In an everyday faster world, all of us, people and companies, feel the urge of being also faster. But it’s not enough to be faster, you need to be effective, efficient, and goal driven. So, this impels you to be highly adaptable, to be agile. But… what does it mean to be agile in a company, in a team, in a project, in a task?
To be agile you must focus on several elements such as the continuous value of your product, the constant adaptability to changes in the requirements, the capability of delivery on a short term, the interaction between all the project actors, the end-users and the self-management competence of the teams, among others.
Well, now you kind of know what is to be agile… but do you know how to make sure that you are really doing it?
And please, don’t answer that you “just know” because you feel you are a “flexible and fast thinker” … This is not a job interview, and believe me, when you need to justify to the company board why Agile is the way to go you will need data, numbers, facts! Because information is power.
Be multidimensionally agile.
First you need to know what to measure exactly, and for that you must understand for which dimensions the Agile methodology looks for in a company and how those dimensions are impacted and, subsequently, how to evaluate or measure them.
There are four dimensions impacted by Agile and each one of these dimensions will be the platform to check different pulses:
Let’s start with Business. Here you will measure effectiveness by assessing how your delivery is reaching the goal. We could make a giant list of agile metrics, but let’s keep it simple!
Choose a major question instead: Are you solving the business needs? The Fitness For Purpose Score is a good way to check that. You must understand the customer’s purpose for consuming what you’re offering. Then, you can create the appropriate fitness criteria metrics. You can set this score, considering: Net Fitness Score [NFS] = % satisfied customers – % dissatisfied customers
Another valuable metrics for effectiveness are the Pirate Metrics: acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue. Maybe you will encounter some products where some of these indicators won’t fit, just apply the ones that do. Check this cool illustration to help you understand these 5 steps really quick:
Image: Startup Metrics for Pirates by Dave McClure
Let’s now travel to the next dimension: Organizational, where you will measure efficiency. This is the moment to put your team under the microscope and evaluate their overall performance.
One of the most important agile metrics that will help you do this is the Lead Time: how long are you taking from “To Do” to “Done”? This is one of the easiest, simplest, and accurate metrics you can use, especially when you are supporting your tasks management with Kanban methodology:
Image: Kanban Board
You can apply the metric to the total time from the point of agreement to the point of delivery and/or to how long the tasks/features last in each phase. It’s also important to verify the Waiting Time (how long an item continues between the conclusion of one phase to the next one).
You should associate the Lead Time with others like, WIP (Work in Progress) and Throughput. The WIP considers what is “Ongoing” but also the tasks from “To Do” to “Done”. By attending to this you will help your team to focus on finishing the tasks already started before starting new ones.
The Throughput will tell you the average work units per time units. It will help you, for instance, to know how many items your team can deliver in a week and if that number is increasing or decreasing through the life cycle of the project (so you can identify either possible blockers and facilitators of their workflow).
Image: The Lead Time is improved by shrinking the WIP
Let’s now check the Technical dimension to see the excellency of your work. Meaning: does your team works fast, but has the result real quality?
The measures you use here are known and not exclusive of Agile: how many bugs do you have? How much of the product do your tests cover? And what about the infrastructure? Is it robust enough to support your product? Does your code have 15.000 lines that you just realized that aren’t used for anything?
If you work for an IT company and still need explanation on how to measure this, maybe you should rethink your career … just kidding! (no… for real, question yourself!)
For last, but not (at all) the least, we imperatively must look at the Cultural dimension to check the ecosystem. To be agile your organizational culture must be agile. There is no way to jump this step.
How happy is your team, the organization in general, the project participants? Is it even possible to measure emotions? Oh yeah! For instance, through Burnout Tests or the Happiness Radar, using just a simple white board where your team members can mark the areas they’re happy, neutral or unhappy about. Ok, it’s a little corny, but I’ll take my chances… just feel your team’s heart!
Image: Hapiness Radar
Don’t be just any agile-cherry on top.
As you can see you have many metrics to check up your agility (and we are just giving you a few examples), so please don’t go crazy and megalomaniac and start applying every metric you know every step of the way!
Last piece of advice, simply follow these two rules:
1 – Be aware of toxic metrics: don’t start measuring a team member or comparing teams. This will only undermine your environment. Promote collaboration, not competition.
2 – Take it easy, understand which metrics make more sense to your team/project/product and start your own agility barometer!
Now, you are ready to go.
Polarising Business Analyst
Contact Polarising for tech that works: firstname.lastname@example.org