Impact over velocity. In other words, don’t just do things. Do the right things. It seems obvious, but how many of us are guilty of deciding the success of a sprint by how many stories or story points we completed? But don’t worry. You’re not alone. Velocity is an easy number to get at, but easy isn’t always best. Or right.
Before we dive into understanding impact, let’s flip the concept. What does velocity over impact look like? If any of these apply to you, it could be a sign of trouble:
- Your team has disjointed or vague sprint goals. Your goals may have little to do with your team’s mission. Or they may be so varied or vague that they provide the team no focus, vision, or enthusiasm.
- The team has too many goals. James Carville once gave Bill Clinton this advice: “If you say three things, you say nothing.” Too many goals are noise; they’re overwhelming. Find out what’s most important, attack it with conviction and discipline, then move on to the next target. Don’t attempt to do everything all at once, or you’ll end up doing nothing.
- A disproportionate amount of sprint work has nothing to do with your goals. Maybe your goals rock. However, when you look closely, do these goals align with everything contained in your sprint backlog? If half your backlog has nothing to do with your goals, this may be a problem.
- Your velocity metric is overemphasized. In the absence of other measures of success, stakeholders associate a high number of completed story points with a high amount of impact. By extension, the team adopts a similar mindset. Remember that people don’t do what you expect; they do what you inspect.
- There’s little or nothing to demo at the sprint review. The entire team has been busy. Days have flown by because there was so much to do and never a dull moment. Yet, when it’s time to demo another increment of your product, there’s little to show your stake holders.