Agile antipattern: Comparing velocity between teams

I recently saw an excellent blog post about iteration velocity.  Good reading in general, but the last paragraph really got my attention and is why I’m writing this blog post.  Do NOT compare velocities between teams!  All teams will size (or estimate) with a slightly different scale.  When I teach a course on agile I tell teams to size using points, not hours or ideal days (a blog post for another time).  This means each team determines for their situation what a size “1” and all other sizes will be.  They are going to be different.

If you start measuring teams against each other by comparing velocities you will get what you measure.  Teams will start changing their scale so their velocity increases each iteration.  Suddenly what was a size 1 last iteration is now a size 3 (or worse!).  Don’t fall into this trap.  If teams are working hard, meeting their iteration objectives and keeping the product owner happy I don’t care if their velocity is 10 or 10,000.

Until next time I’ll continue warning managers about this practice so it won’t adversely affect their teams which are Making Agile a Reality™.

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  1. Nice post and great point. You get what you measure!!!
    We need to help people move away from the era of the simplistic mindset for motivation by sweet carrot/sharp stick. Systems must reward output and patterns of behavior that lead to sustainability. We should view teams as systems that have different performances and outputs on different landscapes. These teams are expensive to assemble and tune up. Once you have one of these valuable assets foolish measurement systems will ruin them. And that is fiscally irresponsible!!

  2. Nice post and great point. You get what you measure!!!
    We need to help people move away from the era of the simplistic mindset for motivation by sweet carrot/sharp stick. Systems must reward output and patterns of behavior that lead to sustainability. We should view teams as systems that have different performances and outputs on different landscapes. These teams are expensive to assemble and tune up. Once you have one of these valuable assets foolish measurement systems will ruin them. And that is fiscally irresponsible!!

Bob Hartman

Known as Agile Bob, brings over 30 years of experience and broad industry knowledge cultivated by serving in almost every role in the software industry including developer, tester, documentation writer, trainer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, senior software engineer, development manager and executive. Over the past 15 years Bob has grown from being an early adopter of Agile to his current status as a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) and Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and an expert in training, coaching and mentoring across all areas of Agile development. Bob is a popular speaker, having spoken at numerous major conferences, seminars, workshops and user group meetings where his engaging style, holistic view of development and personal anecdotes are always well received by attendees.

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