Archive for 2009/08/21

What are you managing, really?

Dave Nicolette shares the story of the manager troubled by the impossibility to track developer productivity.

Isn’t it sad that a well educated person who takes on a leadership role should see his most important task to watch and track others “productivity”? Well, if you think that this measurement is so important; how do you measure if a manager is productive? The number of meetings or charts he presents?

“Yes, Tom is really improving his management productivity, he can now come to a meeting with a 45-slide-presentation instead of the mere 40-slide-presentations he came with last year”

Yes, I know that “you get what you measure” and that you should track improvements. But when it comes to productivity, the tracking of individuals can be misguided. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, optimizing a specific step can often lead to more queues in the system so pushing Bob into writing all that extra code can be bad for the whole process.

Also, in a day and time where empathy becomes more important when it comes to customer and client handling, we are often not satisfied with loads of low quality stuff. We want the thing that breaths inspiration and passion. We get seriously pissed when the supplier market the list of functions if half of them does not work in our system installation.

But the amazing part about the tracking of individual productivity is that the silliness is not exclusive to software development. Think about the first line support. How do you measure their productivity.

“Oh, John has the highest productivity here. He answers and then just hangs up so he can take hundreds of calls every hour.”

“We close our cases within 10 seconds. When we receive them we just state that we won’t fix it and close the case.”

Managers should worry less about how they are going to track their folks and more on how to inspire, coach and develop the people on their teams. If you really want to improve productivity instead of just reading a lot of numbers, here is where your effort should lie.

I’ve perhaps have had bad luck with managers before, having just had one decent one before my current manager. But I can tell the difference when I feel that my manager does what he can to make the thrive and evolve. One of the most important tools we use is direct and open communication. When we can we meet, over lunch, just by the desk and without a computer. Stuff that in the case of Dave’s manager example would see as very unproductive while I think that it’s exactly that viewpoint which makes that guy a very poor manager. Good on you Dave to take the debate!

Categories: Leadership Tags: