Saturday, June 27, 2009

Metrics & Velocity

I have received a few comments, both recently and in the past, that tell me some people are uncomfortable measuring velocity. And they are uncomfortable measuring the Team.

They are usually not that clear why they are uncomfortable.

Let me state my position, which I believe is also close to the position of Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber.

First, as a memory device, I say: "Velocity: Don't leave home without it."

Second, any decent Team wants to know if they are really successful.

Third, the Team must measure velocity and it must aggressively be trying to improve it. Doubling velocity in the first 6 months should be a goal. In Scrum, the larger goal is to get the Team to be 5x - 10x more productive than the average Team. (Good data tell us that the average is about 2 Function Points per man-month.) Scrum does not guarantee that every team will get to 5x-10x. But none will if they don't go for it.

Improving velocity means removing the top impediment, one at a time. It does NOT mean working harder. In fact, often one of the top impediments is that we are already working too many hours per week. (To some, this will seem a paradox. Explanation another time.)

How do we use velocity? Many ways, but I will emphasize three. (1) In planning, to plan the release, for example. (2) To push back with a pattern of numbers when magical-thinking managers ask the Team to double their velocity in one Sprint. (3) To challenge ourselves, as a Team, to get impediments removed so we can enjoy some real success around here. (And often we have to ask managers and even senor management to get involved with the impediment removal.)

What are the push-backs that I hear?

Several. This post is getting long enough that I won't state them all hear.

But the cartoon represents one of the major ones, I think. People are concerned that we are putting human lives in the hands of some stupid bean counter (as we say in the South "bless his little heart"). Certainly not a happy thought.

So, a few assertions about metrics (not time here to discuss them):
* the Team does the metrics themselves, honestly because they want to use the numbers
* there should be no "managing from behind the desk" (as Lean would say)
* velocity does not reflect one single factor, but the result of all factors
* when the Team evaluates velocity, they use human judgment (Ex: "the velocity dip last Sprint was mainly due to Vikas being out sick 4 days; he's fine now")
* people want to see clearly and show that they are successful
* velocity is not supposed to be a tool for Dilbert managers to beat up the Team with
* while every metric will eventually be gamed (eg, due to Dilbert managers), these issues are part of the larger imperative of honesty and transparency in Scrum. Occasional gaming is not a reason to never do any metrics
* Velocity is not the only important metric

1 comment:

Joe Little said...

See also Jeff Sutherland's comment to the post here:

Thanks, Joe