Key Metrics for Improvement: More, Faster, Quality

Erez Morabia
4 min readJun 13, 2024

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Here are a few recommended and powerful agile metrics to help transform teams into high-performing units: more delivery, faster delivery, and delivery quality.

More delivery can be effectively monitored using velocity charts. Look for an increasing trend over time. Opportunities to increase velocity exist regardless of whether you use story points, time estimation, or simply count the delivered backlog items.

Faster delivery should be tracked using a control chart of cycle time, aiming for a decrease in average cycle time as time progresses.

Delivery quality can be assessed with defect trend charts, seeking a downward trend in defects over time.

These three metrics provide valuable insights and opportunities for improving team performance. It’s advisable to observe these metrics every couple of sprints, focusing on the trends rather than the absolute numbers, as continuous improvement is the ultimate goal. Each of those graphs should have insights that can direct the teams to the main challenges and provide opportunities for improvement.

Achieving Harmony: Balancing Amount, Speed, and Quality

These metrics — more delivery, faster delivery, and delivery quality — complement and balance each other, providing a holistic view of team performance. Delivery amount focuses on the quantity of work completed, ensuring the team maintains productivity. Delivery speed, measured through cycle time, emphasizes efficiency by tracking how quickly tasks are completed, driving the team to streamline processes. Delivery quality, monitored through defect trends, ensures that the work produced meets high standards, preventing a drop in performance due to an excessive focus on quantity or speed. By balancing these metrics, teams can achieve a harmonious improvement, maintaining a steady output while enhancing efficiency and ensuring the highest quality of deliverables.

Measuring What Matters: Focusing on Stakeholder Backlog Items

It’s recommended to measure these metrics primarily on stakeholder backlog items, as our teams should focus on providing value to our customers, which is reflected in these items. By concentrating on stakeholder content rather than internal R&D activities, we place greater emphasis on being value-driven rather than effort-driven. This approach ensures that the team’s efforts align with delivering tangible value to the market, ultimately leading to more meaningful and impactful outcomes.

Example of a Monthly Report

I’m sharing here a monthly report of one of the teams I worked with. I chose a team and a period of time that had some interesting insights.

More Delivery (Velocity)

Insights

  • The average velocity is 35 SPs for the last 6 sprints which is an increase since our last report. This is a result of an increased amount of backlog items provided by the product management (R&D was in a starvation of backlog items a few sprints ago).
  • The ratio between product management content vs internal R&D activities is 45% vs 55% (in the last 6 sprints) which has improved since our last report.

Faster Delivery (Cycle Time)

Insights:

  • The average cycle time is 13 days which indicates it takes more than one sprint to finish a user story.
  • This statistic is caused by the fact that the last 3 months were full of dragged stories due to a lack of QA environment availability caused by holidays time (expected situation) and blocked product management content (unexpected).
  • Based on the reasons above we can expect to see improvement in our cycle time in the coming months and get back to having 1 sprint to user story delivery, on average (cycle time of 10 days).

Delivery Quality

Insights:

  • The defect trend shows we are on zero bugs policy.

Conclusion

These three agile metrics — more delivery amount, faster delivery, and delivery quality — are simple yet incredibly powerful tools for team improvement. By tracking delivery amounts with velocity charts, delivery speed with cycle time control charts, and delivery quality with defect trend charts, teams gain comprehensive insights into their performance. These metrics not only highlight opportunities for continuous improvement but also balance the focus between quantity and quality, ensuring a well-rounded approach to enhancing team effectiveness.

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