At this week’s metric themed Atlanta Scrum User’s Group meetup, I asked the audience if they knew of any metrics (that could not be gamed) that could trigger rewards for development teams.  The reaction was as if I had just praised Planned Parenthood at a Pro-life rally…everyone talking over each other to convince me I was wrong to even ask.

The facilitator later rewarded me with a door prize for the most controversial question.  What?

Maybe my development team and I are on a different planet than the Agile-istas I encountered last night.  Because we are currently doing what I proposed, and it doesn’t appear to be causing any harm.

Currently, if 135 story points are delivered in the prior month AND no showstopper production bugs were discovered, everyone on the team gets a free half-day-off to use as they see fit.  We’ve achieved it twice in the past year.  The most enthusiastic part of each retrospective is to observe the prior months metrics and determine if we reached our “stretch goal”.  It’s…fun.  Let me repeat that.  It’s actually fun to reward yourself for extraordinary work.

Last night’s question was part of a quest I’ve been on to find a better reward trigger.  Throughput and Quality is what we were aiming for.  And I think we’ve gotten close.  I would like to find a better metric than Velocity, however, because story point estimation is fuzzy.  If I could easily measure “customer delight”, I would.

At the meeting, I learned about the Class of Service metric.  And I’m mulling over the idea of suggesting a “Dev Forward” % stretch goal for a given time period.

But what is this nerve I keep touching about rewards for good work?

On weekends, when I perform an extraordinary task around the house like getting up on the roof to repair a leak, fixing an electrical issue, constructing built-in furniture to solve a space problem, finishing a particularly large batch of “Thank You” cards, or whatever…I like to reward myself with a beer, buying a new power tool, relaxing in front of the TV, taking a long hot shower, etc.

Rewards rock.  What’s wrong with treating ourselves at work too?


  1. Lanessa Hunter said...

    Interesting and bizarre! I speculate that maybe the prickliness induced by this topic could say something about the sad state of these folks’ company cultures, however I was not there to hear the commentary. It makes sense to incent rewards with metrics that are not easily gamed or twisted. I am with you on fostering merriment with teams, especially for fantastic work.

    We are new to Scrum - only about 120 business days in to 10 day sprints - and some of our teams have started pizza points with completion of a certain number of feature slices. Thanks for sharing your ideas and please keep us posted. You are not alone. Our Dev teams are neighbors on the same planet. :)

  2. Eric Jacobson said...

    Lanessa, thanks for the comment. Pizza points! I love it! Great metaphor with the feature slices too. I guess, you would be eating "thin slices" of pizza.

    Hmmmm. I really want to try that. Problem is, our gluten-free team member would not consider it a reward.

  3. Matt_Middleton said...

    I suspect the problem wasn't with rewards, but rather with tying a metric to that reward. All too often, metrics that are fuzzy (or worse, meaningless without context) are tied to very real benefits (time off, pay increases, bonuses) or penalties.

    Personally, I think the idea of tying a relatively trivial reward like pizza to a fuzzy metric like story points is a great idea! Even a half-day off for the team when they exceed the story points by x% is cool, as long as the team is keeping itself honest about its estimations (or someone else is ;) .)

  4. Amandeep Singh said...

    Thanks very interesting - the reaction of the people ;)

    But I really like the concept - I second your thoughts "It’s actually fun to reward yourself for extraordinary work."

    There is no harm in actually doing that and it's rather a very pragmatic approach to say the least!

  5. GlutenFree4Life said...

    Just read this blog post and lol re pizza points and feature slices.

    This is true I would not consider this a reward, but don't let me hold ya'll back from trying it out.

    Re rewarding, see Dan Pink's Ted Talk of why rewarding creatives this way works opposite of what you'd expect:

  6. Eric Jacobson said...

    GlutenFree4Life, thanks for the link. Did you know Dan Pink did that talk downstairs in the Assembly Room last year? I have my free copy of his book sitting on my shelf (unread).

    Great talk! Nevertheless, IMO, it doesn't apply. This post is about a reward created by a project team for itself, to celebrate success. Dan Pink talks about rewards created by management to motivate behavior. I think these are two different classes of rewards.

  7. GlutenFree4Life said...

    Interesting, didn't know he did a talk here last year. I think they’re the same -- as the reward to celebrate success is to motivate continued behavior.

    I think at a minimum based on my MMORPG XP of how it becomes addictive to level up or do quests etc. is that the “loot” drops reward system is randomized. Maybe that would be better than one constant reward that most of the team don't use or want that much.

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