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Troy Magennis on Using Data to Support Decision Making

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In this podcast recorded at Agile 2017, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke Troy Magennis about his talks at the conference on “I love the smell of data in the morning” and “10 ways to choose what to start next

Key Takeaways

  • The absence of data means all you have is an opinion
  • The simplest way to start gathering data in software development is to put the starting date/time on one corner, the ending date/time on another corner and use different colour post-its for different types of work
  • It’s the trend that’s important, not any one week of data
  • Your job is to make better decisions with the least amount of effort 
  • Context is hard to spot if you are in the middle of it – you need to be able to step away and see from a different perspective
  • The job of a leader is to help the people who report to you understand the bigger picture and the impact of their decisions on the whole

Show Notes

  • 0:20 Introductions
  • 0:58 The absence of data means all you have is an opinion
  • 1:30 The misconception that you need a lot of data to make any decision at all – seven to eleven samples is sufficient to outdo intuition-based decisions
  • 2:03 The simplest way to start gathering data in software development is to put the starting date/time on one corner, the ending date/time on another corner and use different colour post-its for different types of work
  • 2:10 This simple set of data is sufficient for forecasting and providing a balanced dashboard of system qualities
  • 2:54 The three simple pieces of data can be used to generate a wide range of analytics – Troy produced a spreadsheet with 27 charts from those three simple metrics
  • 3:32 It’s the trend that’s important, not any one week of data
  • 3:44 Metrics need to be team-level not individual focused – if you start embarrassing people then you will get crappy data
  • 3:58 You never show one metric at a time
  • 4:13 Help teams to use data to make smart tradeoffs
  • 4:20 There will always be a tipping point at which throughput impacts quality – make this visible
  • 5:05 The real value in the data is for forecasting and selecting what to do next
  • 5:48 Exploring ways that data can be used to help make a sequencing decision by asking what can go wrong with different approaches
  • 6:34 There is no one right answer – sequencing decisions are totally context specific
  • 7:03 Stop being so dogmatic about ways of making decisions and look at context
  • 7:12 Your job is to make better decisions with the least amount of effort
  • 7:48 Context is hard to spot if you are in the middle of it – you need to be able to step away and see from a different perspective
  • 8:05 Tools for seeing the context – Wardly Maps and Story Maps
  • 8:50 Teams are making trade-off decisions constantly – make sure they have the best information to do so
  • 9:28 Provide the context information to the teams to help people make the decisions you wish they would have made
  • 10:14 Advice to technical influencers/leaders – be wary of the dangers of pushing too hard on any specific metric or behaviour
  • 11:05 When faced with good ideas ensure you can identify the impact on other aspects of the work
  • 11:10 Often a good decision in isolation is a bad decision universally
  • 11:34 The job of a leader is to help the people who report to you understand the bigger picture and the impact of their decisions on the whole

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