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Use Evidence-Based Management to Measure Steps Toward the Product Goal

Basic

difficulty

Stage 4

Agile IQ® Level

Sprint Planning

Event

Introduction

Alignment to strategic outcomes is critical for any organisation. Without such focus they are unlikely to achieve ambitious goals and be leaders in their respective fields. Scrum teams align to the Product Goal to ensure delivery towards higher objectives.

What is the Product Goal?

The Product Goal describes a future state of the product can serve as a target from the Scrum team to plan against. A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract. [1]

The Product Goal is the objective flag post that teams work toward. It is considered when selecting work in Sprint Planning.

What is Evidence-Based Management?

Evidence-Based Management (EBM) is an empirical approach that helps organisations to continuously improve customer outcomes, organisational capabilities, and business results under conditions of uncertainty. It provides a framework for organisations to immprove their ability to deliver value in an uncertain world, seeking a path toward strategic goals. [2] The model consists of the following key elements:

  • A strategic goal
  • Intermediate goals
  • Immediate tactical goals
  • A starting state
  • A current state

Organisations set goals and create experiments (improvement ideas) in order to work towards intermediate goals. The goal setting follows a systematic approach. The framework is closely related to the Toyota Kata. [3]

Use of Metrics

The work performed by teams in each Sprint are the catalyst for achieving the Product Goal. But how do we know if the work items in a Sprint are contributing towards achieving the Product Goal?

When applying Evidence-Based Management we define our goals and document our current and starting states. The work performed should contribute to working towards immediate tactical goals and/or intermediate goals. To ensure progress that makes a difference, the goals should be accompanied with organisational goals, for example:

  • Increase in users/subscribers (e.g. improved revenue)
  • Increase in revenue per order (e.g., improved profitability)
  • Decrease in manually handled transactions (e.g. improved operational effectiveness)
  • Decrease in lead time for business processes (e.g., improved operational efficiency)

The time horizon for results will differ depending on the context of change. Teams may need to track the effectiveness of change over multiple Sprints to determine if the change has brought the organisation closer to the Product Goal.

Things to watch out for

  • Be careful not to choose “vanity” metrics. The measures should tie back to value to the organisation’s strategtic objectives.
  • Take into account the time horizon for measures against objectives.
  • Consult with appropriate stakeholders. The team may need to solicit feedback from outside the team on metrics.

Actions to try

  • Make the Product Goal constanty visible to the team (physically or virtually). Remind the team of the Product Goal during Sprint Planning and Team Retrospectives.
  • Define measurable goals associated with the Product Goal.

References

1. Sutherland, J. & Schwaber, K. (2020) The 2020 Scrum Guide (TM). https://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html

2. Scrum.org (2020) Evidence-Based Management Guide. https://www.scrum.org/resources/evidence-based-management-guide

3. Rother, M. The Improvement Kata. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mrother/The_Improvement_Kata.html

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