A team’s ability to deliver may crumble after achieving significant improvements in reducing a gap between the commitment and progress. This scenario applies mostly to teams that have just started developing in the agile environment, but sometimes it may surprise experienced teams too.
It is important to distinguish sudden ratio deterioration from a local significant disturbance. The disturbance is always triggered by changes like creating a new platform from scratch, introducing new business goals, new technology, or facing abnormal tasks. A team in the buzz of daily work may fail to notice a change at first, but they can adapt.
In the case of sudden ratio deterioration, a team may struggle to deliver for reasons unknown to them. All improvement attempts fail, making it seem like there is no way out. The team probably lacks technical or work organization skills and cannot figure out what the real issues are which hold them back. The coach’s role is to step in and introduce the team to the new concepts that help them moving forward. The most common sources of the sudden deterioration are a new definition of “done” or a change in work assignments.
Sometimes, a team is assigned a task that they already understand, and good results follow. I once worked with a team that achieved a high commitment-to-progress ratio because most of the stories touched upon the front side of their platform, which every team member knew well. When faced with work items that required serious back-end development, the team members were unable to finish even one story successfully. A limited knowledge about the back-end logic combined with a lack of software architect skills wrecked their attempts to combine separate parts into one working whole.