Days to First Value

My second conversation with an agile sponsor is inevitably… metrics. I stopped feeling surprised after a half dozen engagements.  To me the metrics were obvious. Constant, fast delivery makes it easy to track your customers happiness and buying decisions.  Constant feedback loops help people make better business decisions faster. I witnessed this for years. My observational evidence though is an act of faith for new agile organizations. They need their own evidence. Evidence is powerful. Measurements and trends are powerful, and most organizations want to track what is important to them.

Days to First Value

Over time I’ve helped people develop several metrics that work for them. Days to First Value, passed on to me by my colleague Steve Fastabend through his work at Northwestern Mutual, has proved invaluable.  It works. It works at multiple levels of an organization and for multiple purposes. Did you get enough emphasis on the ‘multiple’?  As Alton Brown says No Unitaskers.

How it works

  1. Choose something to consistently track. A piece of work like a product backlog item, feature, epic, project, defect, customer service call….anything.
  2. Decide on a trigger.
  3. Decide when you get your first value from it.
  4. Measure the time between with a goal to reduce it

Examples at Multiple Levels

  • Business Question: How effective is our live customer service?

    A customer call center decides to track incoming support calls from [Pickup] to [Completed Transaction]. This helps them measure how quickly they get a curious or blocked customer to a transaction of value, whether on the phone or redirected online. Measure days, hours or minutes to first value.

  • Business Question: How quickly does our team produce value?

    A Scrum team decides to track features from [Acceptance at Sprint Planning] to [Confirmed earliest use of that feature in production].  This helps measure their value-sense; decomposing the feature for early value, producing enough for the Product Owner to release and their customers to want to use, and the quality and release practices that allow quick delivery.

  • Business Question: How quickly are we getting a return on investment?

    A portfolio management team decides to track Epics from [Funded] to [Confirmed earliest use in production]. This helps them use Throughput Accounting measurements and watch how efficiently the system uses money.


  • Make clear definitions of Ready for the Trigger and Done for first value
  • Capture it for every piece of work. I’ve seen teams use stickers, marks, and built-in timers. the methods are endless.
  • Make this a constant measure. Its easier to track and attribute changes in Days to First Value if its measured all the time.


I hope this was helpful.  If you have questions, or want to talk more about implementing this metric in your organization please call or email. 281-520-8750 . I enjoy talking about metrics.

As always, I am curious about your experience.  Please share. Do you use this metric today? Do you apply it differently? Do you use a metric like this one?  How do you use the data?



The Titan of Transparency – your superhero Scrum Master

I have seen a lot of Scrum Masters with capes.  Well a lot of Scrum Master Cartoons with capes…and wizard robes. It’s inspiring and I know, I Know that Scrum Masters are super heroes.  What I don’t know is their super power. I know a good Scrum Master ‘when I meet one’ but that intangible quality has been a frustrating mystery to me over the years. When I made the shift into training and coaching I spent hours poring over the core materials that make up Scrum and other agile frameworks to understand them down to their bones.  And that’s when I found it. In the Scrum Guide, plain and clear.  The Scrum Master’s super power is transparency. They are the Titan of Transparency.  It was so clear I saw right through it.

One Question – Enormous Tracts of Transparency

The Scrum Master gets to ask and judge one question, ‘Are we doing Scrum?’.  It’s a common trap to think of it as a small one. Scrum is based on the pillars of Inspection, Adaptation and Transparency, a large field for that one question! It is also a proactive question.  While a newer team may need a Scrum Master’s focus on the basic of ceremonies, roles and artifacts, a reactive approach, an effective Scrum Master soon graduates to a proactive enabler, asking the questions ‘Are we doing Scrum?’ everywhere the work gets done. The Scrum Masters with ‘it’, that superhero gleam, are creating, promoting and preserving transparency across the process, artifacts, and culture.  Let’s explore some specific ways Scrum Masters champion transparency in the realm of Scrum Artifacts.

Artifact Transparency  

The Scrum Guide prescribes a few artifacts of note, the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog and the Increment (the working software). The Scrum Guide states

Scrum relies on transparency. Decisions to optimize value and control risk are made based on the perceived state of the artifacts. … To the extent that if the artifacts are incompletely transparent, these decisions can be flawed, value may diminish and risk may increase.”

Seems obvious enough…but we lose that focus in the day to day sprint toward our goal. The Scrum Master, Titan of Transparency, ensures that each of those artifacts, as well as any other artifacts the organization values in their Scrum process, are transparent.  Transparency really includes everything that makes the artifact useful in making decisions.  

  • Availability Can everyone who makes decisions find and access the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog and Increment?
  • Usability Is the artifact in a fit for purpose format?  Is it too complicated? Is it detailed enough?
  • Accuracy Is the artifact correct?  Are we showing an Increment that meets the definition of Done? Do decision makers know that definition? Is the Product Backlog up to date?
  • Understandability Does the artifact communicate clearly and concisely?  

Scrum Masters don’t wait to be told that artifacts aren’t working. The Scrum Guide explicitly lays out the sleuthing expectations:

A Scrum Master can detect incomplete transparency by inspecting the artifacts, sensing patterns, listening closely to what is being said, and detecting differences between expected and real results.”

Titans of Transparency notice things.  They notice when feedback increases, or decreases.  They notice who tends to be confused by the backlog, or, the commons patterns of how the team struggles in Product Backlog refinement sessions.  Innovative Titans (the ones with the capes) have even gone so far as meeting with Stakeholders one on one to ask probing questions when Sprint Reviews bring out gaps in the Increment versus stakeholder expectations.  They dig into The Product Backlog, and even the Increment itself to find out where things got cloudy and how they can be improved.

Act with Purpose – Get a Cape

The Scrum Guide is explicit in its expectations of Scrum Master service – to the team, the Product Owner and the Organization.  If you haven’t considered attaining the superpower of transparency, the Scrum Artifacts are a concrete place to start. Another thing to try is mapping the three regions of your Scrum Master domain – process, culture and artifacts – onto a whiteboard and adding shading where you see things becoming less transparent, or noting patterns as they appear.  A transparency map can help you track and activate!

However you decide to grow into your Titan of Transparency cape, the key is to act. Act with the purpose of increasing transparency in every place work is done. I doubt you will run out of places to look.


So you’ve got the green light to build an agile team. Congratulations! Building an agile team is an adventure for everyone involved.

This post is intended to provide steps you can take in order to build a self-organized agile team while also accelerating the value of self-organized, cross-functional teams from the moment they become a team.

Why is this important?

Cross-functional teams deliver working software within one team and one sprint, every sprint.  Self-organizing teams increase quality and reduce risk by owning responsibility for maintainable, sustainable and fit for purpose software.

Valuable working software, every sprint, shouts of a self-organized and cross-functional team. Continue reading

Get Decked – Supporting Agile Transformation in Your Definition of Success

babeAs agile methodologies take root and grow in organizations we see trends.  One community corroborated trend is that organizations reduce friction during adoption if their slide decks reflect agile success measures. Quarterly review, annual budget review, annual business strategy, vision summits, all of these types of gatherings have something in common, they reflect on the measures of company success and use them to determine how the company handles money, resources, and vision.  If you are pursuing agile adoption or transformation in your organization, it’s worth the time to think about your definition of success and how agile it is.

Continue reading