On productivity

I did a recent AMA on Clubhouse and there were a lot of awesome, hard-hitting questions on the panel. So for the next several weeks, I’m going to write out my thoughts to each of the questions and how I answered them.

As leaders, how do you calculate the productivity of team members?

This one is a slippery slope. I’ve tried using things like the DORA metrics. I’ve tried more insideous calculations like lines of code, pull requests made, or bugs solved, but those all optimize for the wrong thing: more stuff.

More stuff doesn’t make you more productive; it just means you’re doing more stuff with your day.

In a recent bout of 1-1s I asked every direct this question:

Who do you think I’m more likely to promote: the person who spent 2 hours making the company $3MM with a single code change or the person who spent all year working hard to get all of our tests to 100% code coverage?

Everyone picks the first person because they know the real answer on measuring productivity: in impact.

Lines of code, PRs merged, bugs squashed…these are all vanity metrics that are easy to track but don’t really measure what you’re after.

Instead, encourage folks to write something like a promotion packet on the impact they’ve made over the last year. A bit of self-reflection will make it easy to see whether or not a person is truly productive by any semblance of an objective measure of productivity.

Any other kind of measure of productivity is a red herring and a bad road to travel down that will only lead to micromanagement and missing the point.

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