Skip to main content

Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD) a leadership Metric

A rant on Metric's I wish I had written...  so I'm going to just include it by reference and call it my own.

One thousand Words on Metrics

Here's a quote to get you even more interested in clicking that link...


In short, I find most grasping for metrics to be a reliable metric for lack of understanding of human behavior, not only that of those who would be measured but that of those who would do the measuring.
If a higher-up wants a metric about a team, say, as an input to their judgment about whether the team’s work is satisfactory, oughtn’t there be some other way to tell?
And if I choose nearly any metric on someone else’s behalf, doesn’t that reveal my assumption that I know something about how they do their good work better than they do?
Or worse, that I prefer they nail the metric than do something as loose and floppy as “good work”? 
Well - will you look at that!  Yareev's even willing to apply his own metric to his work.  What a great example of a leader...

Let’s try that again

New metric (expiration = next subhead, privacy = public): I’m 0 for 1 on satisfying conclusions to this post.
I’m hardly an expert on human behavior. If I were one, rather than being passive-aggressive and obstructive, I’d have a ready step to suggest to metrics-wanters, one that they’d likely find more desirable than metrics.
Instead I have to talk myself down from passo-aggro-obstructo, by which time they’ve chosen what they’ll observe and the ready step I can offer is limited to encouraging them to observe the effects of their observation.
Can you give me some better ideas?
Here's my very special response to his request for comments.

   I'm wanting to +1 your whole rant, I'd like to nail it to the front doors, I'm thinking about a tattoo, but unsure where on my leader's body it should go...

   I have sometimes fantasied about asking the VP that want's a new metric, if it would be good for us to add one that measured their leadership of our group - I'll call this metric Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD).  MTD is calculated much like the old factory sign that said:
 "its been 1023 days since we killed someone at this factory, please be safe."
   So let's start counting (I suggest in weeks) the time between a major disruption to the team.  For this basic metric we are looking at team formation dynamics (your familiar with Tuckman's Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) and you Mr. VP desire the P word - but it comes after 3 stages of development beyond the F word).

   Let's start at the beginning and count weeks between Forming and ReForming.  You know like when you move a person on/off a team.  When you move the team's physical location, or when you give the team a new objective, then let's reset the clock.

   The metrics I've seen range from MTD = 0 to about 20 weeks for many teams I've worked with.  And Mr. VP says they desire persistent teams.

I would have put it on his site in the comments but I got a very dissatisfied error message from the system when I posted it... (wonder if he has a metric for failed comments?).

Agile in 3 Minutes  a podcast that discusses a journey toward agility (each episode in exactly 3 minutes).  I'm pondering... why does the magic number 3 come up in the Agile community so often?  Personally I feel it has to do with the Book of Armaments, chapter 2, verse 9 to 21; because 5 is right out!

See Also:
Team Metrics - Case Study
How could we measure Team Happiness?
Metrics for a Scrum Team  but don't confuse that post with Scrum Team Metrics which discusses the necessary and sufficient metric Velocity.
Do you really need a Project Management Office? (PMO effectiveness metrics)

Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.

In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.

Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    To Do
    Work In P…

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

What belongs on the Task Board?

I wonder about these questions a lot - what types of task belong on the task board?  Does every task have to belong to a Story?  Are some tasks just too small?  Are some tasks too obvious?  Obviously some task are too larger, but when should it be decomposed?  How will we know a task is too large?

I answer these questions with a question.  What about a task board motivates us to get work done?  The answer is: T.A.S.K.S. to DONE!

Inherent in the acronym TASKS is the point of all tasks, to get to done.  That is the measure of if the task is the right size.  Does it motivate us to get the work done?  (see notes on Dan Pink's book: Drive - The surprising Truth about what motivates us) If we are forgetting to do some class of task then putting it on the board will help us remember.  If we think some small task is being done by someone else, then putting it on the board will validate that someone else is actually doing it.  If a task is obvious, then putting it on the board will take vi…

A T-Shaped 21st Century Knowledge Worker

Knowledge workers in the 21st Century must have many areas of deep knowledge, while also be capable of collaboration across multiple other domains with dissimilar T-shaped individuals.  This description of a person is a metaphor.  Compare it to the shape of the "I" in the classic saying there is no "I" in Team.

I first read about Scott Ambler's term "Generalizing Specialist" - but it's so hard to remember the proper order of the words... get it backwards and it has an inverted meaning... T-Shaped is easier to remember. 
A generalizing specialist is someone who:
Has one or more technical specialties (e.g. Java programming, Project Management, Database Administration, ...). Has at least a general knowledge of software development. Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.  General…

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…