The Difference Between Velocity and Performance

“What’s the difference between velocity and performance with Scrum teams?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in my Professional Scrum Master classes.

Velocity is just an indication of a development team’s ability to turn product backlog items into potentially-releasable increments each sprint. Velocity is not an indicator of performance because performance implies that a team is producing more usable and delightful things in less time. Velocity doesn’t indicate any of that – it’s just a number that is useful in forecasting and trade-off discussions.

There are a variety of situations where velocity could be increasing or staying the same but performance is getting worse. For example:

  • Velocity increases but the quality of what is produced is unsatisfactory
  • Velocity increases but the work done isn’t actually potentially-releasable
  • Velocity increases but the Scrum team delivered work that didn’t satisfy the customer’s needs
  • Velocity stays the same even though more development team members joined

Velocity is just a measure of what got done. It doesn’t tell you how well a team did, whether they succeeded, how well they worked together, or whether the customer was happy with the result. If you want to measure performance, focus on the end result and not just how much stuff was produced.

If a Scrum team is building the right stuff at the right time and you want to get the right stuff faster, check out 5 ways an agile team manager can improve velocity.

Jordan Job

Jordan is a Managing Advisor with Responsive Advisors and a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. He specializes in agile change management, engagement management, and Professional Scrum adoptions.
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