Sunday, June 28, 2009
Velocity: Why don't people know how much Scrum teams can get done?
The velocity of the Scrum team is the number of story points they can turn into working code at the end of a sprint. This is used by the Product Owner to create a release plan with a realistic date. The investors at OpenView Venture Partners released that all the GANTT charts they were seeing at board meetings were wrong because the senior management did not know the velocity of their teams.
The image above shows a blue ball with a lower position than the red ball. However, the blue ball velocity is going up and the red ball is stable. Scott Young makes a profound argument that you would be a better person if you based your life on a velocity based paradigm. See his comments on "Balancing Today and Tomorrow."
All great Scrum teams triple their velocity by removing impediments and the best teams do it in three sprints. If they continue to improve engineering practices they will stabilize at 5 times the velocity of a waterfall team. We see this consistently in case study after case study. And this is at less than 40 hours a week because if they work more they slow down.
So why are teams uncomfortable with velocity? Some teams have dysfunctional management that will use it against them. So root case analysis will reveal that management is destroying the Scrum. Go work for another company!
Some companies say they have stopped using the burndown chart because it depresses the developers as they fail all the time. Hire new developers!
50% of the companies who say they are doing Scrum can't get working software at the end of a Sprint so their velocity is zero. So that might be a reason for not calculating velocity.
Of the remaining 50%, over half of them can't pass the Nokia test so they would have very low velocity (if they knew it).
At OpenView Partners we invest in teams that know their velocity and we look at a plan presented by management who doesn't know the velocity of the teams as complete fiction. Competent managers have plans supported by real velocity data.
Maybe there are other reasons people don't know their velocity?
Posted by Jeff Sutherland at 2:21 PM