Assessment

18 ig-assessment

Regular organizational assessments are an integral tool in maintaining a healthy digital organization, especially when they result in short-term tactical recommendations that can help the organization continuously improve.

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Related Mindset:

Innovation

Data-Driven

Lean-Agile

Segment:

Idea Generation

Inputs:

Team, program & portfolio self assessments; interviews; surveys; artifact reviews

Outputs:

Organizational scorecard; detailed assessment findings; prioritized recommendations for improvement

Assessments serve as a crucial element within the Idea Generation segment. At the core, all Assessments should be focused on generating actionable improvements that can be prioritized within either the Agile Portfolio, Program, Team, or Deploy segments.

Organizational Assessment

An Organizational Assessment evaluates people, practices and purpose across the organization, and uncovers opportunities for Continuous Improvement. While an initial Organizational Assessment can take many weeks or months, smaller Assessments can be done on a recurring basis to confirm an organization’s trajectory and identify new friction points.

Assessments are typically performed by an internal change agent or outside consultant and rely on data that is collected in a variety of ways:

  • Self-assessments at Team, Program and Portfolio levels
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Artifact reviews

Assessment data is then used to measure an organization’s people, practices, and purpose, including the motivators that drive people in an organization, the methodologies and processes they use, and the shared sense of why the organization exists. The Competing Values Framework is an effective model for assessing a company’s organizational foundation in this way.1

Implementation Assessments

In addition to Organizational Assessments, more tactical factors may be assessed with the end goal of improving the process of going from idea to implementation within the organization. This can include any of the practices that are involved in the process of Digital Value Delivery. This can include an organization’s technical practices, delivery methodology and rituals, or experience design processes.

A scorecard format is an effective way to summarize Assessment results across multiple areas so that opportunities for improvement can be quickly identified and trends tracked over time. For example, an organizational DevOps score of 5 on a scale 10 suggests that some DevOps best practices are in place, but that considerable opportunity for improvement exists.

The most effective Assessments are those that go beyond simple ratings and summaries of observations to provide clear, actionable recommendations on how an organization can improve. Examples include a recommendation to lengthen a program’s release cycle from 6 to 10 weeks, or a suggestion to use Protractor for testing AngularJS apps. Because most comprehensive Assessments result in scores of recommendations, it’s also important to prioritize the most impactful recommendations so that the organization has a “top 5” or “top 10” list to focus on.

Common Pitfalls

The following problems can occur if Assessments are not correctly performed:

  • Lack of clear and actionable recommendations. Many Organizational Assessments result in bloated findings reports that are ignored by organizational leaders who can’t quickly identify ways to implement change. Arguably the most important part of any Assessment is not the findings, but the 5 or 10 tactical suggestions for improvement.

  • Not involving the right people. Assessment findings and recommendations can become skewed by a particular group’s biases if they are not balanced by countervailing opinions. Assessments can remain objective by involving representatives from the entire organization, from leadership to individual team members, and across communities of practices.

  • Failure to regularly follow up on Assessments. Organizations that conduct one-time Assessments and then fail to follow up later to measure progress run many risks. Most obviously, they may miss identifying new problems that emerge since an Assessment (particularly if those problems are unintended consequences of changes recommended by the Assessment). Those organizations may also fail to confirm wins made since the Assessment, thereby missing a critical opportunity to boost organizational morale.

  • Lack of commitment to the Assessment process. Many organizations have a cultural tendency against true Assessment. In some cases, organizations don’t make all of the data or individuals available for the Assessment team to gain a true perspective on the overall process. In these organizations, true Assessment is never achieved because the Assessment team is pushed only toward factors that position the aspect in a positive light.

Tools

The Scaled Agile Framework® provides self-assessment templates for the Portfolio, Program, and Team. These assessments can be found within the following abstract: