Most Software Development Metrics Are Misleading And Counterproductive


be an effective and more subjective measure. [3]

We need to be aware of how intrusive this canvassing for satisfaction is and how the individuals on the project react to being requested for satisfaction ratings. If you keep pestering a happy person to tell you how satisfied they are, then pretty soon the pestering will reduce satisfaction. This assessment needs to be frequent, but not intrusive, and adjusted to fit the customers work style.

Cycle times are imperfect, but important forward-looking metrics. The amount of work in progress, number of bugs not fixed, and time from new feature identification to implementation all allow assessment and steering to be made on the project. While these queue sizes do not allow for precise forecasts of completion dates, they do allow provide the best insights available for tracking and planning.

Mary Poppendieck lists "Cycle Time," "Customers Satisfaction," and "Conformance to the Business Case" as the key lean metrics. [4] We can see that these are very similar to the Agile metrics and comply with Reinertsen's recommendations of being simple, relevant, and leading. Unfortunately many of the metrics used on software development projects are neither simple, nor relevant, nor leading and because of the Hawthorne Effect they contribute towards counter productive behaviors.

[1] Mayo, E. (1933) The human problems of an industrial civilization (New York: MacMillan) ch. 3.
[2] Reinertsen D, (1997) Managing the Design Factory , Free Press
[3] Rob Thomsett , (2002), Radical Project Management , Prentice Hall
[4] Poppendieck M., T. (2003) Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit , Addison-Wesley

About the Author Mike Griffiths is a project manager and trainer for Quadrus Development Inc , a consulting company based in Calgary, Alberta. Mike was involved in the creation of DSDM in 1994 and has been using agile methods (Scum, FDD, XP, DSDM) for the last 12 years. He serves on the board of the Agile Alliance and the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN). He maintains a leadership and agile project management blog at

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