Tracking Success in Agile teams

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I've been unhappy with my weight for the last few months. I only wanted to lose half a stone but nothing I tried worked. I tried measuring many things. I measured the number of steps that I took each day. I measured the number of hours exercise I did each week. I counted the number of ‘bad’ things I ate. I measured many things but nothing helped and the months drifted by in frustration. Then one day I decided to measure calories. I know what you're thinking – “well duh!” – but it just hadn't occurred to me before. Knowing how many calories my body needed each day, and consistently tracking a number below this, finally got the results I was looking for.

How does this apply to success in our Agile teams? Well, we need to know what we're aiming for in order to know what to monitor and track to get us there . As Michael Sahota says in one of his Agile Transformation Traps - we shouldn't be doing Agile just for the sake of doing Agile . There has to be a reason for choosing an Agile approach. Having learned this, it reminded me of a session that I attended at the Global Scrum Gathering in Vienna where Brian Milner presented the 9 business drivers defined by These are Employee engagement, Time to market, Market responsiveness, Customer satisfaction, Predictability, Productivity, Quality, Innovation, and Continuous improvement.

And we need to know not only what this desired reason or driver is but how we will track and measure it to gauge our success. Our leadership needs to understand what it is that will make our business successful. Then our teams need to know how to measure progress against this criterion, to ensure we are achieving the outcome we intend. For example, if we measure velocity of our teams, when what the business (and the customer) wants is improved quality in the product, we will never reach our desired results. Velocity and quality are two very different things. First, know what we're trying to achieve; second, know how to measure that. If our leadership can't tell us what we're trying to achieve then our teams can only guess. Once leadership know what it is they want to achieve, all they need to do is convey this to the teams and let the teams track what is needed to achieve this – tracking the right thing for the right outcome. In our empowered Agile teams, there is no need to track this for them. Show them the vision of where the business wants to get to and let them track their progress towards this, using the most appropriate empirical data they have available for this. Without this, teams will guess what to track and results will be random.

Three weeks after I started tracking calories, I had lost the half stone that I had wanted to lose. All I had to do was measure the right thing and I was able to get the results I wanted. Know what you want to achieve and know what to track to get there; then let the teams track their progress towards this. Then our teams, and our business, can be successful.