Thursday, March 6, 2014

Introspective: Agile Metrics and Work In Progress

One of the things I've been doing lately is helping people understand what metrics you can use with Agile teams (there are tons!) and, more importantly, how to use them. Whenever I explain a metric to someone, I always include what behaviors the metric may drive and how to avoid misuse of the metric. When metrics are used inappropriately they drive bad behaviors and result in teams gaming the metrics. Even when used properly, leaders and teams must understand that almost all metrics have a shelf life - they cannot be used forever and continue to produce the same level of improvement.

One example is team spillover. Many see spillover as a cardinal sin and will not tolerate it. The guidance I give is you want to limit spillover, but occasional spillover should be expected as the team adapts (new tech, more robust Definition of Done, innovative practices, etc.) and shouldn't signal concern unless it happens repeatedly. Eventually the team will become so good at course correcting that spillover may not even be monitored. The team may move to a purely Kanban system where the focus is on flow and SLAs instead of time-boxed commitments. Regardless, spillover should never be used to evaluate team members. Including spillover on an eval is a guaranteed way to get sandbagging.

Why is this on my mind today? Because today is Thursday, and my Introspectives are due on Wednesday. My tardiness is due to a combination of too much WIP and plain forgetfulness. This past week has been very busy for me due to my division's Year Beginning meetings, the process of transferring to a new team, and my usual day-to-day work. I am focusing on limiting my WIP so that I can better manage what's on my plate. Next week's Introspective should come on Wednesday, but I can't guarantee that I won't miss my self-imposed deadline the rest of the year.

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