I attended a sprint review of a team a few weeks ago. The results were impressive, the team delivered more than their forecast: they established 133%, excellent result I thought. At one moment during the review, the Product Owner showed a slide and graded the team a 7 (out of a possible 1 to 10). Just one slide with one big seven. I was astonished… I didn’t know what to think about this…
To set the context a bit more. The team exists of seven senior professionals, they delivered more than expected, and moreover, they also took care of the incidents that were reported during that sprint. The product owner still ranked them just a simple 7.
I feel two things can happen after such an event:
I think that both things are not what the Product Owner would like to happen.After the sprint review I had a short talk with the Product Owner. I asked him why he ranked the team and why he ranked them this way. He could not directly answer the question. It was just common to do so within this particular organization, so he just complied. I asked him if the team ranked him as well or if he could grade himself based on his performance as a Product Owner in the last iteration. He started to smile, “I get your point Ralph”, he said. Later that week he told me he would tell the team about my question to grade himself, and how this was going to be difficult.
A few days later I attended another sprint review within the same organization. The setup of the sprint review was identical, and at one moment the slide with a grade appeared :). However, this Product Owner did not mention the grade. Instead, he told the team why they did a great job last sprint. They faced some challenges but handled them well as a team. He also was quite proud that his team was reliable and despite everything what happened kept delivering items. I liked it and gave my compliments to the Product Owner afterwards.To make sure I don’t get into a fight with the first Product Owner: he also complimented his team in their review, and also does so when applicable during a sprint.
Now the moral of this story: many managers, product owners, leads, etc. are looking for different ways to provide feedback to their teams. That is a good habit. As Kaizen teaches us, things can always be improved and getting feedback is a way of learning where things can be improved. It is important to provide feedback to a team and vice versa! However, in my opinion it is impossible or just too simplistic to rank a team in just one grade. A team is a complex system with many variables: individuals working together, interacting with the organization and the world around them, unexpected things happen, etc. How can you describe that in one grade? How does a single grade help a team determine where a Product Owner wants them to improve first? What does a mere body temperature of 37,2 degrees Celsius tell you about a patient in a hospital?
I think there are different ways to provide feedback to a team. You could use the feedback wrap (not the feedback hamburger please), you could implement Kudo cards. You could also consider to start working with Objectives and Key Results for example. If you would like to use metrics, take the following guidelines for metrics:
To conclude, there are many ways to provide feedback and feedback based on metrics is great, but promise me you won’t rank your team or employees with just a single number.