One size doesn’t fit it all - Build your own Maturity Model for Business Agility


Many companies are currently enforcing their organization to become more agile. The problem is: there is no clear definition what business agility means, nor an instrument out there that would show the progress of your journey. The only thing we know is one size doesn’t fit all!-So what’s the alternative, what if you could build your own Maturity Model for Business Agility and use it as a collaboration tool too?

Currently there is a big discussion going on in the agile community about the definition of business agility. I don’t claim mine is complete nor perfect but lets assume this could be a definition we all agree on.

Business Agility is something very individual and different for every business and so for every organization. Organizations with an agile mindset and agile processes are able to react to the unexpected much faster, recognize the real customer needs earlier, continuously learn and improve and appreciate the customers, employees and partners similarly.
— Mirko Kleiner, co-founder flowdays

Agile here, agile there, agile everywhere!

Real business agility needs a transformation throught-out the whole organization. The 5 bubbles symbolize multiple perspectives of agile from an organizational point of view:

Source: flowdays, adapted by Mirko Kleiner

  • Personal agility: "Being Agile", the mindset shift towards agile values and principles is a change that starts with every individual and needs our attention every day e.g. how we behave, lead, etc
  • Team Agility: By being agile personally we can lead by example and influence the behavior of our team members. The team is the most powerful element in an agile organization and the place where customer value is created.
  • Company Agility:  Agile teams lead to more agile teams and other aspects will be adopted over time like e.g. innovation, less hierarchies, management, portfolio management, budgeting, HR, etc
  • Partner Ecosystem Agility: The full potential of business agility can only be reached if not just the organization is agile but the whole value chain with all partners and their partners.

We believe each of these perspectives of agility brings value and acts as a multiplier towards business agility.

But is it worth to create a maturity model for that and what would it look like? 

Maturity Model, does one size fit all?

A maturity model has usually predefined levels and criterias to reach each of the levels. It’s usually defined by an external authority or a community of practice. I often see, that the main goal of a maturity model is to make money with assessments, certifications, etc. I believe that a maturity model should be owned by the organization and used as a tool for its further development and improvement instead. If we accept that business agility is something very individual we also need to rethink the idea of a one-size fits all maturity model for business agility.

As a result the "Business Agility Maturity Model" we created is more a kind of a pattern like e.g. the „User Story“ pattern. We took the main aspects of a maturity model and made them abstract, so that every organization can use and customize it according to its needs and context. Depending on your needs keep it lean or go into more details if needed.

The business agility maturity model by Mirko Kleiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Business agility maturitymodel version 1.0

  • Context: In which business do we need how much business agility and how fast, etc. What are our organizational boundaries
  • Vision: What’s the vision, that reflects the purpose of our journey, i.o.w. the WHY we want to become a more agile business
  • Dimensions: In what dimensions do we want to get better (see some examples below)
  • Levels: What levels, or steps of development do we know in our context
  • Acceptance Criterias:  What are the acceptance criterias to know we made a development
  • Status: What is our current status in this journey
  • Goal: What is the goal of development for the next iteration
  • Measures: What are measures or Kaizen per dimension with which we believe we will reach the goal

Dimensions in Agile

If we talk about agile, people often often think about scrum or other frameworks that mainly support us in getting more agile in the „Process“-Dimension. This is fine as that's something we can easily adapt and can be a good starting point. However in our opinion agile has many more dimensions.

Source: flowdays, adapted by Philipp Engstler
 

  • Culture: The core of 'being agile' is the mindset shift, otherwise we just 'do agile'. Changing the culture is hard as culture is the shadow of the sum of all peoples behaviors within an organization. However, by starting conversation about our values, good and bad behaviors we can change culture over time too. Definitely the journey of cultural change starts with each person first.
  • Organization: The people and their behaviors require clear boundaries, structures and roles, otherwise we end up in anarchy. These might look totally different, more lean, consisting of empowered teams and is compatible with the agile culture and values. Often it happens that the line organization becomes less important over time.
  • Processes: Optimizing the whole along the value stream is the goal. However the processes have to be lean, adaptable and always customer oriented. Therefore we setup rituals, artefacts, etc to foster the collaboration, feedback-loops and transparency throughout the organization
  • Excellence: A key success factor are the people with their personal skills (social- and hard skills) and the ability to form hyper productive agile teams. Therefore the teams optimize their excellence towards the whole and look for a continuous improvement in a failsafe environment.

Our experience is that transformations that follow an inside-out approach are much more sustainable then the outside-in approach. Downside is, that  inside-out is more of a longterm approach and needs more time too. However, we recommend to keep in mind all dimensions during an agile transformation.

Use Cases

We believe having a customized maturity model can be beneficial in areas like e.g. personal-development, team-development, development of business unit or value stream, company development, partner development, customer development, etc

Step-by-step Guide

If you’d like to try it out just follow these 9 steps:

  1. Define context
  2. Invite participants to a workshop
  3. Define vision
  4. Define dimensions
  5. Define levels & acceptance criterias
  6. Review current status
  7. Define lead time for an iteration 
  8. Define one goal & measure per dimension
  9. Review & update for next iteration

Feedback

Even tough I'm not a big fan of maturity models I believe having a simple, customizable tool that fosters the collaboration will lead to a improved learning culture in organizations. What do you think about it? I'm keen on your feedback, inputs, experiences from the field!

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