According to Gallup, 70% of all workers are disengaged. It is widely quoted that "90% of IT projects fail," probably based on this and other studies.
"On the success side, the average is only 16.2% for software projects that are completed on-time and on-budget. In the larger companies, the news is even worse: only 9% of their projects come in on-time and on-budget. And, even when these projects are completed, many are no more than a mere shadow of their original specification requirements. Projects completed by the largest American companies have only approximately 42% of the originally-proposed features and functions."
Cap Gemini Consultancy suggests that the main reasons for success (and thus for failure) are 1) Support from Sr. Management 2) Alignment with Overall Strategy 3) Buy-in from Employees.
Further, the Gallup poll bears this out by claiming that companies with engaged employees outperform other companies on an earnings per share by 2.5:1, have lower turnover, and maintain a healthier workforce. Employee engagement would thus seem to be a worthy goal.
So, how to measure this? How to get management support, align with strategy, and get employee buy-in in a lightweight manner? Personally, I've set in many Post Mortems where the team was very clear very early on that the project was in jeopardy or at least not on track. I often thought, "If management could just take the pulse of the group at any given time, we could avoid so much of this, what we need is some kind of instant-feedback mechanism." I began looking around and found this: http://www.navicet.com/products/kiwi-dial. These are great. I've used them on my last two projects. You put them on the wall and the rules are very simple:
• Only team members can adjust the dial.
• Anybody on the team can adjust the dials at any time.
Ideally, you want to provide a mechanism for the person who adjusts the dials to provide information on why they adjusted them or if they have suggestions on how to improve the score for a particular dial. This can be an email, a conversation, an anonymous drop box, or whatever works for your team. Additionally, if you are using a methodology like Scrum or Kanban, you can review the dials at stand up or retrospectives, and discuss how to improve changes. But make some avenue for discussion and improvement.
I recommend six of them. We measured: Fun, Teamwork, Visibility to Management, Empowerment, Risk, and Clarity of Purpose. Originally we set them in a retro, and fine-tuned them as we went, but I find that most teams seem to end up with very similar dials. This is not too surprising. People want to enjoy their work, feel appreciated, have the ability to make decisions which contribute to their success, measure the potential to achieve that success, and feel that they are doing the right work at the right time. You write the metric on the front of the dial and the definition on the back, that way anybody who is curious can flip it over and get clarity on what you are measuring (and why).
This simple tool turns out to be incredibly powerful. We started using them in our scrum room and had C-level executives coming in and taking pictures of them to display at meetings - including an all-hands meeting with over 8,000 employees. In short order the dials had spread to all kinds of teams, both IT and business.
Of course there are a few caveats.
For the dials to work they require transparency and trust."Pumping up the dials" for management completely defeats the purpose. You must be vigilant about this.
Make sure you respect the feedback and do not defend or rationalize a drop.You have to take any movement in the dials at face value and address it head on, talking about the issue and leaving any personal aspects out of it.
Be patient and proactive, not reactionary.Sure, a dial might dip occasionally if people have a bad day, but they will also go back up just as fast.
When dials go down, you have to acknowledge it, and take action to improve that metric.If you do, the team will use them and continue to give you accurate feedback. If you don't they will soon become static and useless.
When dials go up, acknowledge that as well! You want to celebrate success and bake it into your processes.