Play Now

This week we are staying with metrics and Manning Publications for a chat with Christopher W H Davis, author of Agile Metrics in Action, How to Measure and Improve Team Performance. Why more metrics?  Well first, the M in SPaMCAST is for metrics. Secondly, metrics are important tools for teams and organizations when used wisely. Many in the agile world hear the term metric or measure and run screaming from the room. I asked Chris if he thought combining ‘metics’ and ‘agile’ was an oxymoron – he thinks not. 

After you have listened, buy a copy of Chris’s book using the link Don’t pay full price by using the discount code podspam20 to get a 40% discount code (good for all Manning products in all formats).


Listen Now
Subscribe: Apple Podcast

Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

SPaMCAST 515 features our essay on transformation and agile metrics. 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. Metrics are a tool for getting the people and resources you need.

We also feature a visit from the Software Sensi.  Mr. Pries weights in on defining “what is quality”.  Kim mixes theory and practice to make a profound statement.

Anchoring the cast this week is Gene Hughson.  Gene writes at the Form Follows Function blog. This week we talk about a piece titled, Dependency Management – Anti-Patterns as Art from The Daily WTF.  It really is art —  but really a visualization of anti-patterns at the same time.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we conclude our re-read of The Checklist Manifesto with a few final thoughts and notes and a restatement of a checklist for a checklist that Stephen Adams contributed in the comments for Chapter 9 – they deserve more exposure.  

This is an excellent book that is very useful for anyone involved in worrying about whether work is done consistently.  My punchline, “try using a checklist because they make sure our actions matter.” I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do.  

Next week we will lay out the plan for our read of Bad Blood (buy your copy today  and support the blog and the author).  Bad Blood is a new book for me, therefore a “read” rather than a re-read.

All of the entries for our re-read of the Checklist Manifesto:

Week 11 – Concluding Notes (more…)

Picture of George Washington on dollar bill

Sometimes it is all about the money!

In our interlude, I posited that there are questions that organizations need to ask and find a mechanism to answer. Some of the feedback I received suggested that the questions weren’t agile or weren’t agile enough. To some, only the outcome matters, not the cost or the amount of time it takes to deliver the functionality requested. The perspective of a team can be very parochial, focused on delivering what is in front of them; however, their existence is tied to more than customer satisfaction.   All organizations are tied to cost and productivity. Understanding the impact and return on effort, raw material and capital within a company that is ultimately needed to deliver the organization’s products and services define ROI and profitability. (more…)

Dawn over Lake Erie

An interlude before the day begins!

I am studying for and taking tests and assessments this week, which has thrown my cadence off a bit.  This essay was intended to be a deeper dive into cost in the world of agile metrics, but studying came first.  Therefore a useful interlude:

Agile metrics are important because internal and external stakeholders have questions to which they want answers.  Agile admonishes organizations to focus on outcomes as the most critical measure of success. The statement is hard to argue with but provides an incomplete picture. Defining outcomes is useful for addressing the nuances of stakeholder questions.  Outcomes are “things” of consequence. For a development organization, regardless of external or internal focus, the “things” of consequence they deliver are features, functions or services – enabled by code. As organizations grow and mature they must start to deal with the hard questions (internally first) well before customer satisfaction falls or other stakeholders begin asking.

Questions that need to be asked and answered include:

  1. Are we delivering enough outcomes?
  2. Are we spending too much to deliver an outcome?
  3. Are we spending too much (or too little) to support our code base?
  4. Which features, modules or products are providing the highest return?
  5. Are we staffed correctly?

All of these questions are important.  Depending on where you are in your organization’s life cycle, these questions become critical.  We will discuss a framework to address these questions in the near future but until then are there other questions to add to the list?

Additional reading on return —

Metrics Minute: Return on Investment (ROI)

Metrics Minute: Return on Assets (ROA)


Listen Now
Subscribe: Apple Podcast
Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

SPaMCAST 486 features our interview with Daniel S. Vacanti.  Mr. Vacanti is the author of Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction.  We discussed the concepts in the book, answered a question from Steven Adams, and talked about his new book.  It was great to talk about a book with the author after the re-read.

Daniel Vacanti’s Bio:

Daniel Vacanti is a 20-plus year software industry veteran who has spent most of his career focusing on Lean and Agile practices.  In 2007, he helped to develop the Kanban Method for knowledge work and managed the world’s first project implementation of Kanban that year.  He has been conducting Lean-Agile training, coaching, and consulting ever since. In 2011 he founded ActionableAgileTM (previously Corporate Kanban) which provides industry-leading predictive analytics tools and services organizations that utilize Lean-Agile practices.  In 2015 he published his book, “Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability”, which is the definitive guide to flow-based metrics and analytics. Daniel holds an M.B.A. and regularly teaches a class on lean principles for software management at the University of California Berkeley.

Contact Information:

Twitter:  @danvacanti





Re-Read Saturday News
We will begin the full-scale re-read of L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! next week and I am stoked. Buy your copy and listen to the interview I did with Mr. Marquet (SPaMCAST 202) to get involved in the re-read.  I am going to lead the re-read from my 2012 (7th printing) copy.  The book has 29 chapters, not including the forward, a cast of characters, index, afterword, and a glossary. The book is an easy read because Marquet is such an excellent communicator.  My intent is to knock out the preface material next week and then begin delivering 2 chapters per week. If my estimating ability holds true, we will complete our re-read in 18 weeks. I expect to miss two weeks due to travel. (more…)

Cover of Actionable Agile Metircs

A New Copy!

The Oscars are being announced March 4, 2018. At some point in the process, someone will call for the envelope and boom: the big reveal. So in the spirit of the moment, we have our next book for the Re-read Saturday. We will begin re-reading Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet in two weeks. I have interviewed Mr. Marquet twice for the podcast; I have gotten a ton from his books and the interviews, so I am pumped. I also want to announce the book after that, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (I recently bought a copy and want to share what I have gotten out of it). Now on with the main attraction!

The title of Chapter 16 is Getting Started, in Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today). The never-ending journey of process improvement needs to begin at the beginning. In this chapter, Vacanti lays out an outline for adopting a process improvement approach that uses the metrics discussed earlier in the book. (more…)

A New Copy!

Before we dive into Chapter 15  (two chapters left, and chapter 17 is a case study!), I want to alert you to the poll at the end of this entry.  It is time to choose the next book in the re-read series. Feel free to start a write-in category.

Chapter 15 is titled, Monte Carlo Methods Introduction in Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today).  FYI, I interviewed Daniel Vacanti and will post the interview at the conclusion of the re-read (it was wicked cool). (more…)

A New Copy!

One note to start with: we are on Chapter 14 today out of 17. So, after today, we have approximately four more weeks. As a result, we will have to choose another book in the next couple of weeks.  I have received some suggestions, and I have also asked the interviewees that appeared in the Software Process and Measurement Podcast in 2017 which was the most impactful book they have read. I would also like your input. What do you suggest that we read next?  

Chapter 14 is titled Introduction to Forecasting in Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today)

One of the definitions of predictability is the ability to make a quantitative forecast about the future state of a process. In this light, a forecast is just a calculation about the probability of the occurrence of some future event; an estimate might be a forecast. At one point in my career, the group I was part of had to collect data on a nightly file maintenance process so we could determine whether the process could finish within the required time window.   (more…)


A New Copy!

Chapter 13, Pull Policies, of Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today) begins Part 4: “Putting It All Together for Predictability” . Pull policies define how work is accepted by a team and gets worked on. Pull policies are important because they affect cycle time and predictability.

Chapter 13 Pull  policies

Almost everyone that has been introduced to the concepts of flow,  kanban, or scrumban has been introduced to the idea of class-of-service (CoS).  Arguably, if you have ever stood in a line only to see someone go around the line understands different classes of service. A family member works in the airport, they always go to the head of the queue; airport employees are a class of service.  Vacanti uses the airport example in great detail at the beginning of the chapter to illustrate the impact of classes of service. I suggest reading the example at least twice before you finally put the book away (it is that good).  

Class of service is “a policy or set of policies around the order in which work items are pulled from a given process once those items are committed to.”   (more…)

Is value limited?

Organization or team decides to embrace agile and lean techniques for many reasons. Arguably there may be a disconnect between the reasons why people say they are addressing a method and the real reason.  How people are incented (paid or bonused) and how people are measured might be more a accurate representation. For example, if product cost in important to an organization, measures will have a systems perspective; however, if cost is important without a systems perspective the focus may be on the cost of components or individual components. The nine of the most commonly mentioned reasons for adopting agile are all can be measured however, some attributes are more or less difficult to measure. Common metrics include (note we will come back to how useful each is in the next entry in this series): (more…)