Perfect Tulips

Not everything is as perfect as tulips in the spring!

Process improvement is a critical 21st-century survival skill all organizations need to embrace.  In the late 20th-century process improvement was a code word for cost-cutting and outsourcing, in 2020 it is about reinvention and changing capabilities so that organizations and teams can seek a new short-term equilibrium. Change is initiated by defining scope and making decisions about what will be within the focus of a process improvement initiative, but that just gets the ball rolling.  The next step requires diagnosing a set of problems. IDEAL combines both identifying and qualifying opportunities. At the risk of messing with the acronym, I’m going to approach components separately beginning with identification. 

Identifying improvement opportunities is a function of assessing a situation and comparing performance to something. The “something” depends on the type of assessment. I use 4 categories to classify assessments. They are:

  1. Doing – This type of assessment is based on process frameworks or models. A comparison to the ceremonies, roles, and deliverables in the Scrum framework would be a doing type of assessment. The Agile Performance Holarchy can be assessed as a framework. Significant variances to a framework can be exposed.  
  2. Being – The second type of assessment seeks to determine whether those being observed are living up to a set of principles. Assessing a team or organization against the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto interprets whether the portion of the organization being observed has an agile mindset. 
  3. Performing – This form of assessment uses quantitative outcomes of a team, value stream, or organization to determine whether they are getting better or whether they are performing against an industry standard. Performance assessment requires measurement. 
  4. Ad-hoc – Most team retrospectives are a form of ad-hoc assessment. The classic “what works well and what should we stop doing” approach is a mechanism to make incremental changes within a small group. These approaches are rarely model-driven and the results are a reflection of current pain and sentiment. Using ad-hoc team-level assessment approaches for teams of teams or other large groups often result in chaos.

All four approaches are useful but ad-hoc is mostly a team approach. Commercial approaches for assessments often combine doing and being aspects based on the notion that if you are adhering to a model that you must have the correct mindset. Unfortunately just doing agile (or any other model) does not mean you have an agile mindset and whether you are delivering effectively and efficiently. A more well-rounded approach is to combine doing, being, and performing approaches.

The most important goal of an assessment of any type is to provide you with a list of possible ideas to upset the apple cart so that it can be reassembled so that it delivers more value for the organization. Assessments that do not provide improvement opportunities are not worth doing. 

Next: Qualifying Opportunities