Project Management

Be Alert to Agile Goal Anti-Patterns

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

Creating goals—or at the very least creating targets to aim at—is a good thing for any project team to do. However, it’s also possible to set goals that seem to make sense but will hurt the team and the overall product. In agile, we call this an “anti-pattern”—something that feels like a good idea but is ineffective at best and damaging at worst.

Goals usually come from a positive intent; teams want to improve over last year, they want to deliver bigger things, and they want to get better at doing their jobs. All those desires are good, but it’s important to set goals that send the team in the right direction.

People who are familiar with setting goals based on metrics often observe that agile metrics are different and think the right thing to do is to try to get better at them. This thinking has two problems. First, agile metrics aren’t measures of success; they are measures used for planning. Second, it is true that you get what you measure, and it would be possible to improve one or many of these metrics but not actually improve anything at all—or even make things worse. Let's look at some examples of anti-patterns in agile goal setting.

Increase Velocity by “X”

The first metric that many people latch onto is “Velocity.” Velocity is the measure of how much work a team gets done…

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"Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious and immature."

- Tom Robbins