The Reason for Metrics

The team works toward an objective of developing and releasing software according to a schedule.  The delivery date comes, and the team has not achieved the objective.  The project manager is at a loss for words. What happened? The team then informs the project manager – “we always said the time was tight”.  The team indicates they just missed the release schedule.  However, they work the new plan; the project manager finds that is delivery date is more like ten weeks out.  The project manager then learns that the team responsible for the delivery had forgotten to include the verification activities in the release so the delivery was never tight – it was impossible.

So what went wrong here?  First, we did not effectively breakdown the tasks to achieve the objective because we missed some verification activities.  Second, we did not identify the correct measurement or metrics for the activities that would have informed us earlier whether or not our team was going to make the schedule.  We needed to identify those objectives, break them down as a list and monitor the results. For example, let us consider that this team was to deliver ten new functions. We can look at the rate of achieving each function, the rate of verifying those functions and predict earlier what was likely to happen.

As a project manager, line manager or a team lead, you must understand the key metrics for the objective, and track them.  Determining these key metrics and monitoring progress is how you know what is likely to happen – not what you hope will happen.  Coming back at the end rarely if ever works.  We must review the objective evidence that will portend the delivery date and quality, not await the end of the project and then find out we are unable to deliver.

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