The Best Metric for Your Product Team

Sometimes metrics can get in the way in which of an excellent dialog.

Photo by Patricia Serna on Unsplash

A couple of weeks again, I had a dialog with a peer coach who was launched to me. As we chatted, we mentioned a number of features of teaching. At one level, he requested me a query that has confirmed tough for me to reply.

Well, to make clear, I gave a direct reply, however I’ve since modified my thoughts about it. The query has been weighing heavy on my thoughts for the previous few weeks. I preserve coming again to it. After pondering on it, I’ve a significantly better reply.

The different coach requested, “If you possibly can observe solely two metrics for an Agile group, what would they be?”

As he was asking the query, I grew to become triggered as quickly as he uttered the phrase “metrics.” My expertise with metrics has been poor, to say the least. They are far too typically used as a weapon versus enter for enchancment. Metrics are inclined to make groups really feel like a laboratory experiment versus human beings.

But nonetheless, I answered the query. And I answered with the very first thing that got here to my thoughts. I’m not pleased with this preliminary reply I gave. If I had been to offer a solution in the present day, it will be far more thought-out.

In response to the query, I mentioned, “Well, it’s apparent. You would need to observe metrics for person adoption and lead time.”

And the phrases spilled out far too straightforward. I fell into the entice everybody falls into in terms of metrics. In my rush to offer a solution, I forgot one thing. I missed the one factor extra vital than any end result or time-to-market indicator.

I’ll get again later to the one factor I missed. But for now, let’s unpack this by first outlining among the perils of metrics. And then, I’ll inform you how I’d reply in the present day if requested the identical query.

The Perils of Metrics

Metrics can go down the mistaken path quick. While all of us begin down the metric journey with good intentions, it’s straightforward to take issues in a poor course. When we give attention to the numbers, we regularly ignore the folks making the product or utilizing the product. We change into seduced by numbers.

Let’s discover three pitfalls in terms of metrics.

№1: Succumbing to Metric Overkill

Let’s observe the whole lot. After all, why have one indicator of efficiency when you possibly can have many? More is healthier, proper? Well, no, it’s not in terms of groups growing a product.

Let’s say a group is being tracked on these metrics:

  • User adoption by characteristic
  • User loss over time
  • New customers by area
  • Average velocity over time
  • Cycle time
  • Lead time
  • Cumulative stream
  • Work-in-progress
  • Mean backlog merchandise age
  • Sprint burn-down
  • Release burn-up
  • Mean time to get well
  • Escaped defect charge
  • Percent code protection for unit checks

Which metric ought to the group give attention to in the present day? This shouldn’t be a simple reply, and it will depend on an ever-shifting context. And bettering one metric would possibly influence one other one in a unfavorable method. Usually, it boils all the way down to which metric administration cares about essentially the most in the present day.

“It is mistaken to suppose that in the event you can’t measure it, you possibly can’t handle it – a pricey delusion.”

—W. Edwards Deming

And the extra metrics you have got, the extra effort and folks it takes to collect that information. To make it worse, we don’t take the time to evaluate if the measurement is price monitoring. In spite of all this, we’re quick to take information monitoring to the acute.

We typically go as far as to kind whole groups round monitoring the info, analyzing the info, and reporting the info. Unfortunately, these analytics groups are sometimes remoted from the supply groups and the end-users. Interpreting the info turns into akin to a laboratory analyzing samples or specimens. There isn’t any human contact and no context to realize empathy.

So much less is extra in terms of measurements. But it’s not the place our instincts take us.

№2: Comparing Teams

Once you evaluate groups in opposition to one another utilizing a metric, the metric turns into ineffective. Teams change into involved with their measurement worth compared to their friends. This creates an unhealthy give attention to the goal worth of the metric.

Per Goodhart’s legislation, while you measure groups in opposition to a goal worth, they optimize habits to it. In different phrases, they start to search out workarounds to realize the goal worth. You lose the unique intent of monitoring the metric.

“Tell me how you’ll measure me, after which I’ll inform you how I’ll behave.”

—Eli Goldratt

And folks do behave in a different way after they assume they’re being watched. This is named the Hawthorne impact.

Let’s take a metric that receives dependable abuse on this method—Velocity. For a group, Velocity sums the variety of Story Points for Stories the group delivered to a “Done” state in a Sprint. Velocity is a planning software for groups and nothing extra. Teams calculate a median Velocity over the previous three or so Sprints. And they use the common to forecast how a lot Story effort they’ll ship in future Sprints.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how these enthusiastic about a group’s efficiency use Velocity. Often, stakeholders will use Velocity as a approach of evaluating a group’s efficiency to a different group. This modifications what ought to be an ideal forecasting software right into a efficiency goal. And it creates unhealthy competitors between the groups.

The finish result’s the manipulation of Velocity in a approach that makes it meaningless. Here are among the extra widespread methods I’ve seen Velocity gamed:

  • Large Stories have extra factors, so the group decides to not break up the Story smaller
  • The group estimates Stories to be bigger than they’re in order that they rely for extra factors
  • To contemplate a narrative “Done” within the Sprint, the group cuts corners on high quality
  • The group reduces transparency and minimizes points it finds in favor of counting the story as “Done”

The outcomes of those behaviors act as a drag to group productiveness. And now we have misplaced the unique intent of Velocity as a planning mechanism.

If this may occur with Velocity, it could possibly occur with any metric that turns into a goal.

№3: Overemphasizing Objective Data

Schools train us to be goal from a younger age. Bias has no place in choice making. The enterprise world propagates this considering. As a consequence, now we have an obsession with goal, quantitative information. And we regularly ignore or scale back the worth of qualitative information.

When our groups should not have psychological security, a discount in transparency happens. And decreased transparency makes qualitative information much more suspect and undesirable as it’s not trusted as being full.

“Whenever there may be concern, you’ll get mistaken figures.”

—W. Edwards Deming

So we dive deep into numbers, graphs, charts, and different efficiency indicators. Talking to the group turns into much less and fewer commonplace. And this does nothing to enhance the group’s feeling of security in its setting. In truth, it typically reduces security additional.

I bear in mind a time when an organization I coached determined to trace group efficiency in an automatic method. They analyzed logs from Jira, the continual supply pipeline, and the help group. Great effort went into automating the monitoring of this information with out human intervention.

This was all finished as a result of they didn’t belief data coming from the groups. They had been attempting to keep away from groups gaming the numbers. As a consequence, communication with groups decreased. And the core downside of psychological security was not addressed. In the top, the corporate decreased security additional since they consulted the groups much less.

The One Metric You Need

By this level, I’m positive you’re considering I don’t like information. Let me set the document straight. My argument is to not convey that information is unhealthy. Data is critical. Evidence is the cornerstone of strong choice making.

“Without information, you’re simply one other individual with an opinion.”

—W. Edwards Deming

But the three pitfalls—overkill, comparability, and objectivity—block efficient use of information. So what are we to do?

I’ve been contemplating the perfect reply to this over the previous a number of weeks. I’ve concluded the reply lies with Team Engagement.

The Team Engagement Metric

The finest metric to make sure product success is Team Engagement. You consider a group’s engagement on its stage of autonomy, mastery, and function.

Engaged groups will likely be happier groups. These groups are accountable for how they arrange to realize their purpose. Engaged groups grasp their craft and be taught methods to ship higher and function higher. And these groups have a function they’re enthusiastic about; one which drives and grounds them.

All the opposite attainable monitoring metrics stay precious. But they should keep throughout the boundaries of the group. An autonomous group will observe the metrics acceptable for its context. Through mastery, the group tunes its habits and product course to realize higher outcomes. And the group’s function will drive it to trace the suitable metrics related to its context.

So does this imply we should always crank up a Team Engagement monitoring system? Should we get to work on a group happiness dashboard? Absolutely not. If we did this, we’d be proper again within the three pitfalls described earlier. Then, what ought to we do?

Talk to your groups.

Get out of the workplace and have a dialog along with your groups on the place the place the work occurs. Go to the group rooms. Go to the Sprint Reviews. Engage in Backlog Refinement classes. See the place they need assistance. Query their feeling of engagement of their work.

We discuss with phrases and never numbers and charts for a cause. The energy of a dialog beats a metric or chart any day. It is wealthy, and it elevates understanding. Metrics and charts can improve a dialog however don’t substitute for it.

Let your groups observe and reply to their very own metrics. An engaged group with autonomy, mastery, and function ought to deeply care in regards to the worth it creates. And the group is aware of how finest to measure the worth it produces. 

Visit the group areas and discuss to your groups regularly. And help them after they need assistance. A humorous factor will occur. Safety will begin to enhance. And Team Engagement ranges will skyrocket. No monitoring is critical.

My Revised Answer

We began this publish discussing my dialog with the opposite coach. He requested me about the perfect two metrics to trace.

After my time to assume, my extra measured response can be as follows:

“Let the groups determine. Visit and discuss with them typically. And be sure they really feel engaged and supported.”

This factor we name Agile focuses on folks working collectively and getting higher at it. It shouldn’t be about numbers and charts and graphs.

It is time we give attention to enhancing Team Engagement by fostering group autonomy, mastery, and function. And this contains placing the metric monitoring within the arms of our groups. Then, we are able to give attention to giving them the setting and help they should get the job finished.

Also revealed in Serious Scrum on Medium.

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  1. Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink, 2011 ↩

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