Agile Competence Levels

Levels I recently told you that I was trying to create “agile job descriptions“. They are job descriptions that enable employees to understand what is expected of them, without being too verbose in the job requirements and the activities that they are being asked to perform. And now, as the next step, I have been trying to create “agile competence levels“. It’s because employees want to know how they need to work on their careers. I know, it’s a silly thing, but some people actually want to move upwards in their career. Well, I’m not a difficult guy. So, as before, I have tried to create descriptions that are both short, clear and flexible. Or, in other words… agile.

Here’s what I came up with:

Trainee level

  • A trainee has the same competence level as a junior, but…
  • is only temporarily involved in projects, usually as an intern.

Junior level

  • A junior employee has little or no experience working on projects;
  • requires coaching for all projects;
  • shows promise to be self-supporting;
  • is able to serve customers and colleagues adequately, but only with sufficient coaching;
  • is able to learn and adopt professional techniques and processes;
  • is able to deliver projects of sufficient quality.

Medior level (“medior” is not a real word, but it sounds nice enough)

  • A medior employee has at least 1 year of experience working on projects;
  • requires coaching for average to complex projects;
  • is able to be self-supporting in simple projects;
  • is able to serve customers and colleagues adequately, with some coaching;
  • is able to learn, adopt and adapt professional techniques and processes;
  • is able to deliver projects of more than sufficient quality;
  • is able to coach trainees and juniors.

Senior level

  • A senior employee has at least 3 year of experience working on projects;
  • requires very little coaching;
  • is able to be self-supporting for all but the most complex projects;
  • is able to serve customers and colleagues adequately, with little or no coaching;
  • is able to learn, adopt, adapt and introduce professional techniques and processes;
  • is able to deliver projects of high quality;
  • is able to coach trainees, juniors and mediors.

Expert level

  • An expert employee has at least 5 year of experience working on projects;
  • requires no coaching;
  • is fully self-supporting for all projects, both simple and most complex;
  • is able to serve customers and colleagues adequately, without any coaching;
  • is able to learn, adopt, adapt, introduce and invent professional techniques and processes;
  • is able to deliver projects of very high quality;
  • is able to coach trainees, juniors, mediors and seniors.

As you can see, it is a ladder of generic descriptions comprising five competence levels that you can easily apply to different kinds of jobs in the development process. (The five levels actually remind me of the five maturity levels in the CMMI, though they are not the same.) Like many other people, I believe job requirements like these should not be set in stone. Metrics are nice to have available, in case I need some solid data to support my judgement. But most often, by comparing competence levels among employees, it is easy to see where people should find themselves on this ladder.


Someone pointed me in the direction of Joel Spolsky’s article on compensation levels. It follows similar reasoning, though it is more geared towards software developers. In contrast, I like my descriptions to be applicable to other employees too, like project managers and business consultants. In fact, I’m sure the same ladder can be applied to development managers themselves! This supports the idea that management is simply a career in itself, parallel to software development.


This flexibility is the main reason I’d like to call this a ladder of agile competence levels. It can serve me in many ways, whichever way the wind blows…


Feel free to comment on it. I’m sure it can be improved some more!

One thought on “Agile Competence Levels”

  1. Thanks for the competence level post. We at sprintplanning ( http://www.sprintplanning.com ) use a similar checklist when we do do ‘agile screening’ for candidates for agile positions.
    One point, however – when you wrote : “at least 5 year of experience working on projects”, did you mean experience working on agile projects, or industry experience? my experience is that experience in non-agile projects is not very helpful agile-wise, but I am not sure all people agree.

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