Matter of Metrics and Improvements (how it started!)

I hate the metrics.
Really, I hate them.

Generally speaking now I hate any file excel in which I should put a lot of numbers.
Why?
Because years ago the 99% of the time that I took that metrics I didn’t know what to do with that numbers, I didn’t know when to use it, I didn’t know how to read it in order to be useful.
In my past experiences the metrics that I had taken were never useful to improve a workflow or avoid the same mistake.
Gathering those metrics had been only a colossal loss of time.

The worst part, when you become a big fan of the metrics, is that you start to collect as much as possible those numbers because…who knows! Maybe they will be useful one day.
In those numbers you put a lot of expectations and hope.
When something starts to go bad in your project it is easy that you start to collect even more numbers in order to figure out what’s happening, maybe you ask your team to start to keep track of a lot of things that slow them down even more.

So, after those experiences, for me a metric makes sense if I can use it to drive an improvement in the short term (2/4 Sprints).
That’s it.

If I can use a metric to analyze a problem or a situation and I can use it to find a realistic action then the metric is more than welcome; if not that metric will be dropped.

At first I started keeping things simple, so I just kept the Velocity of the team, but the Velocity is a double-edged sword.
Sometimes you have to explain the velocity of the team.

“Why the team produces so few features? The expectations for this team were higher”.

Ok, now breathe and count to ten.
First of all do not be defensive.
Secondly rearrange the sentence in this way and pretend that is not your boss or the management that is asking for it:

“Why the team produces this number of features?”

Few features or a lot of features, it is not important, but why that number?

In general you care about the Sprint or the Team, if the Sprint goes good or bad, if the Team is working well or not.
It is rare to discuss the Velocity, because it is a very tough topic and many times it kicks off to a lot of (unproductive) controversy.

So the problem is that you rarely ask to yourself this simple question, and so you sadly leave to the management to do it and at that point everything risks to go bad.

But if you think, this simple question can start a wonderful process of improvement.
If you and your team try to understand the causes of the Velocity (trying to avoid talking about the merit or blame), if you start from the beginning to try to understand what and why is happening, your Retrospective will be much more interesting and when the management will ask you, you will have an answer that it will be reasonable and that (hopefully!) will push all the people involved in the process to support your change and growth.

Sometime it is just about to ask the correct questions and by the way I suggest to read this: The Art of Powerful Questions

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