Johanna recently blogged about Making Milestones Visible. Jerry added that milestones not only need to be visible, they have to be actionable. The example they used was having a vehicle go 100,000 miles.


To Johanna it was a milestone she missed because her odometer lacked the resolution to let her know she was getting close. The entire last mile looked like 99999. It’s really difficult to pay attention looking for the next increment AND drive safely at the same time. If the odometer displayed to .1 of a mile, she’d have a better chance to drive safe and notice when she’s about to achieve 100,000 miles in her vehicle.

Doing things

To Jerry 100,000 miles means it’s time to buy a new vehicle. I don’t get the sense that 100,000 itself is so important, as it is to do something to prevent having problems in the future. Mechanical systems wear with use and will eventually fail. Based on his experience, Jerry avoids the eventual impending failures by purchasing a new vehicle.

Tipping Points

Using the cybernetic model

Pattern 3 Controller

the controller (manager/team leader/whatever you call the person) continuously gets feedback data from the the development system. Most of the data most of the time don’t matter. People marvelously capably compensate for variation in information and actions. But when you get to a critical range, small changes in the data become incredibly important. Without intervention the project/team/person hits a tipping point and difficult times ensue.

The critical range varies based on what feedback data you’re getting. Is it sprint velocity? Team camaraderie? Personal behavior? Each has different parameters and context. All have different time constants. You need to have an idea of reasonable behavior for each so you can detect data lying outside “normal”, what ever normal is for that data set. That way when data approaches a tipping point, you’re aware and (hopefully) have a plan of action to keep performance/behavior in the “normal” range. Unfortunately at this time the only hard and fast rule I have is: There are no other hard and fast rules.

Make sense? Drop me an email or leave a comment.