One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All In the previous Product Owner Wednesday article we discussed how to measure a team’s ability to build products. Since we are trying to “be agile”, not “go agile”, we made the case that focusing on only one metric to measure provides complete clarity to the team.

To be most effective, we wanted one metric that would be relevant for the entire scrum team. The product owner (PO), scrum master (SM) and development team would all be measured by this metric. (PLEASE NOTE, we purposely used the word “measure”, not “judged”. We use metrics to measure in order to find opportunities to improve, not to reward or punish. Feel free to have fun in the comments section if you feel different.)

Please let us introduce you to our favorite metric: Sprint Goal Completion %.

It is very simple:

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All

Let’s use a real example: “Team Fantastic” commits to 100 points for Sprint 1. They do really well and have 90 story points done for sprint review. The calculation is 90/100 = 0. You read that right, the team gets either a “1” for full completion or a “0” for anything less than zero.

We can feel your emotions rising. “What do you mean they get a ZERO, they got 90% of the work done?” We agree, the team did great work. But, we committed to 100 points. Our customers and our stakeholders were expecting 100 points. And agile principle #1 states “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Those last 10 points may have been extremely valuable to our customer.

Now this is only the first measurement. This is not statistically significant. Resist the urge to make any major changes at this point. Conduct your sprint retrospective, look for a single idea to improve as a team, and go to sprint 2.

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All The team progresses through the next 5 sprints. Here are the measurements:

Now it is time to share the outcome with the team. And how you share it is very important.

We do this by having a celebration. Bring in donuts and have everybody come together for an hour to have some fun. Celebrate the fact that this team has delivered 575 points of value for the customer in the last 12 weeks. Celebrate the fact that we are still talking to each other! Whatever is important to your team, celebrate it in public.

Put this metric on a board and celebrate it. Say something like: “We are so awesome that 33% of the time, we get all of the work done that we committed to. If we were major league baseball players, we would be in the hall of fame. Now we have a baseline as a team. How can we approach our work in a way that we can increase our Sprint Goal Completion %?” Sound familiar? We are having a retrospective.

We have found this metric to be extremely effective in two ways:

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All First of all, this is the most TEAM BASED Metric we have ever encountered. The Sprint Goal Completion % metric provides laser focus on team OUTCOMES. The customer only gets value when we provide a working product or feature. The customer expects we put effort and activity into this work. But they are not going to pay us for effort, they only pay for a product that provides them with a benefit.

To get work “Done for Sprint Review”, it takes coordinated effort between the Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master.

he product owner is responsible for a clear product backlog item that reflects valuable work in the eyes of our customers

The development team is responsible for asking clarifying questions; building high quality solutions; and reviewing them with the product owner as early as possible in the sprint

The scrum master is responsible for making sure the entire team is communicating and collaborating constantly

The scrum team works together daily to make progress towards the sprint goal

Using the Sprint Goal Completion % metric removes the ability to point fingers at each other:

The product owner doesn’t “get credit” for a well groomed backlog. The customer gets ZERO value from a groomed backlog.

The development team doesn’t “get credit” for a solution that meets 70% of the acceptance criteria . The customer can not use a 70% completed feature. (A Search feature works 70% of the time. Who is going to use that?)

We succeed or learn (not fail) as a team.

Secondly, this metric measures our ability to create business/customer value.

Over time, the Sprint Goal Completion % metric will provide analytically based forecasting to more accurately predict when new features will be deployed. Forecasting (aka “guessing”) when a new feature would be ready becomes basic math:

One (Agile) Metric To Rule Them All

New Feature “ABC” is 1000 story points.

Team “A” has proven the ability to complete 100 story points per sprint 90% of the time

We can draw trend lines (see image) to see the forecasted delivery dates for best and worst case scenario

We can set customer expectations for when they will have their new feature:

Best Case – 10 sprints x 2 week sprints = 20 weeks

Worst Case – 11 sprints x 2 week sprints = 22 weeks

At the end of all of this we are trying to become predictable at producing new products and features that our customers find valuable. Perfection is not the goal, but incremental improvement is attainable.

Have a valuable week!

Product Owner Wednesday: In this series we aim to share quick, yet meaningful nuggets focused on the Product Owner in an organization practicing agile. In addition to providing ideas to the Product Owner, we encourage Leaders responsible for organizational transformation and Scrum Master to read this too in order to support their Product Owners.

Thomas (Tom) Auld is the Founder and Product Owner of Auld Consulting LLC and Auld Real Estate. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at You can find previous articles here and subscribe for future updates here.

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