Lean Agile adoption metrics
In my work I always encourage my customers to define metrics so they can measure their agile adoption initiative. To me this is important because when times get tough and resistance grows it helps to have some data about obtained progress.
As beautifully described by Robert Austin in his book Measuring Performance In Organizations, as soon as you start measuring things and use those measures as performance indicators the measures loose most of their value as they will ultimately be gambled. Nevertheless measures are needed and you should use them solely as management information.
There are two import points to realize when figuring out what measures to use.
1. Lean Agile adoption can never be the goal.
You should figure out what the goal is of the agile adoption initiative. Here are some goals I experienced at my customers.
- Increase in product quality so that customers happiness increase
- Reduce release cycles to deliver new features faster
- Reduce cost by producing the same with less people
- Increase employee engagement & job satisfaction
- Increase ratio of new feature development to bug fixing
- Increase steering possibilities of product development
Once you figured out what the real goal is of the adoption initiative you should define measure for tracking progress towards that specific goal. It’s that simple!
Progress towards goals like shorter release cycles or better ratio of money spend on new feature development vs bug fixing are often easy because they are hard numbers. Goals like employee engagement & job satisfaction or steering possibilities are harder to measure in numbers but surveys are a great alternative.
2. Lean agile adoption is not a project
It starts but it does not finish! The adoption cannot be easily measured because Agile and Lean are not solely about practices but also about the much more important values and principles and these are intangible. This is quite unsatisfying especially because you want to measure progress towards a goal.
Fortunately you can measure Lean Agile adoption indirectly through for example the rate of use of agile engineering practices, number of produced defects in a release, number of support calls, voice of the customer surveys, cycle times, average number of successfully implemented improvements by the teams, having a appraisal system based on team performance and so on.
But does any of those measures indicate your adoption is successful? Probably these measures you have to put in otherwise you won’t get hired to do the job 🙂
For a successful agile adoption there are three things you need to take into account. First people must learn new practices to be able to deliver frequent high level product. Second new working agreements, new policies and the organizational structure has to change to be focussed on created value instead of utilization. Third the people themselves have to change to be able to work in and with teams, think differently about how work is done, people are managed and create a culture of continuous improvement.
So how can you measure if your adoption is successful? … you can’t! but using proxy measures such as the ones described above works quite well!