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For Scrum and Agile experts, starting a new assignment with the right questions is the answer

Rik Pennartz
September 10, 2020

As a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, it’s important to get up to speed as quickly as possible when starting a new assignment. There are a host of factors to consider – and many aspects aren’t necessarily visible with the naked eye. Just like a physician attends to a patient, you need to firstly assess and evaluate the condition of your customer. What are their pain points? What’s going well for them? What are their symptoms? Are there any hidden causes? What does their overall lifestyle look like? Are they under a high amount of stress?

Starting right: key questions on process, technical level, the team, and management and culture

To help Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches ease into new assignments seamlessly and hit the ground running, I’ve created this short questionnaire. The answers to these questions are by no means easy to obtain and require many weeks of observing, listening, talking, reading, and drinking lots of coffee (or tea).

But, the outcome of this questionnaire can then be methodically applied to build a team or organizational development plan. I’m not a huge fan of maturity models and I’m also not a big proponent of assigning a maturity score to a team or organization. I prefer to base my development plan on my knowledge, experience, and instinct.

To kick things off on the right foot, these are the questions you need to ask.

Understanding and evaluating their process:

  1. What is the team’s maturity level within Agile ways of working? Do they use an effective Agile way of working such as Scrum?
  2. What are they building? What are their products or services that they are responsible for? Are they building software or other products?
  3. Are they using an effective process to evaluate and improve?
  4. Which business process and products do they support and develop? What does it look like (e.g., is it a continuous process? Is it processed in batches? What does their flow diagram look like)? We need to understand their business

What type of projects do they manage? Characterize them: Are their deliverables divisible in small increments? How big are they? Are they using waterfall? Who are the stakeholders?

Assessing their technical levels:

  1. What is their technical competency level? (Are they juniors, mid-level, or seniors?)
  2. What are the tools they use to build (and operate) their products and services? (DevOps tooling, cloud, PaaS, CICD, automated testing?)
  3. Is their architecture suitable for Agile and DevOps practices?
  4. What is the status of their technical debt? Do they handle it well?
  5. What is the quality of their work? Are there a lot of bugs and production incidents?

Evaluating the overall team:

  1. What is the autonomy level of the team? Are they already self-organizing? Do they have many dependencies with other teams or not?
  2. Do you see signs of a mature, high-performing team (see Google’s Aristotle project)
  3. Have they achieved T-shaped profiles (or similar)?
  4. What is the maturity level of their soft skills?
  5. How successful is the team (Products/services/quality/ business value/team happiness)?
  6. How are dependencies with other teams and departments managed (Do they use PI planning or something similar?)
  7. Do they have “you build it-you run it” responsibility?
  8. Do they offer 24/7 support?

Management and culture:

  1. Does management facilitate a generative culture?
  2. Does management understand and apply Agile and Lean principles?
  3. How mature is their portfolio management?
  4. Is there a clear vision and strategy?
  5. Do you see transformational leadership (Vision, personal recognition, intellectual stimulation, inspirational communication, supportive leadership)?
  6. Is there a general culture that’s conducive to Agile and DevOps development?

Contact me here to learn how we can help you apply this questionnaire effectively and start all you new assignments off in a big way. You can also find out more on Capgemini’s ADMnext offering here.