Series (2 of 7): Building High-Performing ART — “Thou Shalt Not Compare One to Others”

comarisonThis “Thou Shalt Not Compare One to Others” sounds like a commandment. it’s meant to sound like it because it is very important. It is neither a request nor a suggestion.

I grew up NOT being compared by my parents to any kid…including to my siblings; I thank my parents for that. This “non-comparison” mindset gave me a sense of positive self-image, high confidence, and healthy self-esteem. I, in turn, did not compare myself to anyone … I just ‘ran my own race’, so to speak. family readingAs far back as I can remember, I’ve always embraced ‘Kaizen‘ — the continuous and never-ending improvement mindset —  to improve and make myself [and my environment] better everyday. “The current-version of myself should be better compared to the yesterday-version of myself”, I thought. So I read a lot! My family read a lot!

At home, we pass on the gift of “non-comparison” to our kids. My wife and I do NOT compare our son and daughter to each other and to other kids. Our kids do the same. We all understand that everyone is unique. Our kids ‘run their own race’ too. They are also into self improvement…into continuous and never-ending improvement. We read a lot at home!

At work, the spirit of “non-comparison” between Agile teams is understood and accepted. Why? For same reason as aforementioned: uniqueness. Each Agile team is unique.

agule team kanbanTake ‘team velocity’ for example. For the first Program Increment (PI) of an ART, SAFe prescribes a way to calculate team velocity (points per sprint). This prescription is for all teams on the ART to follow. Each team starts with this common way of deriving their initial (first ever) velocity.

velocitychart_s1Fast forward: By the time the ART plans for their fourth PI, each team’s velocity would, by then, have normalized. The velocity of every Agile team in the ART will be different compared to their own initial velocity from their first PI… and, of course, NOT comparable to other Agile teams’ velocities.This is, again, because each team is unique (unique journey, problems, situations, ecosystems that they are working with outside the ART, etc. These parameters contribute to the nature of their own uniqueness and velocity).

comp velA common management pitfall is to compare a team’s velocity against another team’s velocity. This is not fair, so stop it. Focus, instead, on having a high-performing team by coaching them to be better every day, every iteration, every PI.

relentless impCoach your Agile teams to embrace ‘Relentless Improvement’ —  1 of 4 Pillars of the SAFe House of Lean. If you see your Agile teams stuck in second gear (slow speed/velocity and not getting any faster from PI to PI, their throughput is slow and not getting any better), help them improve their velocity…help them realize their full speed…their full potential. Find the real problem… and brainstorm to find the appropriate solution — use the six techniques as prescribed by SAFe in the ‘Problem-Solving Workshop’ (refer to the diagram below — go from left to right, top row and then second row, and do the ‘Problem-Solving Workshop’ in that order).


run your ow raceWe are all the same…but we are all different. We are all unique! Therefore, run your own race. Embrace ‘Relentless Improvement’. Thou shalt not compare one to others! Instead, self-improve! Build a high-performing ART by coaching your ART to reach their full potential, which is to be better than their old self, everyday, every iteration, every PI.

Here is an actionable item: As a team, create a team ‘Improvement Roadmap’ — use any tool to visualize/map out your team’s ‘Improvement Roadmap’ (perhaps put a cadence to it…meaning spread out the ‘Improvement Items’ of the ‘Improvement Roadmap’ across multiple PIs) — and have everyone, including you, commit to it. Do the same for the ART. Do the same at home!