Super-Stars, Performance, and Mark Twain

“Well, say, this beats croquet. There’s more go about it!”

– quoted in “Mark Twain at Football Game,” New York World, Sunday November 18, 1900

I was reading a post about players in the NFL this weekend (and forgot to save the link…sorry about that). The post focused on the contributions players were likely to provide to their teams vs. the statistics they were likely to generate.  The article pointed out that many players will have contributions greater that the statistics they will generate in the coming year, and that solely relying on statistics to gauge production is not a true representation of the player’s value to their team.  There was a quote by Mark Twain included in the post which went like this:

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography:  The Chapters from the North American Review

In the NFL, statistics alone are not good at representing what is actually happening on the field to produce wins, and that’s the point isn’t it, to keep winning?  Take for example, the wide receiver that only has 30 catches and 450 yards for the year because he is such a threat that he was double or triple-defended all season; the stats would not be able to represent the value of that players effort to the teams winning season simply by showing the catches and yards.  If the team goes to the playoffs and continues to win in part due to the efforts of this receiver isn’t that what counts?

We experience the same type of situations within our Scrum teams, and every role has a part to play in the success.  Not every team member is a super-star, producing “amazing stats” every sprint, or plays the role of a flashy position player like a star receiver or running back on an NFL team, however that doesn’t mean that their contributions are not as important to the team’s success.  Most Scrum teams have their own offensive line (in football it’s 5 team members that do the unglamorous work of blocking all of the forces on the opposing team who are trying to stop the progress of your team) that quietly, but effectively, perform the tasks that are critical to the team’s success but rarely, if ever, get recognized for what they do.  After all, in Scrum, it’s not how many story points we produce or how many user stories we get out in a sprint, it’s how much value (how many wins) we provide to our stakeholders and users (fan base).

So the next time you look at a team and start to gauge their performance based on some of the statistics that Scrum produces (user story count delivered, hours worked, features delivered), step back and take a look at the teams record for the season and gauge their performance on the entire body of work, including the thankless job of covering the mundane to do what is needed for success.

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