Managers who have invested effort and money in training teams in Agile methods want to see team improvement–reasonable enough. I describe a handful of measures that indicate the organization is improving over all in posts( here and here.

Some of these measures can apply to team improvement.  For example, defects trending down indicates improvement. So does the  ratio of value work to fixing work going up. Improvement in team practices also shows positive movement.

But, teams don’t exist in a vacuum.

Part of team improvement comes from the way a team works together. Another part comes from their approaches to work, and their skills. Equally important, though, is the environment the team works in.

P=f(p,e) where P= performance, p=people, e=environment.

Teams can only improve so much, unless the environment also improves.

Look at the Team + Their Environment

Rather than look only at team results, also evaluate whether the environment that supports the team’s work is improving.  When teams aren’t improving as  hoped, this is where I start looking. So, what makes up the team environment?

Team composition and stability. Are the teams appropriately cross-functional? What is the frequency of membership changes?  Don’t expect improvement for poorly designed teams or pseudo-teams.

How work flows into teams. Are teams pulling work, or is management pushing? Are stories/features well-formed and customer facing? How much new work creeps in during a sprint?

Trends in dependencies between teams. Are POs working to reduce dependencies? Are the teams organized to reduce hand-offs and dependencies?

Clarity of the product visions and team mission. Is it clear what problem they are solving/benefit they are creating for which people? Do teams have clearly articulated missions? Are those missions independent?

Adaptive planning.  Are POs and Management adjusting their expectations based on team capacity?

I expect team performance to improve with agile methods. But if you really want high-performance you need to  improve the entire system. And that is management work.

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