Velocity--A little talk on what it is and isn’t, and how to make it meaningful

Scrum relies heavily on Velocity for planning and performance improvements. Let's talk about what it really means, some anti-patterns and good practices.

One of the more abstract concepts in Agile is how to use Story Points and Velocity. It seems pretty straightforward in concept--assign each work unit (story) relative points; at the end of the sprint count up how many points you completed and plan that number for next sprint. But in practice...

Do points represent days? Complexity? What if something is easy to develop but hard to test? Maybe a task is UI heavy or back-end heavy? Should all teams in an organization use the same scale? What happens when the team composition changes?

One of the most common challenges is how velocity is viewed outside the Scrum team. Why is Team A's velocity 70 while Team B's is 90? How can we increase velocity to 90? Of course the team can and will fix that just by changes the SPs assigned to each task--that three-point story is now magically worth five; how did that happen?

Points and Velocity are just tools. Learn some ways to not let them take over.

 
 

Outline/Structure of the Lightning Talk

“How fast?” is a Physics question, so let’s abuse the analogy

  • Speed is a number. Velocity is speed + direction. Vector math. They said there would be no math? They lied.
  • Usually we are talking about Average Velocity over several sprints. If you insist on extrapolating single points of data, you will be swiped left.
  • Terminal Velocity—you are moving as fast as you can, restrained by outside forces (at least until the ground intervenes). Further changes may not affect velocity n a positive way, but could improve quality.
  • Inertia—unless you make a change, velocity won’t. New KPI—Project Gravitational Mass (the calculation involves wave equations and a kitten; don’t worry, there’s a plugin for Excel).
  • Escape Velocity—speed needed to leave the gravity well of institutional mass (XKCD gravity wells).
  • Relativity—Sprint time is relative, when viewed from the outside. Management always wants it to be consistent across teams, and always faster.

Why does understanding the different ways of thinking of Velocity matter? Because what gets measured becomes the thing that is managed

  • How Velocity used and abused
  • Predictability
  • Motivation
  • Process improvement measurement

Learning Outcome

Ways to defend Velocity from being abused

Target Audience

Those beginning or in the middle of Agile transformations

Prerequisites for Attendees

Nothing

schedule Submitted 1 year ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • George Dinwiddie
    By George Dinwiddie  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    I like these aspects of the submission, and they should be retained:

    • velocity is oft-misused

    I think the submission could be improved by:

    • writing a description that lets attendees know if this session fits their situation, and what benefits they will likely obtain by attending. Sell your session in the description.
    • Bruce Telford
      By Bruce Telford  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks, George!  Updated.  Is that better?


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