By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate ‘finish lines’. As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge towards the next one.

—Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments

Measure and Grow

Measure and Grow is the way portfolios evaluate their progress towards business agility and determine their next improvement steps.

Measure and grow describes how to measure the state of Business Agility and how to grow to improve overall economic outcomes. This article is not meant to represent a way to ascertain somebody else’s Portfolio’s performance, but rather for portfolio leaders as well as for the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE), to self-assess their progress on this journey.


Measuring the journey a portfolio makes towards business agility is not simple, but it is important. It provides a way for Lean-Agile Leaders to lead the change by reflecting on where the portfolio is and what it needs to move forward.

The SAFe Business Agility Self-Assessment is a tool that helps portfolios evaluate their progress toward business agility. While the Implementation Roadmap provides a script for organizations implementing SAFe, the business agility assessment provides multiple landmarks along this journey for easier navigation. It also allows portfolios to multiply milestones [1] and have more successes to celebrate.

The assessment is built around the seven core competencies of business agility (see the Business Agility article for more details).

Each competency then splits into three dimensions, and the assessment provides a set of statements that determine progress along the 21 dimensions shown below in figure 1.

FIgure 1. SAFe Business Agility Self-Assessment
Download SAFe Business Agility Self-Assessment

There are six steps in the measure and grow process:

  • Facilitate effective self-assessment of business agility
  • Analyze the results
  • Identify growth opportunities
  • Prioritize and take action
  • Integrate learning
  • Celebrate success

Facilitate effective self-assessment of Business Agility

The business agility assessment helps portfolios self-assess where they are on their journey. Just sending the assessment out to various participants and asking them to fill out the spreadsheet will not provide the right experience. To assess where a portfolio actually stands requires a facilitated session with someone trained in the nuances of SAFe, such as a SAFe Program Consultant.

The SAFe business agility self-assessment aims primarily at the portfolio stakeholders or the LACE trying to evaluate next steps. Additional data is available by facilitating self-assessment sessions with Agile Teams, Agile Release Trains (ARTs), and Solution Trains, gathering their views on the competencies and then aggregating the findings.

After choosing the target audience and deciding the competencies the group should assess, it is important to set the context for the assessment. In other words, what portfolio, Agile Team, ART, or Solution Train we are assessing? It is also important to ensure that all participants understand the 21 dimensions of business agility, as well as the SAFe terminology before attempting the self-assessment.

Two patterns can be used:

  1. All participants fill the assessment by themselves and then discuss and analyze the results
  2. All participants discuss each statement and reach a consensus on the score for each statement

Both patterns have their benefits and disadvantages. Based on group dynamics, distribution, and time, the facilitator needs to pick the right pattern.

Analyze the Results

After the participants have filled out the spreadsheet, or during the discussion in the second pattern, it is important to identify significant variances in opinion. The facilitator should review each area of disagreement and explore the differing views. These might stem from a different understanding of the statement itself, or from disagreement about where the group is in the specific dimension. The goal is to explore the differences to get better alignment of where improvement is needed.

In addition to the divergence, dimensions that the group has self-assessed as problematic should be explored to understand the reasons that drove people to score themselves low.

The facilitator should also be aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people tend to assess their ability as greater than what it really is. [2] This means that dimensions that seem unnaturally high might also require an examination to make sure the group understands the meaning of the statements in question.

If Agile Teams, ARTs, and Solution Trains contributed data, facilitators should use it to contrast against the LACE/leaders opinions of the findings.

Identify Growth Opportunities

When the group has highlighted the problematic dimensions, it then needs to identify opportunities for improvement. The Business Agility Assessment download includes a set of recommendations for each statement, which can help drive the answer from False to True. Depending on the specific statement, the recommendations might include:

  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Learning opportunities
  • Various toolkits

The group should explore these recommendations and choose the ones they believe are most relevant to their specific situation. Groups who are more advanced in their results can find guidance in the Accelerate article.

Prioritize and Take Action

In the spirit of limiting Work in Process (WIP) (see SAFe principle #6) it is important to prioritize the opportunities and choose one or two that will provide the most value immediately.

Much like prioritizing Features in the Program Backlog uses economic ranking with Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF), the same tool should also be used to identify the best opportunity to pursue.

For example, we can create a simple table to compare opportunities (three, in this case), as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. A sample spreadsheet for calculating WSJF

This approach will help the group select the opportunities that have a high cost of delay (CoD) on the one hand, but can be delivered quickly on the other. For more details on how to prioritize in this way, read the WSJF article.

The prioritized opportunities must go into the LACE backlog, the Portfolio Backlog, or the Program Backlog to be worked on as soon as possible. The backlog of choice depends on the opportunity. For example, an opportunity to restructure ARTs by running a Value Stream and ART Identification Workshop will likely be on the LACE backlog, while a recommendation to train all Scrum Masters might belong in the program or the portfolio backlog. This depends on where the problems have been identified.

Integrate Learning

The portfolio or the LACE should re-evaluate their progress toward business agility, probably every Program Increment (PI) or twice a year, and plan the next step. The rate of measurements depends on the opportunities pursued and how fast the portfolio can achieve progress on them to integrate learning and relentlessly improve.

Creating a baseline of this assessment at the beginning of the transformation, and periodic assessments provide a trend of the improvement and allows the LACE to communicate successes.

Celebrate successes

One of the key motivations in multiplying milestones [1] is the ability to inspire people by creating multiple possibilities to celebrate achievements. There are many opportunities to celebrate: every time portfolios, ARTs, and teams move from one level to the next in each dimension; or even manage to change a single statement from False to True (or even to Mostly False). These and other events provide an opportunity for people to realize the achievement that the effort they put into the improvement.

These milestones can also provide an opportunity for organizations to gamify the business agility journey. This, in turn, can motivate individuals and teams to intensify their focus on the activities that will drive them and their portfolio to achieve its goals. Celebrating successes creates the impetus for more improvement and advancement on the journey towards business agility.

In addition, tying the improvement to changes in the global Lean Portfolio Management metrics (LPM) metrics (See the Lean Portfolio Management article for details), and celebrating improvements, connects the effort to the portfolio’s measures of overall success. This drives the entire portfolio to focus on measurement and growth and positive outcomes.

Learn More

[1] Heath, Chip and Dan. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster.


Last updated: 28 September 2019