Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

I first heard this joke way back when, at my first real job–I was a TV repairman when I was 14.  It may generate a polite chuckle when asked between peers, but it’s serious business when the boss asks the worker.  It’s also been a topic of conversation over on the Scrumdevelopment yahoogroup, where Graeme Matthew described the difficulty of determining this using velocity.

The unknown in all of this is that if a team have a velocity of 6 how do you tell if they should have a velocity of 8 i.e. they are underperforming. It gets complex. If they have a velocity of 16 are they doing well or have they estimated at the higher scale of story points.

I agree with Graeme that this is one of the difficulties with using velocity to measure performance.  I agree with Alistair Cockburn when he says

There is NO good measure of “programmer productivity”.

earlier in the same thread.  Yet when you work with people, you generally know who’s working hard and who isn’t.  It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? (Continued)