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Real Agility Program Tracks

As an organization works toward Real Agility™, it goes through six levels of maturity:

  1. Prepared.
  2. Launched.
  3. Stable.
  4. Performing.
  5. Sustainable.
  6. Innovating.

Each of the tracks in the diagram has a different group of stakeholders who participate and they can go through the maturity levels independently. To clarify:

  • The assessment track is for audit/HR to ensure that progress is being made.
  • The delivery track is for teams doing projects, product development, operations, or delivering services.
  • The management track is for mid-level and senior managers to become internal Agile coaches.
  • The leadership track is for senior executives to make the transformation happen organization-wide.
Prepared

The organization and the various groups within have made a decision to start on the path to Real Agility™ and the current state of things is benchmarked so that progress can be measured.

This track is at the Prepared level of maturity when, at a minimum, the organization has assessed its own culture using a tool similar to the Real Agility Assessment, along with measures of just a few key business measures: ROI (or profitability), historical time-to-market, and customer satisfaction (e.g. with Net Promoter Score). A more in-depth assessment that includes measures of team maturity, etc may also be done as part of this stage if the organization feels that a more granular assessment is deserved. For example, an organization that exists as the result of several mergers may wish for a more granular benchmarking of each of the formerly-independent business units.

This track is at the Prepared level of maturity when the members of the prospective team have agreed to make progress towards Real Agility™ and when a basic benchmark assessment of the team has been completed. The benchmarking will depend somewhat on what type of team it is: project, product development, operational, service delivery, etc.

This track is at the Prepared level of maturity when a cohort for the Management Track has been selected. This selection process, at a minimum, includes an invitation to mid- and senior-level managers to participate, written approval from each participant’s boss, passing the Real Agility™  Management Aptitude evaluation, and finally the participant signing a written statement of participation and commitment to the process. This bar is set higher for the Management Track than for any other track as this track maintains the structural integrity of the other tracks at higher levels of maturity.

This track is at the Prepared level of maturity when the highest level executive leaders in the organization including the CEO and President have formally agreed to achieve Real Agility™ for their organization and informed their executive leadership team that they will be beginning a process of leadership development together, the purpose of which is to support the entire organization with strategic and operational changes to make Real Agility™ possible. This track is the foundation for the critical early successes of maturing the other tracks and building momentum to get through the first four stages of maturity.

Launched

Initial training for the various groups of the organization is completed and systematic coaching/training programs for each Track have started.

Core HR/Audit personnel maintain a dashboard including both the cultural and business assessment status showing historical changes and current state. The dashboard is visible to all people in the organization so that there is complete transparency on the status of the progress towards Real Agility™ and the business results that progress is having. The dashboard may require manual updating – automation is not required at this level of maturity – and it may be updated relatively infrequently. The HR/Audit personnel are also trained in techniques to make the dashboard more sophisticated and have a long-term vision for advancing the Assessment Track.

The participants in a team have received basic practical training on Agile teamwork methods such as Scrum, OpenAgile or Kanban. The team also has done a number of “launch” workshops that help the team understand their unique dynamics in three categories: the work they will be doing, the tools and technology they will be using to do the work, and the collaboration and decision-making processes and structures they will apply to their work. Often these training and workshops will include specialized training for certain roles such as Product Owners or technical team members. The team will also have a vision of the stages of maturity and how those relate to overall strategic goals for the organization.

The managers in a cohort have completed their first workshop in the “Practitioner 1” stage of the program, completed their first reading assignment, and have cleared their schedules (both work and personal) to give the program for the Management Track the appropriate amount of time to ensure success. Managers have also enrolled either individually or as a cohort in any necessary training to fill in key knowledge and skill gaps relating to the foundations of Real Agility™. Finally, the members of the cohort will have a clear and compelling vision of their critical importance in the later stages of the maturity of their organization (sustainable and innovating).

The leaders of the organization have completed their first workshop and designed their initial plan for the transformation of their organization. They have also established new team norms to align more closely with the principles and practices of Real Agility™ teamwork. Individual members of the leadership team have also completed a Leadership Circle Profile assessment and had their first individual one-on-one coaching session with a leadership coach. Finally, the leadership team has drafted and started to communicate their compelling vision for urgent change within the organization.

Stable

Participants in any track are able to comfortably execute the basic frameworks, skills and techniques (such as Kanban or Scrum) which lead to Real Agility™.

A stable state is found when the dashboard is fully automated, and it includes the cultural metrics, the business metrics and the Real Agility™ metrics related to each Delivery Track team, the Management Track cohorts, and the Leadership Track. The HR/Audit personnel have also established communication practices around the dashboard, and established support policies for situations when some part of the organization may struggle to provide information for the dashboard. This level of maturity also means that HR/Audit has reviewed and removed old policies around HR/Audit metrics that are not compatible with Real Agility™.

A Delivery Track team is stable once it has successfully adopted core Agile practices and achieved incremental or continuous delivery of value to customers and other stakeholders. There is no performance expectation at this point since various aspects of the teams new way of working may be inefficient or awkward. The team will have passed successfully through some level of “storming” as well and achieved a level of comfort working together as a team, and a firm mutual commitment to success. Even if “Launched” at the same time, not all teams will reach this stage of maturity at the same pace. Some teams may also fail to achieve this level of maturity and need to be re-set or disbanded.

The members of a cohort going through this track will have completed the Practitioner 1 stage of the program successfully. These managers are now ready to launch or support new teams in the Delivery Track with the assistance of an experienced coach. These managers have gained the basic skills to support the culture of Real Agility™ at a team level, but are not yet able to support teams that are in a significant level of crisis, or to “fix” teams that are dysfunctional. It is rare for a member of the cohort to be unsuccessful in achieving this level of maturity but it can happen if they do not have sufficient support from the participants in the Leadership Track. Those few managers who fail to achieve this level of maturity can re-join another cohort and try again.

The executive leadership team has established a routine related to their new way of working and has created a new level of transparency in regards to their work on the Real Agility™ transformation. The leadership team has completed the first four workshops of the Leadership Track program. Individual members of the team have each had a few one-on-one coaching sessions that include the creation of individualized development plans and some initial action to move those plans forward. The leadership team has settled on final messaging about the transformation based on feedback obtained since the “Launched” stage of maturity. The leadership team has also implemented basic structural changes to the org chart and to corporate policies that align the organization around Real Agility™.

Performing

The participants in each track are seeing significant, measurable improvements in business results such as time-to-market or return-on-investment.

The HR/Audit personnel use the metrics in the dashboard to quickly guide both support efforts for problem areas in the business and the spread of learning from successful areas of the business. Support is garnered from the participants in the Management Track and the Leadership Track. The spread of learning is garnered from the participants in the Delivery Track and the Management Track. Support is from leaders, learning is from the grassroots. The HR/Audit personnel are also systematically refactoring and improving all old systems of metrics such ask KPIs and OKRs to fully support the Real Agility™ dashboard and culture.

The team has measurably improved their performance at delivering value and quality to customers and other stakeholders. Team members are strongly aligned and are using continuous improvement tools such as retrospectives effectively, including to do cross-training and individual skill development. Each team is becoming better at delivering “done-done” increments of work by eliminating most extra-team dependencies with a lead time more than 1/10th the team’s cycle time. A team at this stage of maturity is producing excellent work, but is not yet at an extraordinary level of performance; they are meeting or slightly exceeding stakeholder performance expectations.

The cohort has completed the “Practitioner 2” stage of the Management Track program and all participants are now actively supporting multiple Delivery Track teams while continuing to more advanced stages. Management duties for participants have largely shifted away from command-and-control style habits to empower-and-resolve style habits. Managers in the program are actively collaborating with both the HR/Audit personnel and the participants in the Leadership Track to alleviate organizational system constraints that are hindering performance and quality. Some participants in the Management Track may “finish” at this point or take a break before continuing with advanced stages of the program.

The executive leadership team has completed the tenth workshop in the Leadership Track program and is now a highly-functioning team, possibly a high-performance team. The leadership team members have made substantial progress in their personal development as leaders and can see measurable differences on their Leadership Circle Profile assessments. In achieving this level of maturity, some members of the executive leadership team may have left their positions to work elsewhere – either by choice or by board decision. A Performing leadership team is also making strategic and critical tactical decisions faster and with a higher level of alignment than earlier stages of maturity.

Sustainable

A critical number of people in the various parts of the organization have taken deep, personal ownership of the new mindset, frameworks and techniques.

The HR/Audit departments and leadership have created policies and procedures to ensure that the Real Agility™ dashboard is the primary tool for measuring the organization. All members of the department are trained on the use of the dashboard, and any new hires in the department are on-boarded with the dashboard. All roles throughout the entire organization have been reviewed and the practices regarding hiring, firing, compensation, responsibilities and accountabilities, performance management for every role have been completely aligned with Real Agility™. There are no areas of the organization remaining which do not show up on the Real Agility™ dashboard.

Teams at the Sustainable stage of maturity have demonstrated their resilience by successfully maintaining their Real Agility™ mindset, practices and performance level through at least two major crises that directly affect the teams. Each team at this level has a coach from the Management Track who has completed Practitioner 2 in the program who can be relied upon to empower the team and resolve extra-team challenges. The organization has put in place the policies and practices to ensure that team membership in delivery teams is stable over extended periods of time. Customers and other stakeholders see the potential inherent in having high-performance teams available to them and are looking at strategic plans to utilize these incredible resources. Those few team members who cannot make the shift to the mindset of Real Agility™ have left the organization.

The cohort has completed the Senior stage of the Management Track program and several members of the cohort are working at departmental levels to ensure effective transformations to Real Agility™. The participants have completely revolutionized their mindset and are now bringing the “creative” leadership mindset established by the Leadership Circle Profile into the middle-management layer of the organization. Middle management can no longer be called “the frozen middle”. Now middle management are the strongest champions of the culture of organizational agility. Managers who cannot make the mental shift to Real Agility™ have left the organization.

The executive leadership team has fully engaged with the Board of Directors (or other governing body for the organization) to create new governance standards compatible with Real Agility™ at a cultural and strategic level. This may include updating major components of an organization’s charter such as shareholder agreements, incorporation documents, and its stated mission, vision and values. The leadership team has also put in place the necessary systems to ensure that new hires into executive leadership are properly selected and onboarded, and that leadership continuity and succession supports Real Agility™.

Innovating

The whole organization is unified in creating its own new ways of achieving Real Agility™ without outside support and Real Agility™ is the foundation for the organization to launch disruptive business and marketplace innovation.

At this stage of maturity, all parts of the organization have fully embraced Real Agility™, made it their own, and are actively experimenting with innovations to the system. Additionally, the level of execution of all parts of the organization is so high-performance and adaptive, that the organization can start rapidly innovating on its products, services, and systems that face customers and other external stakeholders. All the tracks must collectively be at the Innovating stage of maturity for any one of them to be considered at this stage individually. In other words, this stage is unachievable unless all parts of the organization progressed through the prior stages to arrive at this stage together.

Characteristics of this stage are similar for all four tracks of the Real Agility(™) program, but there are some important milestones to mention.

The Real Agility™ dashboard includes external metrics that indicate customer impact and is showing real-time metrics for most aspects of the organization. The HR/Audit department has empowered all other parts of the organization to use the dashboard to run and measure innovation experiments.

Each delivery team at this stage is making its own changes to their Agile method, and has full confidence to run and measure innovative experiments to solve business problems.

A sufficient number of individuals have completed the Master stage of the program to begin to innovate on the program itself. Managers have fully gotten out of the way of innovation on the part of delivery teams.

The executive leadership team is now actively exploring ways to disrupt their marketplace or industry through the introduction of multiple types of innovation across the organization.

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