Teams are more effective when they use metrics to periodically evaluate how things are going. Metrics provide a more objective perspective on the process of teams and can reduce biases.

The most useful metrics in Agile environments are those that measure outcomes. It can be tempting to measure output-oriented metrics like velocity, the number of items completed per iteration, or even lines of code. But it is easy for teams to score very high on such metrics without producing anything of value. Thus, it is more useful to measure outcomes. Examples of such metrics are stakeholder satisfaction, return on investment, quality, innovation rate, and cycle time.

Personally, I love Kanban metrics like:

😅 Work in Progress (WIP): the number of Product Backlog items started but not finished. Teams get more done when they work on less at the same time. Optimizing flow by limiting work in progress is built on this counterintuitive truth.
🚲 Cycle Time: the time that transpires between when work begins on an item and when the item ships.
👴🏻 Work Item Age: the amount of time between when a work item started and the current time. This applies only to items that are still in progress.
✅ Throughput: the number of work items finished per unit of time.
⏰ Lead time: the time that transpires between when a stakeholder request enters the Product Backlog and when it’s fulfilled to that stakeholder through a release.

Teams often fall into the trap of trying to measure everything. Instead, we’ve found it more helpful to focus on a few metrics that are relevant to improvement areas. For example, we track cycle time 🚴‍♂️ when teams are working to increase their release frequency. But we count bugs 🐞 and issues when teams are working on quality.

Actions to start small and simple are:
1️⃣ As a team, pick 1 metric that you think would be super useful to measure. Find a creative way to measure it next Sprint and see how that goes.
2️⃣ As a team, select 1 metric they currently use but don’t understand the value of. Work together to identify a more valuable metric.
3️⃣ Schedule to retake the questionnaire of this tool a few months from now to collect more metrics and identify trends.

Metrics usage is one of the 20+ factors we measure to determine Agile & Scrum team effectiveness. Based on the results, teams receive evidence-based feedback on how to start improving. Why don’t you give the Agile/Scrum Team Survey a try? We (Christiaan Verwijs and I) offer a free version focused on individual teams and a paid version that shows aggregated results of multiple teams. Check:

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