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Measuring the performance of agile teams

AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT BLOG

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Introduction

In our post, which is the third part of our agile article series, we review the best-known methods for detecting and monitoring the effectiveness of agile workgroups and techniques to address identified problems.

Topics of our article series

1. Overview of the agile squad
2. The agile user story
3. Measuring the performance of the agile squad
4. Agile ceremonies with a practical eye (planned)
5. Agile Documentation…Is It Really Needed? (planned)
6. Let’s split it up, or what incremental development really is! (planned)
7. Backlog or Blacklog? (planned)
8. Let’s plan a sprint! (planned)
9. Long-term planning vs. agility (planned)
10. The agile organization with an HR perspective (planned)
11. The challenges of agility in an enterprise environment (planned)
12. Agile operation in the shadow of the home office (planned)
13. Where should agile operations be used? (planned)

The concept of the agile squad

An agile squad or agile team refers to a workgroup in the agile methodology that acts together to develop a project or product. Agile frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban, typically organize work into such teams.

Agile squads, which are usually small in number, consist of members with expertise in several fields, who work together to achieve common goals. The teams are autonomous, self-managed, and flexibly adapt to changing requirements and challenges.

In accordance with the Scrum methodology, agile teams hold so-called retrospectives at certain intervals and use tools aimed at increasing efficiency and ensuring continuous development. These solutions focus on increasing collaboration between team members so that the squad can quickly respond to changes and deliver value to the client on a regular basis.

The performance of agile squads can be measured using feedback, burndown charts, lead time and cycle time indicators, as well as user satisfaction, productivity and the general evaluation of the agile framework.

These methods help in monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of the team, in continuous development, and in the application of agile principles. However, it is important to adapt the measurements to the particularities of the given project, and to keep in mind the true goals of agility, adaptability, and client focus.

The role of Story points in agile project management

The Story point is one of the basic tools of agile project management, which is used to determine the complexity and risk of tasks or the estimated amount of work to be performed.

The Story point scale usually uses a solution based on the Fibonacci sequence (for example, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). The main advantage of this is that it provides the opportunity for team members with different expertise to develop uniform measurement methods, since each unit is the sum of the previous two units. Thus, the size of each task can be easily compared to that of other previously estimated and accepted or delivered tasks. This methodology promotes effective communication between team members and the development of a unified point of view regarding the task.

Story points make it easy to identify the complexity of a task and the time needed to complete it when compared with other tasks. This creates a relational framework that helps the team to objectively measure and prioritize. For example, if a given task is estimated at 8 Story points, while another is only at 3 points, it is clear that the first task is more than twice as complicated as the second, and accordingly it will take more time to complete.

Thus, with the help of Story points, the team can more easily decide on the sequence of tasks, as well as manage time and resources more efficiently throughout the project. As a result, they are able to continuously maximize the performance of the team and the successful outcome of the project.

Defining the complexity of the User story

Assessing the complexity of an agile User story is usually part of the coordinated activities of Scrum teams.

The following aspects can increase the accuracy of the estimates:

  • It is important for the Scrum team and the product owner to fully understand the needs and expectations related to the user story.
  • In all cases, it is necessary to identify the actors and those responsible.
  • The use of estimation points can help in measuring complexity (for example, the use of Story points).
  • It is important to take into account the relevant technical challenges, new development needs, and possible dependencies.
  • User stories are approached from different perspectives by different members of the Scrum team, including developers, designers, and the product owner. This can help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complexity.

Determining the complexity of the agile User story is therefore an iterative and coordinated process in which every member of the agile squad must take an active role. The steps mentioned above can help you define complexity more accurately and transparently.

Burn Chart and Velocity Report

The Burn Chart and the Velocity Report are two separate, yet interrelated, tools in agile project management.

Burn Chart

The Burn Chart, also known as the drawing diagram, graphically represents the team’s progress over time.

Its two main types are the Burn-down chart, which shows the remaining activities as a function of time, and the Burn-up chart, which illustrates the work already completed.

This visual representation allows the Scrum team and management to effectively track sprint progress and assess whether progress is being made within the planned time frames.

Measuring the performance of agile teams illustration

Velocity Report

The Velocity Report records the number of Story points or tasks undertaken and completed by the team in a given period (usually a sprint). This summary report helps the Scrum team to assess how much work they can complete during a sprint, which is crucial for effective planning of future sprints and proper distribution of tasks.

The Velocity Report is a useful tool in agile project management, as it supports the continuous optimization of the team’s performance and the definition of realistic goals. It can also help identify the Scrum team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as problems and obstacles affecting productivity.

In summary, Burn Chart and Velocity Report work together to maximize project success and optimize team performance.

Supporting the operation of agile squads with these tools

The analyzes listed above support the efficient operation of agile squads, as they provide a transparent picture of the team’s performance and efficiency, and also help identify areas for improvement.

How do we identify situations when it is already worth intervening in a team’s functioning and what tools can we use to do so?

It may be necessary to intervene in the functioning of agile teams when problems or challenges arise that negatively affect the performance or effectiveness of the team. And if the agile metrics presented earlier are applied correctly and consistently, these issues can be clearly identified and the impact of changes to address them can be monitored.

Some circumstances when intervention in the team’s functioning may be justified:

  • Low performance: It can indicate problems with the team’s performance if they often do not reach the set goals, fail to complete the planned User stories by the end of the sprint, and if the Burn-down chart or the Velocity Report shows that they are not able to keep the set pace.
  • Conflicts and tensions: When conflicts or tensions between team members prevent effective collaboration and work.
  • Lack of resources: When there are insufficient resources available, which jeopardizes the work or successful completion of the project.
  • Diminishing motivation and dissatisfaction: When dissatisfaction or lack of motivation among team members increases, negatively affecting their performance and the project process.
  • Quality issues: When the quality of the delivered functions or products does not meet expectations.

In such situations, a number of useful tools and approaches may be available:

  • Coaching and mentoring: Helping people to understand and solve problems and develop their skills.
  • Communication training: Managing and resolving conflicts using appropriate communication and conflict management techniques.
  • Agile Retrospectives: Regular assessments and reflections that allow the team to learn from past experiences and improve future performance.
  • Provision of resources: Continuous review and provision of resources for the team. Reassess priorities or use external partners where necessary.
  • Motivational initiatives: Recognize and reward team members for their performance and create a positive working environment and team cohesion.
  • Quality control: review and tighten quality processes and rules.

 These tools and approaches can help the team to understand and address the problems that occur and improve project processes and results. However, it is important that interventions has to be tailored to the specific needs of the team and the project.

Measuring the performance of agile teams – summary

The performance of agile teams working according to the Scrum or Kanban methodology should be measured and monitored continuously and, if possible, using exact methods also.

In this way, it can be detected in a timely manner and objectively demonstrated if intervention is needed. There are several tools and approaches to address the factors that negatively impact on efficiency.

If you have any questions about measuring the performance of agile teams, contact the banking project management and PMO experts of our company, MINDSPIRE Consulting!

Dóra Beszterci

Author

Dóra Beszterci

Consultant

Dóri has been a member of the MINDSPIRE team for more than four years. Recently she gained significant experience in the fields of international bank integration, bank mergers and branch networks.
Her tasks include supporting the project office, with particular regard to the preparation of senior management and decision-making summaries, efficient task management, and ensuring transparent operation.

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