Behind the creation of every Agile Framework was the intention to improve the Return on Investment for creative work, primarily through faster and richer feedback. But as team-level frameworks like Scrum are internalized by large organizations, that message gets mistranslated. Instead of, “Get better outcomes, sooner,” the drive instead becomes, “Just do more, faster.”

A common expression of this problem is the confusion of Velocity for Value, where teams are directly managed based on their Output, but the connection between Output and Outcome is lost or ignored. This plays out in all kinds of ways that distract from achieving tangible results, and often incentivizes internal competition over collaboration. This problem can be especially tenacious in organizations with significant institutional ‘status-ing’ behaviors, where leadership struggles to translate common Agile methods like Relative Estimating into existing artifacts like Executive Dashboards or Earned-Value Management.

In this tutorial, participants will explore the 'Velocity Trap', and will be shown how to setup a results-driven framework that prioritizes 'Maximizing Outcomes while Minimizing Output.'

 
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Outline/Structure of the Tutorial

1) The session begins with conducting a live poll on the question of, “How is Agile Team Performance measured in your organization?” Participants use phones or other internet connected devices to enter 1-3 responses, and results being tallied into a dynamically generated WordCloud graphic. The response, “Velocity,” always becomes the most frequently reported metric.

2) “Velocity,” is explicitly defined, and we have a guided discussion about typically healthy uses for Velocity and the common anti-patterns that tend to occur where Velocity becomes the focus of Agile team performance. Examples of negative outcomes related to this are presented.

3) The distinction between Output and Outcome is presented. Approaches that encourage thinking in terms of Maximal Outcome for Minimal Output are compared (Financial metrics, Relative Weighting, Weighted-Shortest-Job-First).

4) An adapted approach to Relative Weighting, Quantitative Relative Weighting (QRW), is presented. Participants are guided in how to set up and tailor a QRW framework to the tangible outcome goals of their organizations. Examples of applying the QRW approach in large, public-sector Agile programs are presented throughout.

A link to prior version of this talk is included below.

Learning Outcome

Participants will leave with an understanding of the difference between ‘output’ and ‘outcome’, and appreciation of prioritization and measurement mechanics that emphasizing maximizing outcomes for minimal output. Participants will gain an understanding of some of the team- and enterprise-level anti-patterns that arise when output is valued in an absence of feedback on outcomes. Participants will learn counter-arguments to persuade others not to explicitly value output as a measure of team performance.

Target Audience

People wondering what they're getting from Agile Teams, People who'd rather Deliver Something than 'Do Points'

Prerequisites for Attendees

Participants should be aware that Agile teams (especially Scrum teams) commonly use Relative Estimation methods for planning, and that these approaches don’t directly translate to vestigial awareness mechanics built around concepts like ‘% complete’, Hourly-based Labor estimating, or Earned Value Management. They do not need any prior understanding of a specific Agile framework, methodology, or tool set.

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