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Building agile-enabled continuous improvement into your business’s DNA

Paul Adamson
Nov 28, 2023

All worthwhile journeys have a start point and a destination. While the final destination can quite legitimately change – and probably should given the way organisations evolve over time – without clarity of where you are jumping off from makes preparation and journey planning very difficult.

It’s a principle that holds firm for agile transformations too. Understanding your current level of agile maturity ensures that the most appropriate approach and set of interventions are put in place to progress smoothly up the maturity ladder. But here’s the rub:

In the world of consultancy, there are maturity models and assessments that often resemble candy and fast food. Glitzy, speedy and very attractive. They also appear to offer profound learning with little input, an easy way to make a good impression by providing easy answers to complex issues.

But just like candy and fast food, which looks appealing at first glance and seems to hit the spot when you consume it, on closer inspection it offers little substance. In the agile context it can damage the very transformation that’s being sought. Put simply, the wrong things are being assessed for the wrong reasons.

As Peter Drucker says in Business Management: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In this white paper we share thinking that we believe gives agile transformation programmes the most effective start, and the best chance of success.

Jonathan Kessel-Fell, Global Leadership and Enterprise Agile Coach, Capgemini


By Paul Adamson, Agile Coach and Senior Scrum Master, Capgemini
“Agility is no longer a toy, nor a luxury. It won’t happen overnight, and it will touch everything: people, process, leadership, and technology. It will involve a cultural shift.” Rich Sheridan, CEO, Menlo Innovations 

In today’s demanding, fast-moving and increasingly complex and unpredictable economy, continuously improving organisational agility and resilience is now essential for business success, and sometimes even survival.

Truly agile businesses display common characteristics.  All share an understanding that agility is about eliminating silos and combining the efforts of the entire enterprise to maximise the creation of value for customers.

Leaders of agile organisations establish and nurture an inclusive, psychologically safe culture in which change is seen as an opportunity. They trust, empower and reward their people to be bold, to have disruptive ideas and experiment, to innovate at speed, take informed, calculated risks, make decisions, and learn from every experience.

They embrace the use of transformational technologies, encourage cross functional collaboration, and promote skills training.

Importantly, they define what agile means for their organisation. Successful adoption of agility is context-dependent, and agile for one organisation won’t necessarily translate into another. But while every path to agility is unique, the underlying logic remains the same.

Research shows that those that get it right reap significant rewards, with clarity of purpose and increased flexibility producing motivated and energised employees, faster turnaround of new products and services, improved customer satisfaction and valuable cost efficiencies.

Where to start?

Achieving the style of agile that’s right for each organisation requires a broad mix of skills and experience, from strategy to execution and everything in between. Most organisations are already adopting agile thinking and methodologies, but many are doing so in siloes, in teams, departments or projects, without the enterprise-wide context, vision and cultural consistency that accelerates impact and value.

Many organisations partner with Capgemini for its end-to-end, enterprise-wide agile transformation capabilities, with one of the first tasks to measure and understand the organisation’s current state of agile maturity.

Most businesses are typically partway along an agile adoption continuum, from individual team level leading to a degree of scale, enroute to a consistent, enterprise-wide mindset.

Capgemini’s proven agile skills and global experience, tools, and methodologies – and most importantly its customer-centric people – are deployed to understand the current level of agile maturity, to help define what success can look like in the future, and to create the roadmap and landmarks to guide you on your journey.

Our point of view

People remain the key asset in all agile transformations

Beginning any journey of value requires clarity about the starting point, where we are right now.

But unlike some journeys in which the destination has also been set, the very essence of agile can be found in one of its widely accepted definitions – “the ability to rapidly change direction with speed and accuracy”.

As mentioned in our introduction, agile for one organisation will be very different to agile in another.

And therein lies one if its many beauties – what success looks like is context-dependent and subject to constant review and regular change, never more so than in today’s fast-moving and often turbulent global economy.

What is clear is that successful businesses are those with the people, systems, and culture best able to pivot with clarity and confidence, to respond to new circumstances and fresh opportunities.

There are numerous models with which to gauge the level of agile maturity within an organisation, and though the language and terminology may change, the underlying principles are well established.

Initial indicates little or no agile activity or appetite, at either project or business level, creating predictable problems such as operational silos, legacy systems and ways of working, and a lack of visibility or integration across the enterprise. At this level, there may even be active resistance to agile principles.

At the Managed level, there is an understanding of, and appetite for, the value and benefits that agile can unlock and embed, agile frameworks are in place and there are pockets of early, measurable activity, as well as, crucially, indicators of an agile mindset and desire to learn and progress.

When the organisation reaches Defined, real momentum is beginning to kick in, with leaders starting to recognise the positive impacts of agile and embracing its principles and frameworks more broadly. Agile tools are in place and automated processes are improving speed and quality of outputs.

Quantitively Managed organisations have value-based metrics in place, which are measured and acted upon. Teams understand their goals and their contribution to the achievement of corporate objectives, and share their experiences with colleagues to evaluate progress and adopt best practice.

In the Optimized stage, there is enterprise-wide clarity on how to operate within an agile framework. Workflows have been refined and KPIs set to track progress. Teams are motivated, deliver consistent value, and enthusiastically embrace a culture of collaborative innovation and continuous improvement. IT and the business are fused as one entity.

The five levels of agile maturity 

Proof of concept builds confidence

The majority of our agile commissions are with organisations that we have assessed as operating at Initial, Managed and Defined levels of maturity, reflecting the fact that very few are yet Quantitively Managed, and even fewer truly Optimized.

We deploy our agile teams to meet the specific needs of our client organisations, identified by the maturity assessment. What we have found is that there is very little connection between the size and stature of an organisation and its level of agile maturity.

One global defence business was assessed to be at the Initial stage and so our work began with the fundamentals, establishing a forensic understanding of the organisation, its corporate structures, systems and processes, and the value it generates for its customers.

Then we developed a compelling business case for agile, with clearly identified, achievable and measurable benefits and outcomes for the organisation, to secure support for its investment in an agile development appropriate for its needs and its people. Our judgement was to start with proof of concept projects that meet the agile INVEST criteria of being Independent, Valuable, Negotiable, Estimable, Small and Testable.

By tackling specific issues, demonstrating tangible success, establishing faith in the approach, and creating a team of agile champions to spread the word, we helped our client to move onwards and upward, to tackle more significant, larger footprint initiatives.

Multiplying value

Our task for a client at Managed level, a large public sector organisation, was quite different. With agile now operating in small but often disconnected pockets, though delivering demonstrable value, our role was to connect those islands of activity, by moving to a broader, more integrated portfolio management scale.

This takes the concept of build-measure-learn cycles used by individual agile teams and applies it on a larger scale, in which the whole is greater the sum of its parts, multiplying the scope and scale of value and benefits. To achieve this, we supplemented our teams of agile coaches with additional expertise such as business analysts, engagement and training specialists to ensure executive understanding and buy in.

Helping organisations to take flight

When we can support organisations from the very beginning, through multiple maturity levels, game changing impacts become readily achievable. In the automotive sector we took one customer from Initial to Managed and Defined, then on to Quantitively Managed, and ultimately Optimized.

With a comprehensive, multi-faceted agile deployment, a fledgling online vehicle insurance offering was transformed into a market-leading, full service ecommerce resource, taking care of every conceivable insurance scenario, supporting customers of multiple marques, and generating hundreds of millions of pounds of income every year.

Secure and fully FCA compliant, the website’s development phase embraced graphic design and user experience skills, as well as online payment and underwriting expertise, taking visitors through logical end-to-end journeys. Advanced online sales, service, marketing and search engine optimisation maximised visibility, and simplified and streamlined the buying experience.

Guiding principles for agile maturity assessment   

Capgemini’s agile assessment methodology has the following key principles at its core:

  • Capturing data must be simple and graphical, making it easy to complete
  • Content must be thought provoking and complex enough to match your real world, but ordered   and grouped to assist thought capture
  • It must have a clear and defined grading structure
  • It must be focused to assess a single area or role
  • Everything must fit on a single sheet of paper
  • The focus must be on learning and finding improvements.

This last item forces users to focus on keeping it to the point and being specific, much like original story and acceptance criteria cards, which were deliberately small enough to keep them brief and succinct. With these rules in mind we created a set of area or role specific assessments that are graphical in nature and all fitted onto a single sheet of A4 paper, with lightweight guidance on the reverse side.

They were also created to invite discussion, based on open ended questions, that focused on what you felt your culture and environment was like, if you feel psychologically safe, if you felt you were following the Principles of the Agile Manifesto and therefore displaying the right behaviours.

Maximising the value of our assessment methodology comes from the support of a skilled and experienced Agile Coach, who can clearly articulate the meaning of and power behind the questions at the heart of the assessment.

The right coach will help you be self-aware, employing emotional intelligence, enabling you to get an accurate picture of where you are and what areas you need to explore and make improvements.

Next steps

Where is your organisation on the agile maturity scale? Wherever you are, our agile transformation teams can help you to take the next steps, to a direction and at a pace appropriate to your people and your needs.

For an initial conversation contact Paul Adamson, Agile Coach and Senior Scrum Master, Capgemini.

I am an Agile Coach with over 20 years of experience. I lead and support multiple digital and data product teams in the UK Business Infrastructure area. My core competencies include Agile and DevOps principles and practices, customer experience and business process improvement, and stakeholder management and communication. I have earned several certifications in IT service management, ITIL, and ISO/IEC 20000, demonstrating my commitment to quality and standards.

My mission is to empower and enable the product teams to deliver value to the customers and the business, using the Atlassian Suite and other tools to facilitate collaboration and communication. I have successfully delivered products with an average value of £1m, working at scale, complexity, and challenging deadlines, across various domains and industries. I am passionate about continuous learning and improvement, and I enjoy working with diverse and talented people.

My expert colleagues include:

Jonathan Kessel-Fell, Global Leadership and Enterprise Agile Coach

With over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry, Jon uses this knowledge to help support organisational agile and DevOps transformations through his role as an enterprise agile coach, agile coach, training facilitator and consultant. He also shares his enthusiasm for agility, leadership and cultural change as a keynote speaker at international conferences and organisational events.

He is a longstanding and highly respected coach, having helped lead two of the largest financial services agile transformations in Europe and has hands-on experience in the investment, retail and online banking, business intelligence, automotive, retail and Government sectors.

Terrance Darling, Head of Profession Scrum Masters

Terrance is an Agile IT professional with more than 20 years’ experience of enabling customers to get real value out of IT projects. A strategic thinker and leader, capable of improving and shaping technology programmes and managing stakeholders throughout the process, recent roles have focused on agile transformation, building the right culture and mindset, setting a vision, improving strategic decision making, and building high performing teams.

A certified Scrum Master and agile leader, Terrance is constantly looking to mature processes, provide psychologically safe environments for delivery teams, and maximise value for all stakeholders.

Bob Wegener, Digital Acceleration Center (DAC) – Agile Lead

Bob has extensive experience transforming organizations to adopt an Agile mindset. His expertise spans manufacturing, pharma, telco, high-tech, medical, transportation, entertainment, utilities, and professional services. He is a trusted advisor that works with Business and IT to create transformation strategies that meets the short- and long-term goals of the organization. Bob has provided advisory services to some of the top fortune 100 companies to drive business agility.
Bob has extensive hands-on experiencing implementing multiple agile frameworks, coaching business & IT, and building/executing improvement programs to drive better outcomes.
Bob holds key Agile certifications from ICAgile & SAFe. He has trained over 4000 people across the globe as a SAFE Practice Consultant (SPC) and Capgemini University facilitator.

Monika Dahiya, Agile Coach

With over 15 years of work experience in the IT industry, I am currently an Agile Coach at Capgemini, where I help teams and organizations adopt agile values, principles, and practices.
I also facilitate #IamRemarkable workshops, an initiative that empowers women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments and break modesty norms and glass ceilings. My core competencies include building trust, fostering collaboration, and enabling continuous improvement. I am passionate about creating a positive and inclusive work culture that supports diversity, innovation, and growth. I am always eager to learn new skills, share my knowledge, and contribute to the success of my team and company.

Paul Adamson

Agile Coach and Senior Scrum Master, Capgemini
I am an Agile Coach with over 20 years of experience. Currently with Capgemini. My mission is to empower and enable the product teams to deliver value to the customers and the business, using the Atlassian Suite and other tools to facilitate collaboration and communication. I have successfully delivered products with an average value of £1m, working at scale, complexity, and challenging deadlines, across various domains and industries. I am passionate about continuous learning and improvement, and I enjoy working with diverse and talented people.