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The Agile Maturity Index

by Sysco LABS Agile 20 August 2018

Startups. Fun work environment, fast paced work speed, just-get-it-done attitude and close-knit colleagues. While all of this may sound fun, it’s not something that can last forever. The company must grow, the products that they are working on need to reach stability, and the just-get-it-done attitude changes to a lets-get-it-done-right attitude. As your company continues to grow, the free work flow which existed, changes. A few processes are introduced to bring about consistency and quality standards. Now, your company gets into its stride and really starts to expand.

According to startupcommons.org. There are three main stages a startup goes through:

  • Formation
  • Validation
  • Growth

In this article, what we’ll be focusing on is the Scaling Phase of the Growth Stage. This is the tricky phase. The main point which we’ll be addressing is Quality Standards and Process.

The growth phase is the final hurdle. Get it right, and you establish yourself in the industry. Get it wrong and the company could easily snowball down into bankruptcy.

In the Software Engineering world, a typical company at this phase would have a few hundred employees, working in dozens of teams, on either several projects (if you are a services company), or different components of the company product (if you are a product company). All this time the mindset has been to deliver fast, but now, to take the next step into establishing yourself, the focus shifts to a hybrid of Quality and Speed.

So far, teams within your organization have been working in various ways with the sole objective of delivering an outcome in the shortest possible time. The way quality and speed is executed by each of your teams may need to be looked into at this juncture of the startup cycle before new hires come in or it may leave you in a very messy situation down the line.

So, how do you convince all the teams across the organization to comply with a consistent Quality Standard?

Well, before we get into that, two things need to be done.

  • Quality and Process standards have to be put into place. – Assess the good practices your company follows, and the bad that need be taken out, and try to figure out what industry practices are out there that can be re-worked into your organization (remember, don’t just take a by the book process and put in in place. The process has to be assessed and modified to work for you.)
  • Quality and Process measurement standards have to be put into place. – Now that you know the standard that you want to be in build metrics around it to gauge where your teams are in terms of this standard.

Now comes the difficult part. How do you get the teams to come onboard and maintain standards? The traditional way of doing this would be with the introduction of penalties. Demotivate teams from breaking the standard.

The reason why this method is not that widely used anymore is simple. Sure, it demotivates the teams from breaking the standard, but it also demotivates the team in general. Employee satisfaction will drop, productivity will drop, and it’s very likely, that the employees that worked day and night to help deliver results, will now do just what is required and nothing more. This could do more harm than good to the company, leaving you in a better position before implementing quality standards than after.

The method that’s likely to be more successful is a rewards scheme such as Gamification. Instead of penalizing teams for not meeting quality standards, gamify it. Set targets, a points scheme and give rewards when they meet certain criteria. Having a highly motivated work force who is moving towards the target of delivering with quality could only help the growth of your company.

Set reachable goals, and once the teams are constantly delivering on those goals, raise the bar. Eventually, working with standards and processes in place is something that will come naturally to the teams.

A successful implementation of this would help take your company from the Scaling Stage to the Establishing stage. From thereon, the world is your oyster.

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