Completion Against Commitment (CaC): A Useful Metric for the Agile Team

Team commitment and the agile process has improved life-work balance. Previously, your boss would come to you on a Friday afternoon with a pile of work and dump it on your desk and say: “I need this all done by Monday.” You felt pressured to commit to it, even when you knew it was impossible to complete it by the deadline, and it would consume your whole weekend. Even if you knew you could not finish the work, realistically, how could you say no to your boss?

Recently, times have changed. With more and more companies adopting Agile, teams have the opportunity to plan sprints well in advance and everyone is clear on what the shippable product will be in 2-4 weeks. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes sprints don’t turn out as planned or take a lot more time to complete than estimated. When unexpected roadblocks occur, how do we make other team members aware of what is happening/ what did happen and how can we improve the process in the future?

The answer: Tell the story.

Every completion of a sprint is a chance to tell a new story. For this, Completion against Commitment (CaC) is an excellent tool. The following will help you understand why:

1.     What is it and what is it useful for?

CaC is the percentage of points completed during the sprint against those committed at the planning meeting. CaC is a measure for the team, but, importantly, not a metric of performance of the team. It is used purely for evaluation of metrics. For example: how fast the team is identifying/removing roadblocks or how well the team is estimating these roadblocks.

2.     What is it not useful for?

One common mistake managers make is to use this metric to compare teams or to evaluate their performance. It is crucial to remember this is not the purpose of CaC. It should never escape the retrospective.

3.     When to talk about it?

The retrospective meeting is great for this conversation. The team members should evaluate the percentage and try to explain what happened. Team members should be challenged to create a plan to overcome any issues they had in the past and re-evaluate it at the next retro.

4.     What is a good CaC?

There’s no perfect team. High performing teams are usually around 85% CaC. This is because every story is merely an estimation and it is impossible to have a 100% correct estimation every time. There is always room for improvement.

5.     What are some typical issues CaC uncovers?

o   The team completes user stories, but their CaC is still low (Under 60% as rule of thumb)

This is often times related to late testing. For example, the story might have been completed in a timely manner, but the team missed the opportunity to get approval from the product owner (PO) in time.

o   Over estimating

Usually a CaC higher than 100% means the team ran out of work for the sprint and brought forward items from the backlog. That’s always a good indicator, but it does mean the estimation can be even better. This is especially true when businesses and teams use velocity to forecast their projects.

o   Under estimation

Again, teams need to focus on better planning, creating spikes for research, better grooming meetings or splitting stories better to improve estimations.

This is just a few important lessons to be learned from this metric and there are numerous others. The thing to keep in mind is that CaC is an excellent tool for teams to learn how to ask the right questions when making estimations and, most importantly, generate conversation to improve future sprints.

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