Is velocity a valid measure of team and process improvement?



  • I've asked this question to few scrum masters: "How do you tell, that your team is improving? How do you tell that actions taken during retrospective result in real improvement in efficiency/productivity?"

    Most answers I get are "when velocity grows". Or the opposite, when you see velocity fall, it is indication of worsening performance of the team.

    Is there any basis behind this? Can velocity be used as a metric by which the team can tell if it is improving? Or is it simply case of using the most available metric instead of looking for metric that can be shown to be related to actual improvement?

    One thing I'm worried about is that team can easily game this by simply estimating higher. So instead of task taking 2, they would give it 3. Creating an illusion of improving velocity.



  • Velocity is not a valid measure of team or process improvement.

    Velocity, especially when it is based on Story Points, is extremely unstable. By itself, Velocity doesn't reflect the capacity of the team, but capacity will limit Velocity. It's also easily disrupted by changes to the team's way of working (which includes the definition of what a Story Point is), the team's composition, and an understanding of the problem at hand. As you point out, it's also easily gamed and its instability makes it even easier to game.

    The only use for Velocity is in a very short window of time for a single team to figure out how much work can be brought into a single Sprint. Looking back too far can disrupt its usefulness. Using it as a predictive measure, especially too far into the future, is also error-prone. Trends are also error-prone.



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