Business Process Management (BPM)

Agile Fluency: Is Agile Delivering Value?

Agile delivery has worked for many organisations. However, becoming effective at Agile is not an easy journey. An organisation needs to be able to work using a different set of techniques and principles and also be willing and able to adopt a new set of behaviours and culture. The inability to do this second aspect is the most common blocker to Agile adoption.

So how do you know where you are on your Agile journey?

Agile Fluency is a model that helps organisations understand what the adoption of Agile to various levels is likely to mean for them and how far it may be worth going for them. The model has been featured on Martin Fowler’s website. The model measures a team’s progress using a ‘star’ system. With each star comes some great benefits, and each one involves growing levels of investment.

One-Star Teams Create Business Value
Benefit: Greater visibility into teams’ work; ability to redirect.
Investment: Team development and work process design.
Core Metric: Team regularly reports progress from a business value perspective.

Two-Star Projects Will Be Delivered in Line with Market Needs
Benefit: Low defects and high productivity.
Investment: Lowered productivity during technical skill development.
Core Metric: Team ships on market cadence.

Three Stars Will See Team Optimising On the Value They Provide
Benefit: Higher value deliveries and better product decisions.
Investment: Social capital expended on incorporating business expertise into team.
Core Metric: Team provides concrete business metrics.

Four Stars Will See Teams Become Innovative in System Optimising
Benefit: Alignment with organisational goals; synergistic effects.
Investment: Significant effort in establishing organisational culture; inventing new practices.
Core Metric: Team reports how its actions impact the overall organisation.



Personally I think this model is insightful and helpful for a number of reasons:

It’s tough. The model sets the bar high. Operating at the one star level already means teams are being driven by business value. If I am forced to define Agile in one sentence then I call it ‘The faster delivery of business value’. I have seen projects that use Agile procedures, but they are focused on delivering quicker, sometimes just coding faster, but not on driving value quicker.

One size does not fit all. It’s recognising that different organisations have different needs. There is not the sense that higher and higher is better in all situations. The model recognises that organisations can and should adopt Agile to varying levels and that is fine, especially if the level of investment and anticipated benefit are aligned with the chosen level.

Measurement is key. Each level has a core metric associated with it and also has anticipated benefits (some of which can be measured, others which can be observed). The metrics discussed are often outcome measures rather than just the output measures such as velocity which is often the core metric for many agile projects. Personally I think measuring both types is important.

It’s all about the people. For me the model articulates succinctly not only the importance of the way people behave individually but talks about how the greater benefits come from the way teams behave together as a team. It also talks about the organisation around teams and the impact, positive and negative, that can come from the wider stakeholders and leadership.

In an uncertain world, success belongs to companies that have the capacity to embrace and react quickly to change. They see this agility as a real strength in terms of becoming and remaining competitive.

The Agile Fluency model can be used as a way to determine how effective your teams are at delivering solutions that provide real value. Becoming fluent at Agile delivery through the appropriate use of its principles and engineering practices can give your business the edge. It’s not easy but, when done well, it can be powerful.


Andy Pittaway, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks


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Andy Pittaway

Andy Pittaway, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks

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