Numbers. We are obsessed by them.

None more so than in the workplace. Where targets, KPIs and metrics are king.

The king is dead, long live another way of knowing where you are.

The reason I write this, the reason I am thinking about a number, is because I have now been in my current place of work for a month. A whole, shiny month. It’s not a big number – 1 or 30, whichever way you look at it – but it is a landmark.

I reached the end of my first month unscathed, as some might say.

During that month I have encountered a lot of numbers. The number of people I have in my team. The number working on the client side. How many weeks there are in a sprint. How many sprints we are expected to use to achieve our Minimum Viable Product (sideways look to camera). How many stories we need to achieve to secure that end goal. How many points each story needs to have.

This is just the tip of the iceberg – of which the volume on display is less than what is hiding, and could scupper our progress. Etc, etc, etc….

What exists behind all of those numbers are people. Not resources or roles, but people.

This month has flown by thanks in part to the spirit of those very same people who make up my team. Folk who want to achieve something – to make a difference and to find a way of answering the questions we pose them.

They are here to deliver an outcome, not just a metric – something we value immensely at Difrent. The metrics are merely by-products of our shared outcomes.

Here’s an example. Prototype 5 is not a rocket ship or an American beer. It is something we need to present to the Government Digital Service as part of an assessment early next year. What it really is, is the culmination of work carried out by our user researchers, business analysts, user experience and content management champions. Yes it shows the progress we are making in terms of an output. However, I can see a better sense of progress through the changes each of the individuals working on the prototype are bringing to the team.

The ideas they are putting forward to make a real difference.

You can’t always measure the impact belief and understanding in what you are aiming to do, has in the ability to deliver our outcome. Sometimes it needs a word in a meeting – an acknowledgement from an observer – to let you know improvements are being made.

The increased velocity, outputs, targets and story points will follow. The ability to discuss, review, challenge and agree are the softer, less 1s and 0s that will always be first and foremost in how I would describe the work we do.

I agree that we need numbers to support and measure what we are doing, but never lose sight of the fact that the biggest number applies to the amount of times you smile, nod or quietly replay to yourself – loudly congratulate those around you – on the difference the team is beginning to make.

We are people. We deliver outcomes. The numbers are merely rolling stock on the way to those successes.

Chris Written by:

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