When a Scrum Master starts her work in a company a question is usually raised on how to assess her performance or how to measure the value she adds. This is actually a question of what the product of Scrum Master’s work is. Typically it is team’s maturity that is considered a product of Scrum Master’s work although many would argue with this, including me. As a result the question arises how to assess maturity of an Agile Team?

Throughout my career I have seen multiple approaches. Usually, and unfortunately, most often I saw spreadsheet-based approaches: maturity was divided into aspects, each of the aspects having several questions scored individually and sometimes having individual weights. Usually majority of questions regarded team’s compliance to a specific methodology, e.g. Scrum. Does the Team use Story Points, are all Stories in the current Sprint estimated, does the Team delivers potentially ship-able Increments each Sprint, does Velocity increase in long term?, etc. Among various vanity metrics the widely-known KPI of 400% of performance boost claimed by Jeff Sutherland being the Holy Grail 😉 It gets even worse when the spreadsheet at some point in time becomes a metrics of progress of a company’s Agile Transformation or when it becomes a performance indicator of Agile Coaches leading such Transformation. With such strings attached the whole idea of a spreadsheet approach inevitably blows. Multiple times I saw Agile maturity metrics spreadsheets acting as a distorting mirror showing false picture of a company’s reality. I saw teams scored highly in a Agility maturity spreadsheet while they were newbies to Agile, or were clearly waterfall, or even were of clearly pathological nature.

I have fundamental inner resistance to this kind of assessments. They miss the point as they tend to focus on vanity metrics. My inner voice is irritated and shouting: Maturity of an Agile Team is something more than that! Maturity of Agile Team is to me so volatile that it can hardly be measured. Hold on, or can it be measured?

Today I had a peer mentoring session with Bartosz and he challenged me that it is not enough to just say “one cannot measure soft skills”. And I must admit he was right. For too long it was a nice excuse not to measure teams’ maturity. Let’s find something more constructive than that! We started talking about how I usually work with Agile Teams to build their maturity. In all my work with Teams the crucial part among others is to teach teams how to navigate the conflict towards constructive results. By the way I use the Thomas – Kilmann conflict mode to identify a type of situation team members are currently in and transform it into the Collaboration type of situation.

Since navigating conflicts is the crucial ability for Teams, it should also serve as the source of crucial measures of teams’ maturity. Measuring how well an Agile Team copes with Conflict Navigation should be a “doable” task for a vigilant Scrum Master. The simplest metrics could be just counting a total number of conflicts and a ratio between conflicts ended with a constructive result and conflicts ended by conflict escalation. More sophisticated metrics would involve categorization of all conflict situations and taking dedicated measures for all individual classes of conflicts with some weighting mechanism involved.

This sounds like a completely different approach to vanity metrics spreadsheets as it tries to assess maturity of an Agile Team in real life situations. My inner voice feels much better about it 🙂 Loss caused by conflict escalations can be huge, multidimensional and irreversible in some situations. And this is what makes the Conflict Navigation metrics so well positioned to serve the purpose of measuring Maturity of Agile Teams.

Challenge me on this idea or give it a try and share your experience with us here!