a central notion of Agile is the continuous improvement of value delivery.
Depending on method and framework “Sprint Retrospectives” (Scrum), “Service Delivery-” or “Improvement Meetings” (Kanban) are the key means and rituals to improve the effectiveness of Development and Operations processes.
The intended improvement of value delivery however has two aspects that need to be balanced in well-formed retrospectives and improvement processes overall. The first one is the human- and inter-personal aspect. The second aspect pertains to measurable facts and data.
Many of the retrospectives I have attended in recent years, seem to err on one side. While in more “grass roots” Scrum teams I often seem to find preciously little data as a basis for discussion, with SAFe and DevOps conquering the enterprise world, I recently sense a tendency to focus too much on “productivity data” there.
Interestingly, two key figures of modern management science, usually associated strongly with facts ad data, J. Edwards Deming (“In God we trust, all others bring data.”) and Peter Drucker (“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”) were well aware of the need for this balance and promoted it strongly. Both were in favor of measurement, but they also saw the importance of “…the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. …” as Peter Drucker once explained it to an executive, to go on “It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”
In our projects we are therefore trying to combine the human element with productivity data. To achieve that, we usually develop and agree a set of indicators tracking both early in a project which we then review and discuss – usually in the Retrospectives – over a prolonged period.
It’s nowadays easy to collect feedback with polls in MS-Teams, Slack, etc. and then combine the data with velocity- and other productivity metrics from JIRA or Azure DevOps in a simple dashboard. This can provide a great discussion starter in retros and longer term a balanced view of a team’s health and productivity progress, often highlighting the dependencies between the two and pointing to necessary changes.
Here are some posts that may inspire you further to broaden the scope of your improvement processes:
Agile Metrics: 4 Balanced KPIs to Measure Success
Joel Bancroft-Connors proposes 4 balanced key metrics to improve team performance
Click to view!
Squad Health Check model – visualizing what to improve
It was Henrik Kniberg’s Squad Health Model that got us thinking and implementing balanced improvement KPIs with our clients
Click to view!
Last but not least: the University of Warwick has found scientific evidence that happy employees are at least 12% more productive!
Have a happy weekend!