Exploring Measurement: Cultural Issues, Metrics vs. Indicators, Launching a Program, and Controlling Costs/Time


Join Construx Senior Fellow Erik Simmons and Mark Griffin as they discuss the ins and outs of metrics for software teams. To kick-off, they draw a distinction that can help alleviate overarching concerns about metrics and measurement in general: operational measurement (How are we doing? Metaphor: dashboard) and aspirational measurement (What’s our progress toward our goals? Metaphor: map). The remainder of the episode addresses realities within the dashboard context.

The first unfortunate reality is that few organizations do any measurement. Culture plays a large role here, specifically a lack of trust. Erik describes how trust is created and the three principle factors in trust: ability, benevolence, and integrity. Without these, people cannot trust one another and measurement will fail. A second cultural issue is the restriction of measurement to the perception of effort and to resource utilization—none of the benefits of really good metrics and indicator programs can come from that. Even worse is the use of metrics for penalization. In fact, the irony of such misuse or lack of measurement within the larger context of Agile and Lean methodologies is that those methods are all about inspecting and adapting for continuous improvement, which require good, trustworthy, safe measurement.

Erik and Mark continue by defining the following specific elements of a measurement program: a measure, a metric, an indicator (sentinel indicator vs. rate-based indicator). They also discuss the importance of leading metrics/indicators vs. trailing ones.

The conversation continues with a description of how to envision, launch, and run an effective measurement program, including setting priorities, matching metrics to the nature of your work, and setting appropriate scales for your measurements (naturalscale, and proxy). Erik and Mark discuss techniques for ensuring that your measurement program is both valuable and cost-effective. Erik concludes by describing specific metrics-related work with Construx clients.