Lessons learned from measuring 32 Sprints
Staying with one team as a Scrum Master for a longer period of time gives you an advantage — you can observe, measure and analyze a broad range of metrics and make improvements.
Yet, even the most carefully chosen metrics may run flat or the best thought improvements might miss their targets. What would your 2-years older, wiser self suggest you prevent it?
Add context to measurements
You sure remember THAT dip in KPIs from last Spring, right? But do you still remember what had preceded and what actions you took afterward? You might find it helpful to have some context for values in the history of your team. Describe the circumstances of the previous Sprint and note what improvements you have made, with what expectations (pro tip: link a page with notes from the Retrospective you compile after each Sprint).
Measure what is important
It’s sure fun to track how much coffee has been drunk or how many times you have wiped your board. To keep motivation for measurements (we still talk long-term, like years) high, focusing on those parts which you address with your team’s outputs seems like a better option.
The best place to start is product visions, strategy documents or pitch decks. Chances are, that someone has already made their homework and these texts will provide you with the guidance to what is important. Hopefully, at least from the business perspective, hopefully also from the perspective of clients or users.
Measure only actionable areas
Now when you understand what is important to measure and observe, let’s add one more criterium — if this is an area that you may influence.
Your focus should stay within those criteria you are able to directly affect, mostly those, where you will be able to provide actions and results. Actions mean that changes will happen. And Measuring KPIs will further support you to quantify the impact of these changes.
Simple rules apply here as well — fewer metrics to track is better. If you haven’t tracked anything so far, I would go for 2-3 areas at most, otherwise, 5 might be still manageable.
Hopefully, you are planning to stay with one team long-term, so you will have enough time to try various experiments, changes, improvements. And by all means, you should! Most of the learning for both you and your team will come from experiment. That is regardless of if an experiment ended in success or you opted to not repeat it.
Spoiler alert regarding experiments — going for long-term, positive results will add up and negative/unsuccessful will not matter that much. So, don’t worry to mix field-tested, by-the-books know-how with some experimental or gut feeling ideas.
It’s OK to skip
Unplanned circumstances may prevent you to mark down results here and there. It is no big deal unless these measurements supposed to provide you with a critical reflection on your previous efforts. Otherwise, you may miss a crucial opportunity to learn quickly from improvements.
Old, traditional management wisdom pretty well summarizes notion to KPIs. If you want improvements, start measuring (in small). And most importantly, take action, observe and learn!
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” — Peter Drucker