The Fourth Metric: Employee Satisfaction

A shift toward enterprise agility is a significant change for anyone, but especially for large bureaucracies. Employees self-select to work in large bureaucracies precisely because they find them comforting. Changing work patterns solidified through decades of operant conditioning is extremely threatening.

For employees the status quo at least is predictable and dependable. That stability alone provides them with a degree of emotional support. An agile transformation threatens everything. By the way, this is frequently true even in small companies. Therefore, it is especially important for organizations undertaking an agile transformation to have employee satisfaction feedback.

Employee satisfaction feedback helps us improve our processes and accelerate our rate of change.

We monitor it continually with some form of running survey, just as we do with customers. The goal of the running survey is to watch the trends and detect shifts over time. For example, we can use these simple questions as a starting point:

  • How happy am I with my work?         (unhappy)  1  3  5  7  9   (happy)
  • Would you recommend working here to a friend?       No  or  Yes
  • Why?

Recognize, the biggest cause for unhappiness in an agile transformation is management. Management that does not let the employees work in a truly agile manner. For instance:

  • Not letting workers design their own work environments
  • Forcing the workers to multitask
  • Creating unnecessary role distinctions
  • Requiring unnecessary documents, reports, and meetings
  • Creating lags in work while waiting for approvals
  • Assigning team members to the same agile team where the members are not all co-located
  • Assigning team members to the team before there is work for them to do
  • Assigning too many people (over 20) to the same team

Management is always the cause of unhappiness.

The happiness metric also comes with a parallel automated metric that is difficult to game—the current turnover rate.

Agile treats team satisfaction seriously and build in multiple techniques to obtain it including:

  • Dedicating people to one team and one task at a time
  • Providing teams with a sense of purpose or mission
  • Encouraging and equipping teams to master multiple skills
  • Giving teams autonomy to deliver their work as they see fit
  • Discouraging overtime and encouraging vacations

It is impossible to sustain the benefits of agile without achieving or maintaining employee satisfaction.

In agile it is said that a user story “Is a place holder for a conversation.” In much the same way, in agile “A metric is a trigger for a conversation.”  Those seeking enterprise agility are almost never interested in stop-light metrics “red—yellow—green.” Instead they are interested in trending metrics.…
\ After a working lunch with Mike Russell, we decided to both walk over to the nearby GNC. Mike wanted to restock his supply of protein bars which have turned into a staple portion of his diet. We walked into the store together talking about all things Agile and he…