Sunday, April 13, 2014

Agile Lagging to Leading Metric Path

Even in an Agile environment there is a benefit to applying measures to understand progress.  It can be tempting to apply the same iron triangle metrics (based on cost, schedule, and scope) that may have been used in a more traditional mindset to Agile projects and initiatives.  Instead, I suggest removing all of those metrics and start with a clean slate.  On the clean slate, consider your outcomes.

An Agile mindset asks that you consider outcome instead of output as a measure of success.  This means we should first start with understanding our desired outcomes for an initiative or project.  Within a business context of building products, one measure of success an increase in revenue. Having a customer revenue metric helps you understand whether the products being built are increasing revenue upon release. While capturing revenue is a good starting point, it is a “lagging” indicator meaning you don’t recognize the evidence of revenue movement until after the release is in production and has been in the marketplace for a period of time.

To supplement lagging measures, you need corresponding leading measures and indicators that provide you with visibility during development to gauge if you are moving the product into a position of increased revenue. I call this framework the Lagging to Leading Metric Path.  This visibility is important because it provides input for making decisions as you move forward. Making the right decision leads to improved results. As you consider measures, think about how they help you gain visibility and information for decisions in building a product that helps you lead toward an increase in revenue.
For a hopeful increase in customer revenue, what leading metrics can we put in place to ensure we are moving in the right direction?  Let’s say in this case that increased revenue is the hopeful lagging metric based on expected customer sales.  Examples of leading measures or indicators to achieve an outcome of this lagging metric for increased customer revenue include:
  • Customers attending Sprint Review: a leading metric where you capture how many customers are actually attending the sprint review and how much feedback they give. This indicates engagement and interest. 
  • Customer satisfaction from Sprint Review: a leading metric is capturing customer satisfaction from the functionality they viewed within the sprint review.  This indicates levels of satisfaction with the functionality as the product is being built. 
  • Customer satisfaction of product usage: an indicator of the most recent release highlighting a level of satisfaction on the usage of the current product including commentary.   

When applying Agile to product development, the outcome that matters most are often represented by lagging metrics.  Therefore you will need leading indicators to ensure you are moving in the right direction, to provide visibility, and to help you with decision-making.   Within your own context, consider constructing a lagging to leading metric path so that you know you are moving in the right direction during your Agile journey.

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Note: the lagging to leading metric path really isn't specific to Agile and I would suggest applying this to an initiative or project aligning with any mindset, process, method, or practice of delivering value.

To read more about establishing an Agile Lagging to Leading Metric Path and Agile Measures of Success, consider reading Chapter 14 of Being Agile

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gamification for your Agile Journey

Gamification adapts game concepts to nongaming situations to engage employees and motivate them to improve their performance and achieve a beneficial behavior. It rewards employees for completing performance levels with points, badges, privileges, and sometime monetary incentives. Gamification can be deployed as one of the possible techniques to engage employees as part of your Agile Journey.

The key to gamification is that it must be driven by a clear business goal with a clear outcome.  With the context of Agile, the goal with gamification is to encourage employees to become engaged in Agile, with the outcome of ‘giving back’ to the Agile community.  While your Agile journey may start with training and coaching, you eventually would like employees acting as Agile Champions to give back and start sharing their knowledge and experience within their colleagues.


As an example, let’s say you have established an Agile Education Vision with the goal of getting employees to give back to the Agile community.  As one technique, you decide to use gamification to motivate and engage employees to become Agile Champions and give back to their local community. Let's posit five levels of Agile Champion and the points needed to achieve each level:
  • Steel: 5 points
  • Bronze: 25 points
  • Silver: 50 points
  • Gold: 100 points
  • Platinum: 250 points

By achieving certain levels, a precious medal badge is earned which the employee can add to their signature line and receive an award to support the behavior, both to recognize this achievement. The vision lays out the following education elements, together with the points earned by completing each one:
  • Take the online “Agile Overview” for awareness: 5 points
  • Attend Scrum Master, Product Owner, team, or manager training per your role: 20 points
  • Take a variety of short online courses such as “How to Write User Stories” to build skills: 5 points each 
  • Attend a 45-minute seminar/webinar on various Agile topics such as “Lessons Learned from Sprint Retrospective” to understand process: 5 points each
  • Write an internal blog article and share with the internal Agile community: 25 points
  • Create and present a webinar and share with the internal Agile community: 50 points

Notice that by taking the “Agile Overview,” the participant immediately becomes Steel level. This gets them into the game which may motivate them to keep playing. Also notice that the bigger point items promote giving back to the internal Agile community. This preferential valuation aligns with the goal of giving back while building their Agile knowledge along the way.

If you use gamification, ensure the achievement is real, that it helps the employee with their work, and is aligned with your Agile goals.  Finally, please remember that gamification is just one technique within your Agile toolkit in building an Agile community and having a successful Agile journey. 

PS - to read more about how Gamification can help you in your Agile journey, consider reading Chapter 16 of the new Agile book entitled Being Agile.  


Monday, February 24, 2014

How a Self-organizing Education Vision can help your Agile Transformation

Does your company education begin and end with training? Will this suffice for a transformation to Agile? Agile requires alignment behind the Agile values and principles that signifies a change toward an Agile culture. It means an investment in educating your people who need to pick up the helm for success.  Because of this, you cannot think that taking a training class will suffice and provide enough knowledge to cause a shift in thinking to be Agile.  Instead education needs to be an intrinsic part of your Agile transformation.  One approach is to consider a team-oriented self-organized education vision aimed toward being Agile.

An Agile Education Vision is an education roadmap that a team iteratively plans and applies.   It is meant to be self-organized by the team focused on their education needs toward being Agile.  Since people are critical to the success of agility, it is only fair to allow the “power of the people” to self organize around their own educational needs.  As a team approaches Agile, they periodically consider various education elements that can be used to help them build their Agile knowledge, skills, and capabilities toward achieving a mindset.  As education gets applied, the team periodically visits the education vision and updates it based on their current level of Agile need. 


A good way to think of this is that the Agile Education Vision is a prioritized product backlog of education elements based on team needs.  Each sprint or timeframe, the team visits the vision, determines what education is needed, and then applies those educational elements throughout that period.  Another approach that engages the power of the people is an Education Led Transformation.  Established by Emergn, this is a work-based approach where learning occurs through action.  Experience is gained over time by the team and they become better equipped to gain the full benefits of agility.   

As an added tip, any time an education item is time consuming (1-day training, reading a book, etc.), consider including it as a story with a story point value.  As the owner works on this item, the story card can get moved across the board to indicate progress of the education. This highlights that education is considered valuable and illustrates the progress made in completing the education work item.

An important consideration is that when I say education, it is more than just training. It takes a repertoire of educational elements. These education elements can help a team develop skills, understand their roles, and navigate a process or practice, and most importantly achieve an Agile mindset.  Training is just one of those educational elements. What are some of the others?  Here is a sampling:

  • Simple brochure, flyer, or short presentations.
  • In-person training such as Instructor-led and seminars
  • Web-based training such as pre-recorded and webinars
  • Work-based learning with activities and on-the-job training
  • Reading in the form of books, articles, and more being done individually or in a book club 
  • Hosting such as agile practices website and wiki
  • Coaching providing in-session education to a team or an individual based on domain knowledge and experience.
  • Community contributing includes giving back via forums, blog articles, or seminars.
It takes a repertoire of educational elements to achieve an Agile culture. Training is just one educational element that is needed. 

How will your teams be educated? An accumulation of education elements at different points in time will provide the comprehensive focus to help you, your team, and your organization. Consider applying an self-organized education vision or an education-led approach that best serves your goal toward being Agile. Ultimately you want to create a self-organizing educational culture where employees are willing and eager to learn, act, and give back to their community.  How are your teams currently being educated in agility?

PS - to read more about establishing an Agile Education Vision and how education elements can help you be Agile, consider reading Chapter 16 of the new Agile book entitled Being Agile.