The commitment-to-progress ratio refers to the between-the-work items the team commits to at the beginning of the iteration and the ones that actually have been delivered at the end of an iteration. The distance between the commitment and the progress—as well as the correlation between them—describes a value of the commitment-to-progress ratio. A high ratio means that the distance between what has been committed and what is delivered remains low and steady. Having more committed items leads to more deliverables and having a low commitment implies low delivery. A low ratio occurs when there is a long-lasting discrepancy between the number of committed and delivered items or a lack of correlation between the underestimated or overestimated commitments.
The ratio between progress and commitment shows the maturity of the team’s vision of what and how they can deliver during an iteration. The distance between progress and commitment reflects how deeply the team members embrace their work and profession. If we, as a team, commit to ten work items and only deliver one on a regular basis, then our promise is not worth much. However, if we commit to ten work items and routinely deliver eight or nine, then we look like we are in control and understand what we do.
Moreover, once we equip ourselves with the commitment-to-progress ratio, we create an environment in which teams can grow based on a measurable pace. Whenever a team experiments with new tools and methods and needs to create software for a different problem, it can get back on track faster.
But how does this translate to throughput? A team that embraces its job, resulting in a high ratio, is able to respond quickly and in a predictable way to changing business circumstances. A company that supports such teams may focus on business value. Software development is no longer a challenge, but a profession that builds products tailored to customer needs.
Knowing the dynamics between commitment and progress helps us understand the current level of knowledge about the environment, business domain, and technical domain within a team. It shines a light on whether the team is undergoing a true transformation or has had a few better sprints by chance. Last, but not least, it exposes issues that a team should tackle in order to improve. For example, a standard velocity function represents progress and user story points per iteration (or other measures) represent commitment. What follows are the main scenarios regarding various values of distance and correlation parameters.
Figure 1: Enormous initial distance followed by run to the high ratio