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 input 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, first consider your outcomes.

An Agile mindset asks that you consider an 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 is 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, it is beneficial  to have corresponding leading measures or 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.

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