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"To Share or Not To?” That Is The Question

by Mallika Vulavakattu

May 24, 2017
Category Agile and Scrum


The question under spotlight is “Why do we want to share the metrics with other teams in the organization? Is it good or bad?”

There are two ways of looking at this question. The two sides of a coin;

One side of the coin is, from my experience, velocity is a typical scrum team metric. It is specific to the team only. A scrum team’s velocity is the calculation based on the story points accomplished in a sprint. Scrum teams have their unique style of coming up with the estimation of their user stories. We’re not working on an assembly line, bagging groceries, or canning goods here. Everyone’s job is different from their colleagues, so the only beneficial use of story points for velocity comparisons is to see if your own performance is varying up or down.

When metrics are used outside the team, especially to do things like “measure performance,” I can all but promise you that you’ll get the result you are encouraging – in this case, more story points will be completed each sprint. But I can also promise you that no additional work will be done and perhaps innovation and creativity will be heavily compromised. In fact, it can bring in a negative effect on collaboration aspects. It can burn the bridges between the teams by bringing in unhealthy competition between the teams.

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Trying to compare the speed of an orange to that of an apple is doomed to failure – scrum teams will just game the system by increasing their point estimates to appear to be doing “more” work in the same timeframe. I have personally experienced this scenario.

BUT the other way of looking at the question under spotlight, the other side of the coin is, thorough understanding of a phenomenon called ‘Observer effect’. The Observer effect is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.

Having discussed both the sides of the coin, I think there is tremendous value in the ‘Inspect and Adapt’ principle of Agile, as part of being self-organizing and governing, to willingly accept any and all metrics as part of making an honest assessment of what the team is doing well and how they can improve. Tons of thought should be put into start/stop/continue discussions during retrospectives, and having metrics to help motivate that discussion is valuable.

That’s my two cents!!!!

Metrics are for doing, not for staring. Never measure just because you can. Measure to learn. Measure to fix -Stijin Debrouwere