the vision
Before embarking on a process of measuring agility, it is essential to remind everyone what agility is. And why we should strive to become more agile. We talk about this at length in article 1.
If the concept of agility is not clear to you, know that a one-day awareness session can already be enough to draw in its wake the stakeholders and the management of the organization. Additional sessions, more adapted to certain professions, can follow.
The move towards more agility is a change management process. It takes time, there will be obstacles along the way, and achieving your objectives is not guaranteed. And as in any change management process, to maximize your chances of success, federating your employees around this process can only help you.
We therefore advise management to clearly communicate the process that is being implemented. What is the vision of the destination to be reached? By what deadline do we want to have what results? What are the changes that will have to be made to get there, whether they are operational, organizational or other? Communicating clearly and regularly, by all available means, is essential.
Dedramatize the notion of measurement
As we discussed together in Article 2, however, measurement is an essential step for improvement in an empirical approach. To be able to adapt, it is essential to be able to see the results of our previous experiments. This, in order to know if we have done better or not. Then to know where to place our cursor with respect to our expectations.
This is where it is important to be transparent, to talk about what we want to measure, why we want to measure it, and to involve everyone in this process of reflection and construction. There is no need to infantilize the teams. Let's avoid falling back into a model where the decision-makers only decide, and the executors only execute. Communication is key, once again.
In an agile approach, and you have seen this with the indicators we have proposed, it is rarely useful to make individual measurements. What we are interested in is the production of value, the achievement of a certain level of quality, of predictability... all points that are linked to a collective work. Clarifying that the measurements will be collective, and not individual, helps to take the pressure off of this type of exercise, and to get everyone moving in the same direction.
In any case, in order to avoid conflict situations that would only slow down the organization's progress, linking individual measurable indicators to the achievement of a bonus, a raise or any other extrinsic motivator should be prohibited. We have all experienced the situation where Ivan refused to help Nadia, because the time spent on this would prevent him from reaching his own goals. Clarifying that goals will not conflict between teams promotes collaboration.
Choose the right indicators
We talked about this earlier. It is not useful to measure 72 indicators, 12 times a day, to get interesting data that will help us improve.
Define a limited number of indicators, a frequency of update, and a decision process that should be applied based on the observed trend. The indicators we presented in article 5 and article 6 can be a starting point. But there are obviously others.
If you don't measure anything today in a really disciplined way, measuring even one or two indicators on a regular basis will be progress. And you can always add to your arsenal later.
Avoid as much as possible all the vanity metrics we talked about in article 3. Don't measure to "look good", but measure to know what you can improve on.
How can we get anything out of our measurements if we do them whenever we want, without a strategy? It is very unlikely that the time spent measuring will produce a return on investment.
Providing the right tools to help us carry out our measurements is therefore a significant asset. Reducing the amount of time spent by employees on measurement, whether by implementing appropriate interfaces or even automating the production of a certain number of indicators, will allow them to stop seeing it as a tedious activity that takes away from their time to create value. If measurement is perceived as less of a constraint, it will be easier to comply with it on a regular basis.
Beyond that, it is important to reiterate the right messages about the importance of the measurements: what are we going to use them for? why are we doing these measurements at this frequency? This is something we've talked about before. Don't assume that things have already been said once, and that's enough. Repetition of information is an important component in all learning.
You have to be tough on teams that don't play the game, for whatever reason. Why aren't you measuring this indicator? What are you missing, in terms of data, in terms of tools, in terms of knowledge? Without immediately becoming judgmental, like "They don't measure this indicator because it bores them". It is good to remind ourselves why these indicators are important to improve together. And to follow a little more closely the teams that are struggling with this exercise. All this is fundamental to have quality data that will help us make the right decisions at the right time.
It is not easy for everyone to shed light on the performance of their teams. It can be perceived as a comparison exercise that we could do without, vis-à-vis other people. And we are eager not to be perceived as the "ugly duckling".
This is where a generative organizational culture will be preponderant in our ability to improve you. If less agile teams, with decreasing velocity, rising defect rates, and waning delivery, are posted on the "wall of shame" in front of snickering employees, don't expect your measurement approach to last over time.
Measurement is essential for improvement because it allows us to see where we stand. Knowing that our performance is insufficient on this or that indicator should generate a surge of solidarity from the rest of the organization to help us reach our objective. This is precisely where the allocation of bonuses based on objectives that are too individual may hinder us.
Let's keep in mind that, in a systemic approach, the optimization of the system requires the optimization of all its components, as well as the connections between the components. Having 60% of the teams performing well and the rest in great difficulty is not an answer in the context of a global improvement approach.
It is therefore a good idea to promote mutual aid between teams and departments. But also to value the know-how of your employees in this kind of situation. On the other hand, know how to point out and reframe pathological behaviors, in order to send the message that this kind of thing is not tolerated in an environment like yours.
In summary: measuring agility
Clarify the vision
- Raise awareness / train the organization's players
- Communicate on the change process
Dedramatize the notion of measurement
- Involve everyone in the reflection and construction process
- Clarify that the measures will be collective
- Clarify that objectives will not be contradictory between teams
Choose the right indicators
- Define a limited number of relevant indicators and a frequency of update
- Define the decision process that should apply
- Provide the right tools
- Continuously get the right messages across
- Be tough on teams that don't play the game
- Valuing mutual aid and collaboration
- Reframing pathological behaviors
This is the end of our series on measuring agility!