Building Highly Productive Teams: Factors that Influence Commitment-to-Progress Ratio

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First Iterations
At the very beginning, the team coach should present briefly to the team members the concept of a commitment-to-progress ratio and emphasize that both the team and the company’s business can profit from a high ratio. Some team members may perceive this measure as yet another managerial tool for a periodical assessment, but nothing could be further from the truth. Because the commitment-to-progress ratio shows how strongly the team members embrace their software development tasks, developers can step up to the next level of professionalism while the company’s business benefits from better planning and robust software arising out of the sprints.

Next, you should set a target ratio (the percentage of delivered items to committed ones) and its acceptable fluctuation. As an example of an acceptable fluctuation, I choose 80 percent for a two- to (at most) three-week iteration as a target, and everything more than 60 percent as “good enough.” I do this because 100 percent would mean that the work is very predictable, which is hardly ever true. Make sure “done” is precisely defined. Do not elaborate on the details regarding the commitment-to-progress ratio just yet. Specifying clear goals will be more than enough. All other details will appear further down the road.

Your attitude in the first few iterations should be that of a non-invasive observer. Use your senses get a notion of the team’s strong points and where the bottlenecks are. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is the team dealing with its definition of “done”?
  • What parts of the definition of done are most difficult and why?
  • Is working together or the technical nature of the tasks (or both) an issue?
  • Does the switched cycle take place?
  • Last but not least, monitor how your team is assessing the underlying reasons for both problems and achievements and whether the improvement actions are effective. Keep this analysis to yourself during the sprint so as to avoid a sudden intervention without the deep understanding that is required of how a team deals with particular tasks and problems. At the end of the sprint, present the results and get the team to discuss what should have been done better in order to reach the target of 80 percent. Keep notes of what is happening in a sprint and during meetings; these examples will help you later.

Understanding about the relationship between the commitment and the progress as well as the skills and factors that influence the ratio will help you properly assess the general situation and suggest to you what is happening backstage. Be aware of how your team members use the key skills, like planning and assuring quality, for achieving a high commitment-to-progress ratio, and ask yourself which skills need to be enhanced.

About the author

Aleksander Brancewicz's picture Aleksander Brancewicz

Aleksander Brancewicz helps agile teams achieve outstanding results. In his career he has coached teams comprising of agile newbies as well as very experienced agile team members. Besides agile team building his areas of interest are new media product management and software architecture. He lives together with his wife and daughter in Amstelveen in the Netherlands.

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