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Metrics That Are Destructive to Agile

Key performance indicators (KPIs) play a critical role in business strategy, but are they unwelcome in the sphere of agile projects? Agile coach Allen Holub thinks so. He thinks imposing such metrics on agile software development teams displays a distrust of their abilities and self-awareness, since agile is inherently aimed at process improvement in the pursuit of business objectives. Holub elaborates on this idea in a post at his website.

Heavy Measures

He believes that, in general, actually measuring performance on a software project is extremely difficult; he says, “We recognize it when we see it, but we can’t really measure it.” This point is debatable, depending upon your perspective. But no one will disagree with his next point, which is that velocity makes for an awful performance metric. Indeed, velocity is mostly supposed to inform a team during its capacity planning. A relative metric like this can only spell disaster when misused to measure team performance. Holub further elaborates with this:

Another problem with velocity as a KPI (or any KPI applied to a team as compared to the entire organization) is that it gets you focused on local optimization. It’s the speed of the entire organization that matters—the time it takes for an idea that’s a gleam in somebody’s eye to get into your customer’s hands. An individual team’s pace within that system is usually irrelevant. Imagine three guys walking along a narrow trail. If the people at the two ends are walking at a fixed pace, it doesn’t matter how fast the guy in the middle goes. Eventually, he’ll catch up with the guy in front. What matters, however, is the speed at which the last hiker is walking. The product doesn’t ship until he arrives.

Holub goes on to provide a broad yet huge list of metrics that are worthless or actively damaging to an agile software project. To see if your team is plagued by any of these metrics, you can view the original post here: http://holub.com/kpis-velocity-and-other-destructive-metrics/

About John Friscia

John Friscia was the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success from 2015 through 2018. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and grew in every possible way in his time there. John graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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