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How to Measure Developer Productivity the Right Way!
Three ways to subjectively measure productivity instead of silly metrics that don't work
In the world of software development, assessing the productivity of developers remains a complex task. Over my two-decade journey in the tech industry, I've encountered many measuring tools and methodologies.
People try DORA metrics, lines of code, commits, defect rate and all sorta of other metrics. They are interesting but are easy to game or don’t apply to all developers.
Instead, I've found that combining intuitive assessments and observing specific behaviors provides the most accurate insight.
While I often rely on my gut feelings to gauge developer effectiveness, these feelings are shaped by three core factors. All of these factors serve as indicators of not just the developer's technical prowess but their overall approach towards work.
Let’s dive into what drives my gut instincts.
Factor #1: The Art of Asking Questions
Asking questions might seem basic, but it's an art form that reveals more about a developer than one might initially think.
Clarifying Questions: First and foremost, are the developers proactive in seeking clarity? Whether it's about the product, the underlying architecture, or the nitty-gritty of the requirements, their questions can provide insights into their depth of understanding and engagement.
Seeking Help and Integration Insights: How often do they reach out for assistance? Do they inquire about system functionalities or how to best weave their work into the existing fabric of the project?
The contrast between developers emerges in this realm. While lackluster developers might refrain from any inquiries, proactive and dedicated developers will consistently ask intelligent, thoughtful questions. As they delve further into their tasks, their curiosity should ideally intensify, ensuring they're on the right path.
In a world of working with remote and global development talent, asking the right questions is a super important skill.
Factor #2: The Confidence vs Confusion Quotient
Confidence, often discernible in the tone, demeanor, and approach of a developer, can be a significant tell.
Surety in Their Craft: Developers in tune with their work exude a level of confidence. This doesn't mean arrogance but a surety in their understanding and the path they're treading.
Enthusiasm: An often-overlooked aspect, enthusiasm can speak volumes. A genuinely engaged developer will not only understand their tasks but will also exhibit a spark of excitement about their contributions.
Conversely, if you consistently find a developer lost, confused, and devoid of confidence, it might signal deeper underlying challenges that need addressing.
Factor #3: The Progress Parameter
Progress is the real currency of any project. My litmus test for any developer's productivity is straightforward – is there evident daily progress?
While every day might not herald a breakthrough, the incremental work done should reflect the time and effort invested. We all have good days and bad days. The key is to know if we are making progress and whether it feels reasonable.
It's essential to trust your gut instincts. Does it feel like the project is steadily moving forward? A seasoned development leader should be able to intuitively sense if the progress is on track or if they went in in the wrong direction long ago.
The Role of Stand-ups in Gauging Productivity
Many in the developer community have a love-hate relationship with stand-up meetings. But for me, they are invaluable platforms for assessing the aforementioned factors.
Stand-ups provide developers a structured environment to pose their questions. Whether they're clarifications or deep dives into specific problems, this forum allows for immediate feedback and course correction. Simultaneously, sharing daily progress can be an essential barometer for the overall health and momentum of the project.
In conclusion, while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring developer productivity, these indicators have served me well over the years. By focusing on the quality of questions, confidence levels, and visible progress, one can navigate the intricate maze of developer assessment with a bit more clarity.
Every development team is different. It requires a lot of experience to have good gut instincts in assessing a team's productivity.
But trust me, it works way better than how many lines of code or PRs a day your team does or how long it takes to merge a PR.