Effectively Measuring Agile Leadership | Agile + DevOps West

Effectively Measuring Agile Leadership

By Bob Galen

Conference Speaker

When teams think about agile approaches to software development, someone usually brings up measurement. And the measures they’re talking about inevitably focus on their teams or delivery dynamics: How do we measure our teams? How do we measure the impact of agility? And how do we measure the value of a coach?

These are tough questions. But if you subscribe to the theory that leadership sets the culture and culture drives performance, then why aren’t we measuring leaders in agile contexts?

I was once leading a rather large team that was building a trading support system for large financial clients. The system was failing at our largest clients, and they escalated it to our CEO.

I pulled a team together in a conference room to analyze the possible fixes to this critical solution. As we discussed our options, I noticed that everyone in the room was looking at me for the ideas. It dawned on me that I was the final arbiter for the solution, and the incredibly skilled team I’d pulled together was not engaging, but instead deferring to me.

I’d created a culture not of team-based empowerment and ownership, but where I was the lone decider. I immediately left the room and asked everyone to determine their own approach. Thirty minutes later we had a viable approach, and the next day the problem was solved.

Leaders set the culture, and they should be measured at how effectively they’re doing just that.

The challenge is, what might that look like? Here’s an idea for a four-quadrant measurement approach for leaders in agile contexts.

1. Creating space for agile ideas

  • Innovation, hackathons, and creative problem-solving
  • Refactoring and maintenance investments
  • Working from home or remotely, and distributed teams
  • A mix of open and private physical space

2. Fostering team health

  • Attrition, salary and benefits, and employee referrals
  • Employee engagement and health survey data
  • Team learning and development
  • Team self-selection and number of reorganizations per year

3. Optimizing work and execution

  • Movement and output vs. results and outcomes
  • Churn (changing priority or focus, or interruptions)
  • Work-in-progress levels (planning or committing to too much)
  • X-cutting concern management (chapters and guilds, communities of practice, or Scrum of Scrums)

4. Maintaining a focus toward the customer

  • Contact between the team and customer
  • Reviews and demo engagement (and associated feedback)
  • Delivered value and delivered ROI
  • Engaging in an agile mindset (continuous improvement, “management by walking around,” learning)

These four quadrants provide a starting framework to measure leaders according to their agile maturity. Are they continuing their traditional behavior and tactics, or are they open and trying to change, adapt, and improve?

How else might we measure agile leaders on their organizational and personal effectiveness?


This article was originally published October 31, 2019 on TechWellInsights.com.

Bob Galen
Bob Galen is an agile practitioner, trainer & coach based in Cary, NC. In this role, he helps guide companies and teams in their pragmatic adoption and organizational shift towards Scrum and other agile methodologies and practices. He is Director of Agile Practices at Zenergy Technologies, a leading business agility transformation company. He is also President and Head Coach at RGCG a boutique agile coaching firm. Bob regularly speaks at international conferences and professional groups on topics related to software development, project management, software testing, and team leadership. He is a Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC), CAL I trainer, and an active member of the Agile & Scrum Alliances. He’s published...keeping the rest online...