The Purpose of an Assessment

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Assessments are not primarily about where you are. They are about where you want to go. By seeing where you are and what challenges you are having a roadmap for improvement can be made more effectively.

Assessments can be done in several ways. The most popular Agile method is to see how well the company is doing from the perspective of the framework they are following. For example, a common assessment for Scrum is the Nokia test which specifies how well teams are doing Scrum. SAFe has its own assessments. But observe how these are assessments in how well a framework is being adopted–not how well the company is delivering value. We have found that focusing on the work, not the framework is a better approach.

Because FLEX is based on a model of flow, it can be used to see where an organization is having troubles with achieving flow – that is performing its work with few hand offs, turmoil, delays and rework. Reducing these helps achieve business agility. It is more effective to attend to how work is being delayed or how extra work is being created than how well a frameworks’ practice is being followed. An assessment therefore should focus on the value stream and what is impeding the work it.

We’ll walk through a process to do this. The steps to do this are not listed in order of importance, nor do they have to be done in this exact sequence. They are mostly listed according to the value stream. This is because upstream decisions may have a large downstream affect. Here are the major steps:

  1. Prepare for the assessment
  2. Review strategic planning and Lean Portfolio Management
  3. Review the use of Minimum Business Increments
  4. Evaluate the quality of the intake process
  5. Evaluate the quality of planning across teams
  6. Review the extent to which test-first requirements are being used
  7. Evaluate the quality of the teams’ process
  8. Determine how often and why teams are being interrupted
  9. Review the extent of tech debt present and why it is present
  10. Investigate the degree Test-Driven Development (TDD) is being used
  11. Identify the dependencies between the teams and how well they work together
  12. Review the level of test automation present
  13. Review the guidance being given shared services
  14. Review the relationship between Ops and the rest of the organization

The following steps are best done while doing most of the above steps. They are more holistic than several of the above.

  1. How well are the strategies of the organization made visible to all people in the value stream
  2. Review how well is management is doing their job of creating a great environment within which teams can work
  3. Review how well  the roles are being filled and how well they work together
  4. Evaluate the quality of the value streams
  5. What Constraints do we have imposed on us from outside our business group?

If you are using Scrum and/or SAFe you can still use this assessment. It just might suggest you do things outside of the framework to be effective. 

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Note

Two online FLEX courses are now being offered – FLEX for SAFe, and Adopting FLEX (the first course in becoming a FLEX trainer).

If you want to learn about how to adopt FLEX in your organization please contact the author, Al Shalloway.