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Re: Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part VII): Metrics

by wjw (Priest)
on Jul 13, 2014 at 17:05 UTC ( #1093445=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part VII): Metrics

This is an outstanding piece of work which I will refer back to. Thanks for this!

Having worked in small, loose organizations as well as large, highly structured organizations and some variations in between over the last 30+ years, I have found KPI's and other metrics primarily punitive. Human performance is subjective. Measuring a human as if they are a piece of equipment(in spec/out of spec, in tolerance/out of tolerance, effective/non-effective, efficient/non-efficient) is, to me, simply demeaning. Every one of those measurements is subjective when applied to a human.

I don't see this as a problem of measurement so much as compared to what we choose to measure. All kinds of methods are being and have been developed to measure the performance of employees, with the supposed goal of being fair and impartial. I have yet to see one which is not gamed, either by those applying the measurement or those who are measured. Show me any contrived system and I will define it as broken upon conception, because the one sure way to get ahead is to abuse a system, and thus a system will be abused.

One of the problems with any of the 'measurement' systems is that they attempt factor out the core value that humans bring to an endeavor: Diversity. Analogy: Measure every individual fruit in a fruit basket based on the same criteria. Measure apples<=>oranges<=>grapes<=>lemons<=>mango<=>etc..., all on a single scale. I don't care how intricate you make that scale, how you try to balance it. The bottom line will be that a subjective call will have to be made to accurately reflect 'value' brought by any given fruit. Try it with taste as the scale: I would venture to guess that lemon will come out below apple except for in unique cases that fall well outside of six-sigma. Then apply the scale of 'beneficial vitamin C', probably a similar result with a different winner.

Another challenge with these 'measurements' is that the 'environment' around that which your are measuring constantly changes. A good example is when contractor(s) are brought it to assist with a project. In the fruit bowl analogy, this is adding nuts to the basket of fruit. I suppose that it could be argued that nuts are a fruit, but regardless, when they are added - and subsequently removed - the measurements generally do not reflect that change. Again, the subjective is required in order to compensate for the skew not captured in the measurement scale.

That is two examples of what I have seen which convinced me that the quarterly performance review was a worthless venture(except in the rare case where I have had a manager who pencil whipped the thing with me, and then spent the next 45+ minutes discussing opportunities, problems and solutions, and generally giving me a better overview of the organizational direction and mode of operation employed to achieve goals). There are more examples, some of which are referred to in the work by eyepopslikeamosquito. The fact that there is "So Much" in that posting goes to my point from my perspective.

Productivity is not a check-list process. It is an art, not a science. An employee, regardless of whether they are the measured or the applier of measures, would be wise to examine and reflect on that list of items under the 'Agile' heading in the post. There is nothing inherently wrong with that list or the any of the individual points within it. However, to implement it as a check-list process(as I have experienced in most cases) is about as demotivating as one can get. As I generally believe that a system can't work unless all involved in the system are working within it, I have tried to work within the constraints of the systems, and generally lost because of it. Those that ride the fringes and step outside it, and are given the lee-way to do so, generally gain. Maybe I am just a loose cannon..., but I tend to ignore that which I see as broken due to complexity. And measuring human performance is as complex as it gets in my view.

One last point before I conclude(and this may come of sounding political again. It is laymen's philosophy in my view, not political): Human endeavor is a process, not a result. A given result usually involves orders of magnitude more process than we give credit for. We plan to achieve a result, then we endeavor to put in place that which will allow us to achieve the result. The result is given such an intense focus that we tend to forget the importance of process. By that I mean the tangential results of having endured the process. Those are the things that these measurements never really address. And those are the very things that bring long lasting value to the next endeavor, value to the laying out of the next plan, value to the teams and individuals that make up those teams in terms of skills and wisdom. We are in such a hurry to get that damn result, that we tend to throw out the value of having achieved it. So much effort in coming up with what to think as compared to taking the time to examine how to think...

To conclude: I do not mean in any way to take away or diminish the work or the content of the post I am responding to. As I stated up front, it is excellent and useful. In many ways, this is an unfair response:

  • The original post is well researched, my response is anecdotal.
  • The original post is well laid out and organized, my response is somewhat slapdash and probably incongruous.
  • The original post is referenced on existing works of others, my response is based on nothing but my opinion and personal experience.
  • The original post reflects some experience in a management role, I have avoided that role like the plague though have managed teams informally as part of projects I have been on.
  • The post approaches the issue(s) openly, whereas my approach is pretty narrow(probably with a bit of attitude tossed in)

I appreciate the post and the opportunity provided by this community to present my thoughts, regardless of the value or lack thereof(of my thoughts)... :-)

...the majority is always wrong, and always the last to know about it...

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results...

A solution is nothing more than a clearly stated problem...otherwise, the problem is not a problem, it is a facct

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