How to measure the success of agile

four square grid showing that agile values, self-organisation, sprinting and continuous improvement are indicators of agile success
Improvements associated with agile product management. Identified by Zen ex Machina

How to measure the success of agile

We often get asked how we can measure the impact of agile working. In truth there are a few ways. As always with agility – no one size fits all.

We encourage you to develop your own measurement framework that delivers only what you need. Remember that success will look different for each leader, team and organisation. Here are our 3 principles to help you on your way.

1. Agree your goal for agile

Firstly, focus on the difference you want agile ways of working to make for you.  Agile for agile’s sake is a massive no-no – it must be in pursuit of your bigger goals. Start with your organisation’s mission and vision, your team’s objectives or any other inspiring goal you have. 

If you’re not crystal clear yet on your goal for agile, pause, gather your stakeholders, then clarify and align before moving on. You can use a constructive rant to uncover barriers to success and what is wanted instead. We also have a workshop structure which you can use for this – get in touch if you’d like it. 

The question you need to answer is: “what difference do we need agile ways of working to make for us?”. The best benchmarks for measuring the success of agile are unique to your goals, organisation and context. Here are some examples from Prostate Cancer UK and Amnesty International UK.

Amnesty International UK’s Digital Engagement Team wanted to be more agile in order to “achieve our ambitious team targets around digital campaign actions, income via digital channels and donor retention… all with no extra budget or headcount”.

Read more here

Prostate Cancer UK have set an ambition to be known as an agile organisation. Their reasoning? “To deliver better products and services to achieve our mission.”

Read more here

2. Capture a baseline and get measuring

Once you know what you’re aiming for, decide how you can measure that accurately. Capture your baseline straight away, track the changes you’re making, then regularly check the impact of your changes on the measures you have identified.

You can’t measure change without a baseline to compare it to. The key here is to measure behaviors and actions, not how people report their progress.

  • You could build your approach based on the improvements that Zen ex Machina identified as associated with agile product management in their large behavioral study of one organisation.
  • Alternatively you could track the extent to which individual’s, team’s and leadership’s behaviour and actions are displaying the agile values of customer focus, output orientation, adaptability in uncertain contexts, and empowering teams.

Track the changes you make and keep a note of how it affects your measures. And don’t forget, qualitative information can be super useful too.

3. Apply the agile principles to measuring the success of agile

  • Don’t be tempted to measure, for example, whether people are using certain tools, meetings or processes, or how tightly they are sticking to a particular agile methodology (like Kanban or Scrum). Focus on agile values and principles.
  • Regularly inspect and adapt your tactics and measures over time.
  • Remember that your goal is not to be ‘finished’. Part of being truly agile is continual improvement.