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Scrum: Trying to track the velocity at an individual basis

It has long been stated that if you want to figure out how to improve the productivity of the team, you need to look at tracking the productivity of each team member, looking at places where their productivity can be improved. This is also related to tracking their actual work taken against estimates that they would have given at the initial stages of the work. After all, unless you are capturing these estimates and evaluating the actual work done against the estimates, how would you evaluate the accuracy of these estimates and figure out improvements ?
Well, it gets more tricky when you consider the case of a team that is using Scrum. I was speaking to some Scrum Masters and also reading opinions by a number of people, and there are a lot of apprehensions against trying to measure the individual velocity of team members as a part of Scrum team ? Why so ? After all, you are just getting a metric, and there can be nothing wrong in getting such a metric. Well, here are some plausible reasons for the same:
– There is the concept of Scrum being a team show rather than a single individual (although there are people who claim that a team is nothing but a sum of individuals), but in the case of scrum teams being defined as self-organizing, the minute the team starts perceiving that their individual velocity is being measured, there are some changes that happen in the attitude of team members. There is more focus on getting their work done, rather than helping others or contributing to the team. It can happen that measuring the individual velocity works to everyone’s interests, but it is equally likely that the team perceives that this measurement of individual velocity is the first step towards a greater focus on the individual achievements and this can cause problems in how the group works (I have seen this myself, where the team management decided to differentiate with more benefits being provided to the higher performers, which in turn caused more of self performance and less of trying to work like a team – this was not the intended effect, but it did happen like that).
– Getting a metric is not a matter of magic, getting it accurately and making sure that it is done correctly takes some amount of time and effort. When the team sees that there is effort being made for doing such a measurement, it can cause them some amount of disturbance, and can disturb the team members. There needs to be careful consideration given as to whether there are any benefits of this measurement of individual velocity vs. the amount of effort involved in capturing this on a regular basis. So, there is a lot more emphasis that needs to be given in the Scrum methodology to determine the amount of work pending to be done in a Sprint rather than focusing on what has been done already (this is more in consideration when you consider that there is effort involved in every kind of metric, and if you have to make a choice, you know what the choice should be).

There can be a lot more words said with regard to this topic, but the basic takeaway from this topic is that if you do decide to get into doing measurement of individual velocity levels, even with the best of intentions, a lot of care needs to be taken to ensure that the team does not read something undesirable in this action.

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