Measuring Value, 4

Revisiting the process of developing metrics that can provide a way to measure the degree of Agility by focusing on the 12 Agile principles, we’re now at principle #4:

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

This is among the fewest words in a principle, but the one I think is most open-ended.

When these principles were developed, Agile was intended for software development projects. And while software development remains the most common application of Agile, its reach has gone way beyond – not just to the tangentially related areas such as software maintenance but I’ve seen teams applying the Agile methodology to efforts such as marketing, content generation, a wide range of strategic efforts, help desk management and event planning!

So in this context, who are the “business people”? And what if you don’t have developers since you’re not delivering software?

The key element — partnership between the creators and the consumers — however defined for each effort, is still the core value. The intent is to enable and use short feedback loops where the creators are validating their assumptions with the potential consumers and other stakeholders.

Since the value being measured basically boils down to environments where trust and collaboration are actively prioritized, not just stated, the outcome-based metrics that can capture this rather qualitative concept are a bit more challenging.

The primary metric would be a measure of organizational trust / transparency. This could be measured via an employee satisfaction survey or scorecard. The questions on the survey, which should allow for a range of answers, could address topics such as:

  • Do you feel that your team is self-organized?
  • Do you feel that you and/or your team are empowered to make decisions about your work?
  • How comfortable are you and/or your team in discussing bad news or failure with leadership?
  • What percentage of your time [daily or weekly] is value-added?
  • How often have addressed a co-worker directly to raise an issue or potential problem?

There are entire books and disciplines addressing the craft of developing open-ended, non-leading questions so writing the questionnaire should be done by a specialist.

In addition, the following quantitative measures could be provided by agile teams:

  • % of sprints where team has at least one activity focused on improving team culture, for example: team building, team lunch, shared activity such as March Madness pool
  • % of sprints where teams look at happiness as part of the retrospective process and takes actions based on it
  • Percentage of nontechnical Impediments in each team’s impediment list (indicates that team members are aware of cultural and communication blockers)

By combining these quantitative and qualitative metrics in a way that is best suited to each effort or organization, hopefully we can provide some insight into the degree of trust and collaboration prevalent in the environment and where we need to improve.

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