How to Measure What Matters

To measure what matters first requires that you understand what matters most to your customers, leaders, and managers. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for Agile Teams John Doerr, in his bestselling book Measure What Matters, popularized the concept of OKRs and defined it as, “A management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses […]

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To measure what matters first requires that you understand what matters most to your customers, leaders, and managers.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for Agile Teams

John Doerr, in his bestselling book Measure What Matters, popularized the concept of OKRs and defined it as, “A management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization.” So, the purpose of OKRs is to get everyone on the same sheet of music, playing the same song, and to create and execute harmoniously across the organization.

Jazz musicians have OKRs for each show they perform. They focus on a few objectives and their key priorities. Before a performance, jazz musicians will focus on play music that will engage and delight their audience. They want to help their fans forget about their troubles and get lost in the music—music that melts away their challenges, disappointments, and frustrations. They want to take their audience on a musical journey with them to experience the healing and spiritual power of music.

Most musicians focus on improving in three ways:

1. Getting better on their chosen instrument through practice, with a passion for the art of mastery.

2. Engaging, listening, and connecting in a way that transcends their performance and musical moments. They sync up in a way that they know what the other musicians are thinking, feeling, and envisioning about the music without words. It is all about connecting on a much deeper level. Communicating with each other and the audience’s soul.

3. And finally, delivering outstanding performance through supporting, collaborating, and expressing their love of music. Performing is about transmitting your passion and love for your art into the mind, soul, and spirit of the listeners. It is the reason you have to move when you hear your favorite band or song. You know, “Listen to that—they’re playing my jam!”

To become a high-performing agile team, you have to measure your progress in the same way. You have to measure your progress individually, and you have to measure your progress as a team.

As an individual, you are tracking your improvement in your skills, how much code is being written, how many bugs are the testers finding in your code, and how many processes are being optimized. Progress is measured by your specific role in the project and how efficient and effective you are in contributing to the team.

As a team, you are measuring how the team is performing. How many user stories are being completed in each sprint? Are our customer satisfaction scores improving? Or, are we increasing the team velocity in completing the backlog requirements?

One of the best ways to measure your progress and understand what matters is to consistently take an assessment of your team’s progress on the key attributes or characteristics of a high-performing agile team. This can be done throughout the organization and for each team during the agile sprint reviews and retrospectives. In the scrum method of managing agile projects, the agile team along with the product owner, key business users, and technical managers perform a ceremony called the sprint review and retrospective. During these sessions, the team reviews what was accomplished during the previous sprint and reflects on what is working, what is not working, and what needs to be improved on the project.

The sprint review and retrospective is a perfect time to conduct an assessment that measures critical components of a high-performing agile team. This assessment can be leveraged to assess how your team is performing in the following areas:

• The degree of stakeholder’s satisfaction and commitment.

• The team understand how the project is aligned with the business and that business value is being realized.

• Ability to deliver user stories and backlog items predictability through managing the work and schedule during each sprint reliably.

• Epics, features, users’ stories, and tasks are decomposed to manage the scope realistically and in a controlled manner.

• Backlog refinement activities follow a standard and proven process that enables the team to be clear about their definition of done and agree on the acceptance criteria.

Then assess whether the team has high trust and respect for each other and is a high level of emotional intelligence:

• Individual team members take ownership and are accountable for their work.

• Risks are being mitigated through knowledge sharing and mindful reflection from team member experience.

• The delivery organization is excellent in learning, innovating, and continuous improvement.

• Costs and budgets are controlled through the team’s self-governing accountability practices.

• A culture of excellence is visible through the agile process.

If you are wondering how your team is doing right now, then go to the following URL and have your team complete the workplace jazz high-performing agile team assessment now. You will discover where your team is at on this high-performing agile team maturity curve.

High-Performing Agile Team Assessment: https://principlesofexecution.nsvey.net/ns/n/HighPerformingTeams.aspx

Business is turning into jazz; it moves along the same path of improvisational, creative flow—a union of minds and souls. Because business and entrepreneurship have become so fluid and creative, an entirely new type of leadership is needed, one that sees the organization as a symphony of gifted players and not a roomful of worker bees. Those days are dead and buried. Anyone who cannot see that does not stand a chance.

Gerald leonard
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