What you measure will improve

About two weeks ago I got an Ad in my mail for an iPhone Application called Breeze, a simple App that counts how many steps you take during the day.

What they do a little different from other Apps I saw before is that they set you a personal target for the number of steps you should take each day.

They do this based on information they have from you, either from another app by this same company (the app I use to track my running), or from the information stored on your iphone about your movement patterns.

You can track your progress during the day, you can also get “motivational messages” as you make progress (by walking to the cafe in the corner to eat your lunch…), and as you meet your daily goal they display for you a congratulations message with a small trophy and some cheap screen confetti.

Breeze's Congratulation Screen

Breeze’s Congratulation Screen

 

It may sound silly, but since I installed this App I am trying am trying to make an effort to meet my daily goals.  I’ve even started to take my dog for longer walks in the mornings and evenings  🙂 .

 

The principle is simple…

Anything you measure will improve.

If you weigh yourself once a week, you will  eat more salads and less hamburgers for lunch.  If you hang a board where you mark if your kids finished their school chores before 6:00 PM each day, you will see how they start making homework before you even need to remind them.

Many times there is no need to define a reward for the actions, the actual fact that you are seeing your achievements in front of your eyes will serve as the motivational factor to generate the change.

This is the same principle that make Kanban Boards such an effective tool, by giving visibility to everyone in the team about the stuff that is progressing and the things that are stuck in your project.

 

Taken to testing…(?)

This is also something we can use in our favor in, both to change our own behaviour and to help us modify the behaviour of others in our favor.

calendarOn a personal level, you can set daily or weekly goals of learning new techniques X amount of time, and spending on test design and execution Y amount of time, and providing feedback to the Product Team on Z number of features.

Then create a calendar that you hang it on your cube or office, where you will mark with green all the days where you met that goal and with red all the days when you didn’t.

I dare you to do this, and report how many days are green and how many days are red at the end of 1 month!

On a group level, in PractiTest we have a Kitchen Monitor where we display different graphs with information on important things happening in the team and project.

Sometimes this may be about test coverage that is lacking in some areas of the product, other times it may be about bugs accumulating in a given feature to be released.

The interesting thing is that whenever you place this information in front of everyone to see, even if you don’t say a word about it out loud, the status of these areas tends to automatically improve 🙂

 

But be careful with the other side of the coin

Just like every other tool, there are side effects to the use of metrics.

The two side effects that I think are the most important are: “Metric Tiredness” & the “Not Measured Syndrome”.

Metric Tiredness refers to measurements that are defined and left to run for months or years without making any changes or adaptations.

Just like your ears will get used to the noise of the Air Conditioning in your office (and you will notice its absence when the power goes down!), so will your team learn to ignore the metrics after a while.  Many times these static metrics can also become irrelevant over time.

This means that you need to make sure to refresh your metrics, even artificially, once in a while to keep them fresh and to keep your team interested on them.

The Not Measured Syndrome refers to the fact that just as what you measure tends to improve, these improvements come at the expense of the things that you don’t measure.  So be careful to choose what is really important.

Also, if you are thinking that in order to work around this issue you will measure a lot of things together, I will add here another side-effect to measures and that is that if you try to measure too many things at once, then all your metrics will become irrelevant because you won’t be able to focus your team on the specific things that are important to you.

 

Do you have any type of Public Measurement or Kitchen Monitor in your team?

Share with us what do you measure and any important tips you’ve learned about them from your personal experience!

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