5 reasons agile story points should never be used to track individual performance

  1. Scrum/ Agile focuses on the team rather than individuals. The purpose of story points is to roughly estimate the team’s (not individual’s) capacity to take on work. They’re basically used to calculate how many user stories a team can take in an iteration.
  2. Story points, if used for individual performance tracking, would be a lousy way to do so. Story points are attached to a story, which in scrum doesn’t always map to one individual. Stories may need the time and expertise of multiple members of the team so story points can never reflect the performance of one individual. (Though some tools we use for managing scrums may lead us to believe that it is one story per person).
  3. Story points aren’t exact; they aren’t supposed to be. Story points don’t have any absolute units (hours, meters, Kgs, lightyears…). They are just a rough way to determine if a story — as compared to other stories — is small…big…ginormous, so we know when to break them up into smaller stories for a sprint, and to approximate whether we are taking on too much or too little.
  4. The meaning of story points may change over time. As teams work together and participate in the planning and sizing of stories, they learn to become consistent in how to size stories. Team members look back at their estimates at the end of the sprint and see how ‘accurate’ (or off) they were. And with this constant learning, the meaning of points keeps changing and evolving.
  5. Story points are easy to fudge. Using them for tracking individual performances may encourage team members to inflate the numbers. That’s bad for the team — we don’t want that!!
So how do we evaluate individual performance in an Agile world?
The simple answer is through team feedback. If you work well within a team and your fellow members feel you bring value — and don’t drag them down — you’re performing well.

What the heck are story points?

If you’re not so familiar with the concept of story points, start here: What is a story point? If that really piques your interest, feel free to go here: Why do we use story points instead of man days when estimating user stories?

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