Do you have an impact?

Is the impact that you have in your job measurable? I was recently asked what impact an Agile Coach has in an organisation. This should be a relatively straight-forward question to answer. Let’s see how I do in this post.

What is impact and how do we measure it?

There are several ways to define impact and here I use the definition :
Noun : influence; effect: Verb : to have an impact or effect on; influence; alter.
To measure the effect of something, it depends on what that is. Some examples will help us understand better…

Impact as an Individual Contributor
If you are an individual contributor, say someone in sales or a technical recruiter, then it may be easy to measure your contribution through metrics. The amount of advertising you sold this month in euros or the number of developers you have recruited this year. These metrics may provide information to the company about your work, but does it tell us about your impact?
What if you recruit the developer who tweaks the product from something good to a game-changer that makes the company world famous and incredibly successful? The developer may be just another number in a dashboard of someone who looks at the metrics, but it tells a very small part of the story.

Impact as a Manager
I recently had a conversation in a class with a Product Owner who vehemently believed that everything had to be measured. He quoted Peter Drucker with the “What gets measured, gets improved” sentence and while I heartily agree that metrics help us, they are not the be all to end all. I didn’t have any metrics associated with it, however I worked hard to help people in my team get promoted. This could have been a metric, but it wasn’t. Are there things that cannot be measured but are important?

Does your partner love you? How much?
If you are married or in a long-term relationship, your partner has probably asked at some stage “How much do you love me?” Did you give a number? How do you know if it improved or got worse? (You may have some proxy metrics, how many times do they tell you, how many nice things they do for you in a week, how many hugs you get each day and these can help).
However there are times when you may have to go by sensations, signals and feelings. For some people these will be difficult to believe. While they may not be measurable, these will almost certainly be linked indirectly to improvements of metrics that you use with your teams.

Impact of an Agile Coach
Some impacts you can hope for from an Agile Coach could be :

  • Improved engagement of the team
  • Improved quality of the product
  • Better understanding of how to deliver product value
  • Improved time to market
  • Better development processes
  • Business and development areas working closer together

One of my happiest moments came when working in a company we helped reduce their time to market from one release every three months to a release every two weeks. While this was very satisfying, I enjoyed it even more when a developer said that without the improvements that we had helped his team interiorize, he would have left the company months ago.

Impacts and metrics
While metrics are very important to help take decisions, they are not the only things that you can have an impact on. Things that may be more difficult to measure will most likely have an impact on some metric. For example, improving communication between teams in a department would hopefully see a reduction in the number of incidents.
A team that enjoys the work more, should see improvements in their metrics if all other things remain the same.

To answer the question of how much impact your work has, remember that the metrics you choose should provide a guide but they are not the only thing and should not be used in isolation.

Are you collecting the right metrics to show the impact of your work? Let us know the metrics you use in the comments section below.

Note: In Management 3.0 we discuss the topic of metrics and objectives. If you want to be part of these conversations in Management 3.0, click here to check out when the next class will be.

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