It seems common knowledge that measuring teams and presenting data is an Agile dysfunction. I disagree. But can see and have participated in abusive metric relationships in the past. I think we need to discuss better ways of achieving an evidence based Agile approach; without those participating feeling (or being) abused.

Here are my top five list of traits that make metric dashboards useful –

  1. Measure competing things – its relatively easy to game a single metric, so its important to measure the impact of moving one metric by showing the others. Help teams target moving one metric and observe any negative impacts on others.
  2. Make informed and smart trades – trading something the team is better than other teams in similar circumstance for something they desire to improve. Help teams identify what metric category they could trade (be less good) to raise another metric (become better).
  3. Trends not numbers are important – observing unintended drifting over time of metric averages. Its about understanding something has changed, not how good or bad. Help teams react earlier to often slow moving regression in a metric or two. Less effort in correction the earlier it is detected.
  4. Look for global or local trends – Comparing trends across teams is key to spotting system level opportunities (every team is impacted) versus single team opportunities. Help teams target improving things they can do without fighting a system level factors they are unlikely to solve.
  5. No team will be good at everything – If a team is adversely trending on one metric, point out they are above average on another. Pick competing metrics so that no team will be great or terrible at all of them. There will always be a mix.

This list borrows heavily from the work of Larry Maccherone who correctly observed that a balanced blend of metric types gives the most information for identifying trends and improvement opportunities. His advice is to measure at least one thing from four broad areas –

  1. How much
  2. How well
  3. How responsive
  4. How repeatable or reliably

An implementation of this was recently made available in spreadsheet form. Driven from work item Start date, Completed date and Type, the spreadsheet builds a dashboard page in Excel. The choice of the four metrics was somewhat from experience, and there are plenty of alternative that might fit your context better. The advice stands though, pick a metric from the four areas.

To help roll out the dashboard, we have created a single page cheat-sheet to educate the teams on what each metric means and what to expect if that metric is overdriven. The goal is to stable in all four, not excessively good at any one.

Download the spreadsheet by clicking here

Download the cheatsheet documentation here

As always, love feedback and stories as to how this spreadsheet has worked in the real world. We want to improve it over time.