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How Can I Improve My Scrum Team’s Velocity?

How Can I Improve My Scrum Team’s Velocity?

This is a question I get all the time: how can I improve the velocity of my Scrum team? To which I say:

Yikes - BE CAREFUL! You are falling into a common mistake: thinking that one of the goals of Scrum is an ever-increasing velocity.

It’s not.

The goal of Scrum is for a team to work at a consistent velocity and the way they do that is by working at a sustainable pace, which is defined as the pace at which they could work pretty much forever.

This is such a common misconception, not just about Scrum but agile principles in general, that when I teach my certification classes we clear this one up right away. Many people think the goal of using an agile practice like Scrum is to work faster.

That is not true.

The goal of an agile practice like Scrum is to deliver the most business value possible with the time and money you have to spend. The major benefit organizations get when doing Scrum often come from working smarter, not harder. It may feel like a team is working faster but often what they have done is eliminated low-value-add activities.

And worse, the minute you start implying to a team that the reason you are doing Scrum is to grind more work out of them, they are going to start to hate it and also probably you.

When I was a Product Owner, here were the characteristics that told me I had a “good” team:

  • they usually met their commitments made in Sprint Planning. This meant neither under or over committing
  • they delivered a more or less consistent amount of work from sprint to sprint. That made it easier for me to do release planning
  • when the commitment was in danger of not being met, they told me as soon as they knew this, so I could do “expectation management” with our stakeholders

and that is it. Estimating, tasking, deciding who would do what, etc I left to them. And I certainly didn’t pester them to somehow magically start producing more.

 

Don’t use velocity as a punitive metric. It will backfire on you in a big way.

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