TechCast #95 – Doc Norton on Agile Metrics – “Velocity is Not the Goal”

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An outspoken critic of the way I.T. companies organize their projects, Doc Norton will be a speaker at Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise. His talk is called Agile Metrics: Velocity is NOT the Goal. His company, CTO2, helps companies implement Agile development practices. Today, Ken and Doc discuss some of Doc’s most recent opinion pieces on his blog, docondev.com.

You can learn more about Philly ETE, the developer-friendly, Chariot-sponsored conference here.

We Talk to Doc About:

  • His background as a software engineer. After doing development for a number of years, an exposure to XP (extreme programming) started getting him thinking more about how software companies run projects and lead teams. His interest in XP lead him to an interest in Agile methodologies, and now he specializes in helping companies get agile.
  • Doc’s fundamental suspicion of anyone who calls themselves an expert.
  • The danger of an “implementation” mindset when applying agile to your company. Doc argues that you can’t just read a book on agile and apply it practice-for-practice to your team – real implementation requires observation, adjusting, and repeating. Coalescence ought to trump compliance – agile is not a rigid set of practices, it’s about coming to a better understanding about the unique needs of your company and adjusting accordingly.
  • That agile should initially look different for different teams, and standardization of agile practices are not a first-stage thing.
  • His talk, which takes a hard look at the metric of velocity: that it’s not a good short-term predictor, and that it doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the system that produced an end result. He’ll be diving into the dangers around the use of metrics in general, and focusing on other factors that that are more indicative of root problems on teams. When a team focuses on those factors, Doc believes, velocity will begin to stabilize. But if a team focuses on velocity first, it’s lead to adverse ends.

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