TL; DR: Faking Agile Metrics — An Eye-Opening Exercise
Imagine you’re a Scrum Master and the line manager of your team believes that the best sign for a successful agile transformation is a steady increase in the Scrum Team’s velocity. Moreover, if the team fails to deliver on that metric something is wrong with the Scrum Team. Alternatively, something is wrong with you as you are the Scrum Master and hence responsible for the team’s performance. (Apparently, not faking agile metrics, or being transparent in this case, does not seem to be valued here.)
Learn more about how to coach these kinds of line managers and help them overcome their preference for the industrial past with a simple exercise on how to cook the agile books.
Cooking the Agile Books — A Simple Exercise
The ‘cooking the agile books’ exercise about faking agile metrics is compelling yet straightforward and built on top of Goodhart’s law.
Goodhart’s law states that a metric ceases to be a useful metric once it becomes a target, for example, for a performance review, because participants figure out how to game the system.
Velocity — the number of story points or items delivered by a development team during a Sprint or iteration — may be beneficial for a skilled, experienced team regarding projections. However, it turns into the opposite if unleashed upon a less experienced team for productivity reporting purposes by the management. Once the pressure is up, most development teams try to mitigate the pressure by becoming creative. The often observed estimate inflation is just one way of dealing with the problem from a team’s perspective. Faking agile metrics can become significantly more subtle.
However, there is a coaching approach that — in my experience — delivers results: run the cooking the agile books exercise and address the faking agile metrics elephant in the room head-on. Usually, I run the exercise with Scrum Masters so they know what to watch for, or with line managers who need information on how an agile transformation is doing. The exercise takes about 15 to 20 minutes and is an ideal candidate for the 1-2-4-All microstructure of Liberating Structures.
Basically, it revolves around a typical scenario with a simple question:
“Your line manager believes that becoming Agile is progressing well if a team reports a constantly increasing velocity over time. Your task is to identify ways that would allow the team to report an increasing velocity without actually working more.”
Faking Agile Metrics for Scrum Masters
Scrum Masters are accountable for the practicing of Scrum within an organization and hence need to learn how to recognize the anti-patterns when team members are trying to game Scrum, thus giving it a bad name. Recognizing these patterns helps to identify shortcomings in a Scrum Master’s previous coaching and teaching.
Probably, the Scrum Team did not fully understand the concept of Scrum Values — for example, we …read more
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