A framework for choosing the right metrics

What are “lamp post metrics”?

If you lose your keys between the restaurant and the car on a dark night, when you go back to look for them, where are you going to look? Of course, you are going to first look where there is light — under the lamp posts. When you pick a metric because it’s easy to gather, that’s called a lamp post metric.

Why are they bad?

Let’s look at an example.

What does this have to do with ODIM?

We do this sort of thing all the time in business. We drive behavior with metrics when those metrics are not good proxies for the desired outcomes. That’s why I introduced the ODIM framework — to help teams and organizations pick metrics that will drive the desired outcomes.

  • Better insight leads to better decisions.
  • Better decisions lead to better outcomes.

Back to the NBA example

We agree that the desired Outcome is winning games. The Decision we want to make is the decision that players make many times a game — whether to take the shot or pass the ball. The Insight that would best inform this decision are things like, “From this point on the court, when I’m up against a player that is bigger/smaller than me, what’s my chance of scoring?” and “What are the chances of the other players from where they are standing or where they could move to?”. So, you’d need Measurements (metrics/stats/visualizations) that represent this. From that, you’ll look for patterns that can easily be used at game speed.

Agile Team Example

Let’s say your team’s desired Outcome is to ship more value, sooner. Each day, maybe several times a day, they make the Decision to either take on more tasks or to help finish the ones that their team has already started. If they have the Insight that lower work in progress (WiP) directly correlates with faster time to market, then the Measurement of the team’s current WiP will give them the needed insight to make the best decision between pulling in something new to work on versus doing something to finish work already started… even if that something means swarming on work with other team members.

Join me for a workshop on ODIM… and more

Seats are filling up fast for my workshop, Around the World of Agile Metrics in One Day, on October 17 in downtown Raleigh, NC. If you found this post on ODIM useful, it’s only one of many similar pieces of content we explore during the day.

Every decision is a forecast. You are forecasting that the alternative you chose will have better outcomes.