26. Continuous improvement through metrics
Good monitoring of flow assumes that flow is measured. Continuous improvement is not possible without a means to measure improvement. Therefore as a team embraces metrics, they support efforts to monitor continuous improvement.
One of the best places to see the role of metrics in measuring continuous improvement in a team is in baseball. Over time dedication to the myriad statistics that are available in baseball has only grown. As a boy, I remember attending baseball games and sitting next to someone with a large statistical chart laid out in front of them. As they watched the game their pencil was constantly in motion. They were continually capturing the different metrics and statistics emanating from the game.
These days modern computing has been brought to bear on baseball. A couple of years ago we got to meet with the technology wing of the MLB. We were being considered as a potential vendor. In our meeting, we learned about how an exponential amount of new statistics were now being gathered about each moment in a baseball game. It was all being saved to the cloud. These metrics are fodder for baseball fans who love to analyze the intricacies of performance and imagine ways to improve it. But these metrics are also highly valuable and practically useful to the coaches and players on the teams who use them to reconfigure and optimize the team dynamics in an effort to continually improve. Just refer back to the example of Moneyball to see what I mean.
Entire systems of thought are dedicated to metrics, monitoring, and continuous improvement in the business world. Six Sigma, Lean, Agile, and other systems of thought offer help in this realm. The specific system is not important here. What is important is the monitoring of flow through the continuous improvement of the team process.
Above it was discussed how important low friction leadership is to team flow. Low friction leadership requires planning. The planning must include expectations for metrics: deadlines, scope completion stages, fitness criteria, etc. These planned expectations then lend themselves to ongoing measurement. The effective leader uses metrics to see challenges emerging before they become problems. Metrics, with planning as a backdrop, reveal opportunities and necessities for change in plan and growth within the team.