Facilitating SAFe Team Self-Assessments
August 27th, 2015
As part of an Agile Release Train’s commitment to relentless improvement it is necessary for all the teams on the train to reflect and assess the effectiveness of their Scrum and XP practices on a regular cadence. For most once a PI seems to be a logical frequency. The Scaled Agile Framework provides a self-assessment tool to support this process and makes it freely available for download at: https://www.scaledagileframework.com/metrics/
I have found clients often want to do self-assessments by sending them out as an online survey for team members to complete individually. Personally I am not keen on this approach for a number of reasons. Firstly, most new agile teams don’t have a clear and consistent understanding of what good looks like, therefore, they tend to overstate their level of maturity. (The first time we conducted a self-assessment with the EDW Release Train, the most mature team gave themselves the lowest score and the least mature teams gave themselves the highest score!)
Secondly, by completing online surveys the team doesn’t have an opportunity to discuss their different perspectives and reach a shared understanding. In my experience self-assessments provide an excellent coaching opportunity, especially if you are the only coach supporting an ART and doing so part time. Often this can be a simple as reminding them of what a 5 looks like and resetting their anchors. Even though an RTE can take a DIY approach to this, an external facilitator can be very valuable and as a coach this is your opportunity to ensure the assessment is only used for good and not evil.
Last year I was getting ready to facilitate the first round of self assessments for a new train and I got thinking about my approach to facilitating these sessions. My priority was to ensure that every team member got an opportunity to express their individual point of view. Which led to me contemplating how Planning Poker uses the simultaneous reveal to prevent anchoring. One idea I had was to create cards numbered with the 0 to 5 rating scale, but that felt a little boring. Then it came to me – the perfect combination of silent writing on post-it notes and a big visible information radiator…
During my lunch break I raced out to Officeworks and purchased a box of Sharpies, an 8 pack of Super Sticky Post-its and a pad of butchers paper. I made it back to the office and found the meeting room with moments to spare. I quickly drew a large star, like the axes of a radar chart, on 5 sheets of butcher’s paper I gave each poster a heading as per the areas in the SAFe Self Assessment: Product Ownership Health, PI/Release Health, Sprint Health, Team Health And Technical Health. I then labelled each axis A through E and marked the numbers 1 through 5 along each axis. I then took a 6th piece of poster paper and wrote up the rating scale. I attached the posters to the wall, put a post-it pad and sharpie out for each team member and waited for the team to arrive.
- Movement trumps Sitting: In order to learn the brain needs oxygen. The best way to get oxygen to the brain is to move.
- Talking trumps Listening: The person doing the most talking is doing the most learning.
- Images Trump Words: The more visual the input is the more likely it is to be remembered.
- Writing trumps Reading: The team will remember anything they write longer than anything you write.
- Shorter trumps Longer: People will generally check out within 20 minutes.
- Different trumps Same: The brain quickly ignores anything that is repetitive, routine or boring.