Pursuing Velocity

 Posted by on Sep 5, 2012  Add comments
Sep 052012

In my recent Cutter AdvisorReassessing Your Software Process,” I tried to shed light on the relative velocity of an in-house process v. that of related processes in the market. I stressed that I actually perceive the two as “twins” that can’t really be separated as they mutually affect each other. Furthermore, I expressed my conviction that the boundary between the firm and the market shifts nowadays not “only” as a function of cost of transactions[1], but as a function of the disparity in velocity of the software process inside the firm versus the velocity of related processes in the market.

In response to my advisor, Peggy Drew, an Agile Program Manager with Omgeo, wrote to me as follows:

Where your article made me uncomfortable was in the use of the word “velocity”, both because of the word’s connotation and its denotation.

Velocity is becoming more and more suspect as a measure in agile.  Even though you state that you are using the word in a generic manner, the word “velocity” carries an increasingly negative connotation.  A less than careful reading of your article could associate you with management misuse of the velocity tool.

I could not agree more. “Velocity” to me is not governance metric. Rather, it is the outcome of what we do in Agile. Figure 1 demonstrates how velocity (expressed as time-to-market) is the outcome in the {Process –> Output –> Outcome} chain.

     Figure 1: Velocity as an Outcome

Peggy’s well-taken concern reflects a reality I witness in numerous Cutter engagements. The counsel I repeatedly give on the subject is, that like the pursuit of happiness, pursuing velocity is a fool’s game. Happiness and velocity only emerge as the results of pursuing an avocation for its own sake. In the case of software, it is the pursuit of excellence in software engineering that ultimately leads to the attainment of velocity. Not the opposite way around.


[Editor’s note: On Tuesday, September 11th, Israel will host a virtual coffee hour to answer your questions about this blog post, the advisor that inspired it, and his “No Bull Session” at Agile 2012. Here are the details.]


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