Before we dive in – let’s begin a new poll for the next book in our Re-read Saturday.  I have had a number of suggestions:

Pick two and we will start on the top choice!  Note: There are two books on the list that will be first reads for me (I will let you guess).  All of these books are very relevant to agile, lean and process improvement.

Whether you like the word transformation or not, many in the process improvement and agile communities help to facilitate change. Involvement in any non-trivial change effort requires resources, people, support and the expenditure of political capital. If change uses an organization’s people and assets someone will ask what the return on those assets are and whether those assets could return more if used elsewhere. I can tell (and often have told) a great story about the impact of a good working environment, doing the right work, and good processes. The response I get to my rationale on the value of being agile is ‘can you prove it.’ Can you prove it’ translates directly into ‘can you measure it’, and ‘are those measures meaningful?’ A model for answering that question that I am sketching out at a program or organization level has to answer the following questions:

1. Are we delivering more outcomes?

Every organization has a backlog of wants and needs. Delivering more outcomes, more functionality, is a critical ask of every executive. The metric throughput provides a view into this category.

2. Are we delivering outcomes faster?

How quickly can we get an idea to market or solve an internal business need is one of the most basic measures of success.  Faster, all things being equal, is typically better. The metric cycle time talks to how stakeholders perceive time

3. Is the transactional cost of an outcome lower?

Whether you have to write a check or provide the budget, the question of how much will it cost will always come up.  The pressure will always be on reducing the cost. Cost per unit of work for commissioning and acquiring (in all forms) functionality answers this question.

4. Are we doing the work with the highest value?

Value represents the intersection doing the right work with the highest value to the business and the price the business is willing to pay. The dreaded ROI or ROA calculations rear their heads again in this category.  A measure of alignment is often required as a way of qualifying value (for example, buying and selling real estate may have a high value but might not be aligned to corporate goals if you are restaurant chain).

5. Is the work that we are delivering higher quality?

There are many facets to quality; however, the question at the heart of most organizational quality conversations is best measured as the observed impact the product has on those that use it. Defects or complaints measure lack of quality (this is an after-the-fact measure).

6. Are our stakeholders more satisfied?

The insights the metric net promoter generates are reflections of customer satisfaction with the delivered functionality (and the services that support the functionality).

The six questions represent categories of measures and metrics.  In many cases, there are degrees of covariance between the categories so that one category isn’t locally maximized while ignoring the negative impact on another category. For example, in extreme circumstances an organization may focus on the reduction of cost by reducing the number of people working on a project. Reducing the number of people (or teams) will almost certainly slow the work down (i.e. increase cycle time).  Checks and balances are important in any measurement approach.