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5 kinds of Agile bandits. Story Points & Velocity Bandits

January 17, 2024

The Misstep of Focusing on Story Points and Velocity in Agile Teams

As someone working in the realm of Agile, I've observed a common yet troubling trend among many teams: an overemphasis on story points and velocity. It's a path that, unfortunately, leads many astray, detracting from what truly matters in Agile practices – delivering value to the customer.

The issue with story points and velocity lies in their nature. These metrics, often seen as benchmarks for team performance, can inadvertently shift the focus from delivering quality and value to merely chasing numbers. Teams become preoccupied with accumulating points, often at the expense of genuinely understanding and fulfilling customer needs.

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In my experience, I've yet to encounter a team that has derived substantial benefit from a fixation on story points or velocity. More often than not, it introduces small, negative impacts – like the urge to inflate story points for the sake of meeting arbitrary targets. This practice not only undermines the essence of Agile but also hampers transparency and honesty within teams.

A particularly alarming example I came across involved a client who had story points embedded in their contract with the customer. This arrangement mandated the team to provide story point estimates upfront and judged their performance based on the number of points delivered. This not only fostered an environment of inaccuracy but also pressured the team to manipulate numbers to meet contractual obligations.

Instead of clinging to story points and velocity, I advocate for a shift towards more meaningful metrics – throughput and cycle time. These provide a clearer, more objective measure of a team's efficiency and effectiveness in delivering real value. They encourage a focus on the flow of work and the actual output, rather than an arbitrary scoring system.

Key Topics:

  • The Negative Impact of Story Points and Velocity
  • Real Examples of Misuse of Story Points
  • Alternative Metrics: Throughput and Cycle Time
  • Shifting Focus from Points to Value

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