The promise of Agile is speed to market for delivering incremental value to the customer, but why is the adoption of Agile in organizations so difficult and slow? As addressed in my recent blog post, “Are you Using, Doing, or Being Agile?” Agile adoption takes more than just checking boxes, but rather is a complex, multi-phase journey. And any unfamiliar journey requires the navigator to know the destination. Have you tried using GPS without entering an address? Understanding where you are headed is a key component of any successful endeavor.

In Agile, it is equally important for an organization’s transition to Agile to establish a destination at each stage throughout the journey. Here’s where an Agile Maturity Model comes in. An Agile maturity model provides simple, understandable, and progressive statements of what your journey “will look like” at the end of each stage. A maturity model is different than GPS directions because it doesn’t tell you “how” to get somewhere; rather, it simply states what “there” looks like at each stage of maturity. Think of this as your Google Street View. The reason for this is simple: every organization has unique characteristics, challenges, and an idea of what achieving Agile means to them, so it essential that the team has a unified view of what success will look like. Caution: In true Agile mode as you mature and learn, modify your Agile maturity model to reflect your deeper understanding.

Key Elements of Agile Maturity

An Agile Maturity Model should be customized for each organization’s situation, but all should contain certain key elements. The below guide presents five critical categories for an organization to achieve Agile Maturity with examples that show groups at both low and high levels of maturity for each category:

Agile Maturity Categories

Path to Maturity – An Example

Within each category, leaders must shepherd teams through to achieve high maturity while being clear with specific goals along the way. For example, within Continuous Improvement, effective problem solving will help ensure frequent enhancements are made, but the team must first understand what it looks like to productively solve problems. The model below illustrates the five levels of leadership maturity as it relates to team problem solving and provides the “destinations” towards an optimized and High Maturity Level process.

Agile Maturity Example

It is important to note that without focusing and improving all five categories as shown in the Maturity Model Guide, the organization will not realize the advantages of Agile and may, in fact, do more harm than good. Therefore, it is imperative to thoroughly address all five categories. Since this inevitably slows down your agile journey, knowing the destination along the way will be the most effective and efficient way to reap the rewards and sustainable gains that make it worth the effort. And remember, don’t overthink it – define success, then do, learn, and adjust so that each step is intentional and provides continued value along the way.