Swallowing Frogs in Agile: A Leap Towards Better Metrics


Eduardo Alvim

12/11/20234 min read

You know the saying, "Sometimes, you have to swallow some frogs"? In Brazil, it's our way of saying sometimes you've got to grin and bear it, like when your boss drops a pile of work on your desk on a Friday evening. But hey, what if I told you that in the world of Agile and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), we're swallowing more frogs than necessary? And I'm not talking about a rainforest diet; I'm talking about those Agile metrics that companies gobble up without a second thought. So, let's jump (pun intended) into the swampy world of Agile metrics and see how we can turn these frogs into princes.

Let's face it, in the corporate jungle, Agile methodologies are the new cool kids on the block. They promise efficiency, flexibility, and all that jazz. But as with any trend, things can get a bit... twisted. Metrics, which are supposed to guide us, sometimes end up as those bitter pills (or frogs) we swallow, hoping they'll do some good. But what if they're just placebo? Worse, what if they're making things sluggish instead of Agile?

That's where our story begins. In this not-so-fairy tale, we'll dive deep into the swamp of Agile metrics. We'll see how sometimes, in the race to become lean and mean, companies end up measuring the leaps of frogs instead of the flight of eagles. So, buckle up, grab your nets, and let's go frog hunting in the Agile world. We might just find that some of these frogs are not what they seem.

The Misadventures in Agile Metrics

Picture this: A company decides to go Agile. Great, right? But then, they start measuring everything. I mean, everything. Like how many coffee breaks the team takes. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. The real problem? They're focusing on the wrong things. It's like trying to measure the speed of a turtle in a rabbit race. And when these metrics don't reflect the real progress, it's a classic case of swallowing the frog and moving on.

And it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective). You've got managers so obsessed with these metrics that they start losing sight of what really matters – people, innovation, actual progress. It's like they're under a spell, bewitched by numbers and graphs. They parade these metrics around like trophies, not realizing they're just holding up frog-shaped balloons. It's a comedy, really, if it weren't so tragic.

Examples - When Frogs Turn into Princes

Case 1: Company X (real name was changed to protect the identity of the company) was all about numbers, but the wrong ones. They were so fixated on measuring individual performance that they completely missed the team dynamics. Then, they embraced the 4 P's. They started focusing on team satisfaction and collaboration. The result? A more cohesive team, innovative solutions, and a tangible boost in overall performance.

Case 2: Company Y (real name was changed to protect the identity of the company). They were drowning in a sea of processes, losing agility, the very thing they sought. When they shifted their focus to streamline processes and enhance efficiency, they started to see a real transformation. Their teams were not just meeting deadlines; they were innovating and exceeding expectations. It was like watching a tadpole turn into a frog, and then, surprisingly, that frog morphed into a prince.


So, what did we learn? Don't just swallow any frog that hops your way in the Agile world. Be selective. Question those metrics. Aim for the 4 P's. And remember, sometimes the frog you're avoiding might just be the prince in disguise. Or, in business terms, the metric that could leap your company forward.

The 4 P's of Effective Agile Measurement

Now, let me introduce you to my 4 P's: People, Process, Performance, and Product. These are the only frogs worth keeping in your Agile pond.

  • People: Who's on the team? Are they happy? Are they burning out? Measure team satisfaction, not just productivity.

  • Process: How's the workflow? Is it more like a river or a stagnant pond? Keep an eye on the process efficiency.

  • Performance: This one's about results. But not just any results – think quality over quantity.

  • Product: What are we even building? Is it solving the problem it's supposed to? That's your golden frog right there.

Crafting the Perfect Dashboard - Limiting KPIs

Now, onto the art of creating a dashboard. Think of it as a pond. You don't want it overcrowded with frogs (KPIs), right? Pick 10 max. Make sure they represent the 4 P's. It's like a balanced diet for your company – nutritious and frog-free. But it's more than just picking the right KPIs. It's about understanding what story they tell together.

Your dashboard should be a clear, concise narrative of where your company stands and where it's headed. It's not just numbers and charts; it's a storybook of your company's journey. Each KPI should add a chapter to that story, giving insights into your team's morale, process efficiency, product quality, and overall performance. Remember, a dashboard cluttered with irrelevant KPIs is like a pond choked with weeds – it obscures the water and hinders the growth beneath.

Crafting this dashboard isn't just a one-time affair. It's an ongoing process of refinement and adjustment, much like tending to a garden. You plant the seeds (select your KPIs), you water and nurture them (collect and analyze data), and you prune when necessary (make adjustments based on insights). This way, you ensure that your Agile garden remains vibrant and fruitful, free of those pesky frogs that add no value.