Agile metrics: Evidence Based Management (EBM) and Objective Key Results (OKR) create Flow. EBM + OKR = Flow.

Why do we measure progress and velocity? Don’t you trust us? Do you want to check us or compare us with other teams? Unfortunately these are questions I hear often as an Agile trainer and coach. “We measure to improve” is always my answer. You do it for yourself to see where things are going better and where things can be done better. You can substantiate statements such as “I think it is fine” and “it feels better” with data and facts.
Why then the resistance to measuring?

Usually this is part of the culture of the organization. If you have been judged on results so far, the positive figures are happy to be shown, but the downward trend is less transparent. If things go worse "it will probably be something else". While you can learn so much from it and thus get the motivation out of it. In addition, it benefits the flow, because you have more insight and can respond immediately.

Measure to improve

What can we measure?

Measure everything you can measure! With the immediate remark that you do not use all data immediately. Collecting a lot of data is okay, but please do targeted improvements. Focus!

Objective Key Results (OKRs)

OKRs mainly focus on output and activities. These measurements and associated improvement agreements are good for improving process flow (Lean flow - figure 1) and for getting into a flow as a person (personal flow - figure 2). Think of measuring cycle time (how long does an activity take), lead time (total turnaround time) and takt time (rhythm) or WIP (work in progress) and velocity (quantities per time unit). These measurements involve a challenge to optimize by, for example, eliminating waste.

Examples of OKR measurements are:

  • Five successful improvement actions per month,
  • 20% reduction of the findings from the acceptance test this sprint,
  • an increase of 5 storypoint in the velocity of the next sprint,
  • decrease to an average of 10 in the number of outstanding issues before 1 May,
  • halving the resolution time of outstanding problems within 2 months.

These are all examples of measurements and options for improvement. It is important to make the agreements SMART (Specific, Measurable , Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound).

Lean flow — figure 1

Personal flow — figure 2

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of Flow in the Learning Theory is described as a "mental state of full incorporation into the current experience." Flow occurs when there is a balance between how challenging a task is (difficulty) and a person’s skill level at the given task (player skill). Too difficult a task would lead to more anxiety / frustration, while too easy a task would lead to boredom.

Evidence Based Management (EBM)

EBM * focuses on outcome and added value (instead of output). In organizations where Agile methods and frameworks are used, “value driven” choices are made. So if you want something different or something extra, you must immediately indicate what is less important and what you may want to drop. So prioritize!
The use of EBM helps by linking OKRs mainly to value. Four Key Value Areas (KVAs) have been defined for this.

Evidence Based Management (EBM) - figure 3

Key Value Area (KVA)

Current Value (CV) — Measure the value delivered to the customer or user today.
Unrealized Value (UV) — Measures the value that can be realized by meeting all potential needs of the customer or user.
Ability to Innovate (A2I) — Measures the ability to deliver new capabilities that better meet the needs of a customer or user.
Time to Market (T2M) — Measures the ability to quickly deliver new capabilities, services or products.

Examples of EBM measurements:

  • CV Employee morale: a score of 4 on a scale of 5 for the team happiness by taking more time for each other during the next 2 sprints,
  • CV Stakeholder satisfaction: a higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) compared to last quarter,
  • UV new customers: a higher percentage of new customers vs existing customers this half year,
  • UV market share trends: a 2% growing market share in the next 3 months,
  • A2I new experiments: a 10% higher number of newly tried initiatives these 2 sprints,
  • A2I continuous improvement: 20% of the available time usefully spent on improvements from now on,
  • T2M Recovery Time: a 30% decrease in recovery time after MTTR error,
  • T2M Lean waste reduction: 20% more efficient and effective production in the coming six months.

EBM + OKR = Flow

Where OKRs do not offer a holistic perspective on product management and delivery performance, EBM’s Key Value Areas offer a balanced perspective of both customer and internal factors. Factors that support improvement that are badly needed in this time of disruptive change. By using OKRs in combination with EBM, it becomes clear to everyone who contributes what is expected and how we can deliver more value to the organization together. The combination of EBM and OKR creates flow, both in the process (figure 1 - Lean) and in the people (figure 2 - Personal flow). "Be SMART!".

Measurements by Ctrl Improve

Our slogan is: “What is not controlled cannot be improved”. Ctrl Improve as an organization stands for measuring, controlling and improving.
In addition to EBM and OKRs, at Ctrl Improve we also use assessments to measure the maturity of teams or organizational units. These are then focused on Lean and Agile values. You can also contact us for individual assessments to determine personal development points and goals. In this way we do everything we can to help create Flow. https://www.ctrl-improve.nl

* https://www.scrum.org/resources/evidence-based-management-guide - Download the EBM guide from Scrum.org

Accredited trainer / coach for Lean-IT, DevOps, PRINCE2, Agile PM, PRINCE2 Agile, OBM en Scrum.

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