Careful, you might come up short.

Careful, you might come up short.

Using a single metric to represent the performance of entire team or organization is like picking a single point in space.  The team can move in an infinite number of directions from that point in their next sprint or project.  If the measure is important to the team we would assume that human nature would tend to push the team to maximize their performance. The opposite would be true if it was not important to the team. Gaming, positive or negative, often occur at the expense of other critical measures.  An example I observed (more than once) was a contract that specifies payment on productivity (output per unit of input) without mechanisms to temper human nature.  In most cases time-to-market and quality where measured, but were not involved in payment.  In each case, productivity was maximized at the expense of quality or time-to-market.  These were unintended consequences of poorly constructed contracts; in my opinion neither side of the contractual equation consequently wanted to compromise quality or time-to-market.

While developing a single metric is an admirable goal, the process of constructing this type of metric will require substantial thought and effort.  Metrics programs that are still in their development period typically cannot afford the time or effort required for developing a single metric (or the loss of organizational capital if they fail). Regardless of where the metrics program is in its development process, I would suggest an approach that develops an index of individual metrics or the use of a balanced scorecard (a group of metrics that show a balanced view of organizational performance developed by Kaplan and Norton in the 1990s – we will tackle this in detail in the future) is more expeditious.  Using a pallet of well know measures and metrics will leverage the basic knowledge and understanding measurement programs and their stakeholders have developed during the development and implementation of individual measures and metrics.

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