Are You a Good Scrum Team? Prove it...


At a current client, we are in the middle of their fourth, two-week sprint. The scrum team is working through the normal issues.

  • How do we find the "right" amount of work to bring into sprint planning?

  • How do we stay connected during the sprint when questions arise?

  • How do we know if the product backlog is refined "enough".

  • How do we know if we are getting better at building our product?

The last question is our focus for today. One of my favorite things about agile is we use real world metrics.

  • We build a hypothesis: We can get 20 product backlog items done this sprint

  • We do some work: We actually got 10 product backlog items done this sprint

  • We measure to see how we did: 10 out of 20 = 50% sprint goal completion

So, did the team do well in this scenario? Some comments shared by the scrum team:

  • "50% is a "F" in school"

  • If my manager sees 50% completion, I will get killed on my annual assessment"

  • "If I was a major league baseball player, I would be a hall of fame player with a .500 batting average"

We talked through this feedback using these two ideas:

  1. Facts are not controversial

  2. Metrics are not judgments, they are measurements

The scrum team was more concerned about the reaction to the metric, not the metric itself.


As agile leaders we need to take the stigma out of failure and a "low" metric score. We commit to continued improvement. That means we know we are not perfect at the beginning. We won't even be perfect after a year. But we will be better. And we will get better and getting better.

So back to the current scrum team situation:


How do we track our progress as an entire team? A metric that values the work of the Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master?


At our last retrospective, we had an open conversation about this. The scrum team (PO/SM/DT) came up with a proposal for a dashboard that had twelve metrics they identified.


My question to them: "How would you force rank the twelve metrics, 1 through 12?"

  • It took 4 minutes to decide the #1 most important metric.

  • It took 3 minutes to decide the #12 most important metric.

  • During the next 48 minutes no more consensus was reached. It was a knock-down, drag-out, almost name calling fight.

The product owners wanted "credit" for having stories "ready" in the backlog.

The scrum master wanted "credit" for completed "kaizens"

The development team wanted "credit" for work that changed during the sprint.


Luckily it was the end of the day and we went to happy hour together to celebrate the successful end of the sprint.


After sprint planning for the next day was complete, the team asked for 30 more minutes to discuss this metric topic. I started the conversation with this question: "Who do we work for?"


Answers ranged from "Our Company", "Our Team", to "Our Family". A development team member wrote "Customer" on a sticky note and put it up on the discussion board. The room went uncomfortably silent.


"None of the proposed dashboard metrics reflect our Customer" said the scrum master. "We should probably change that..."


Next week's Product Owner Wednesday will share the one metric the team decided to focus on. Subscribe here


How are you measuring success? Are you measuring activities or outcomes? Please put your ideas in the comments and let's start a discussion.


The 21st-century is a fundamentally different operating environment for business. Why are you still using training and consulting services that have not evolved in 30 years? Five year roadmaps and three month organizational assessments are out-of-date the minute they are printed.






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