I've said publicly at conferences and other gatherings that my passion for agile and lean began years ago after a particularly troubling project that tried to be agile. While that project had a strong team and eventually delivered a product, it had trouble with quality, scope and budget. In retrospect the biggest problem was that we had little knowledge of what it meant to be agile - our process was flawed. As a leader of that team, I took responsibility for the result and began a search to understand agile. Borrowing a phrase from the agile manifesto, I wanted to 'uncover better ways'.
After implementing several changes to our process, my projects over the years seem to have improved significantly. But how do you measure this? While no metric should stand alone, here is one quality metric that I'm experimenting with:
((# of high defects * 5) + (# of medium defects * 3) + (# of low defects * 1) / Total project hours * 100.
The 'troubled' project had a score of 18.7. My most recent project score was 1.2 which is almost a 1600% improvement on quality. I think I'll keep doing this agile thing.
P.S. I'm heading to Agile2010 this summer. Give me a shout if you are going and we can find ways to de-brief together over lunch or dinner in Orlando.