March 7th, 2014
There has been a big discussion recently on the advocation within SAFe of story-point normalisation across development teams. For my part, my natural gag-reflex is somewhat tempered by the fact that I can see an innocent desire to see where to focus work and budget within a larger organisation. Regardless of whether normalising of story-point estimates across teams is good, bad, helpful or harmful, I think there is a much better factor to focus on normalising - and that is the definition of value.
I regularly teach Scrum to teams and organisations. Scrum is agnostic in how items are valued, it merely requires stack ranking of priorities so that the team know what they next highest priority item is for them to work on. I have found that product owners get a lot of value from relatively valuing their product backlog items - putting a currency value on them so that something with $1000 is worth twice as much to them, and their users, as something that is valued at $500. This isn't absolute dollars we are talking about here but relative dollars - or Geoff Dollars as I often call them. This has proven valuable in terms of identifying how much value each sprint is returning and helps the development teams know where the value is coming from. I even see a lot of proactive collaboration where development teams identify ways to maximise Geoff Dollars.
Another benefit of Geoff Dollars - or any relative valuing approach - is that, unless the Product Owner continually re-stocks their product backlog with high value items, the value delivered by later sprints will naturally decrease. It will therefore become very visible when we should consider stopping the project as the cost of each sprint will remain the same but the value delivered will be reducing.
This is a great way of focussing effort on the highest value-creating items within a project. But why stop there? If we, as an organisation can define a consistent method of valuation then we can work out which projects deserve our sponsoring. This, in my opinion, is less dysfunctional than normalising velocity across teams and actually encourages positive behaviours.
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