Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Performance Measurement perceptions

I "interviewed" a friend about performance measurement at his organization.
Do you think the performance measurement is effective?
Effective in doing or changing what is really the question. Some companies do it cause it is "best practice" and don't even measure the effectiveness or care. If the aim to be effective in creating better code - then I don't think it is effective in that. I don't think something that is done once every 6 months (or even 12) and done on a piece of paper is going to change "micro" things like creating better code - Better developers sitting with weaker developers numerous times throughout a day is more likely to create better code. What I do think performance measurement could be good for (but most companies don't see it like that) is measuring the "macro" or longer term performance of someone (especially measuring them against what they are MEANT to be doing as opposed to what they ARE doing). A lot of smaller companies I think are very used to "put your head down and work" they never look at the bigger picture and never even get to setting longer term goals let alone measuring them. What is a longer term goal is questionable but things like building up coding knowledge base, or migrating all historic systems to a new code base maybe?

 Do you get an accurate appraisal of your contribution and effort?
As above I think generally the problem is that the appraisal is trying to use a "macro" type of forum to address "micro" type issues. What good is saying to someone your code is "generally" of "good" quality. I do not think that quantitative measurements are particularly helpful either - after all what does being a 7/10 for clean code really mean? However when tying into a bonus system sometimes you need these. Also a 7/10 is completely relevant to what company you are in as well as what is expected of you. A senior developer is expected to produce better code than a junior developer, however that doesn't mean you give the junior guy 2/10 for everything. Far more useful is knowing how to improve. So short answer - No, not in my experience is it very useful.

Do you think that other measurements might be better?
Specifically I would like to see IT companies spending more time measuring the employee (and the company) in a far broader view. The company (or representative) and the employee need to continually discuss how they are being mutually beneficial to each other - with specific reference to the longer term. Many companies (and especially IT companies) seem to think people work for them so that they can get paid. While this is true - people have a lot more reasons for working at a company - their career being one. I wait for the day when my boss has an open (and non-threatening chat) to me about what other options I have in terms of job/company as well as career. I think bosses prefer to be ignorant and presume that as long as they pay their staff (and enough) they don't have to think about anything else. I think bosses would prefer "not to know" why their staff might want to work elsewhere. Anyway - the reason I think this is so important is that once companies and employees can start to align their longer term goals - and continually ensure that they are still aligned - the shorted term goals are far more likely to fit in place.

Do you think the measurements used contribute to your productivity?
Productivity for measuring performance is misleading. Attainment of Goals is far more useful. I can be productive because I write thousands of lines of code. But it could be very bad code. Or maybe it is really good code but the client didn't really want that function in the first place and I was just getting distracted because it interested me. Productivity measures quantity (within a certain quality allowance). Measuring someone's performance is FAR more complex than measuring quantity (or quality). To only measure productivity assumes that productivity is even a goal in the first place. Short answer again - No I generally don't think the appraisals or the measurements generally contribute to productivity.

Not very encouraging. What is the job description of Manager?

Maybe the answer does not lie in the word "Manager". Yes if you are a Line Manager you manage items coming off a production line. If you are a Project Manager you manage tasks in a project. But when you are managing people... When you are trying to create high quality characters and work ethics, not high quality objects... These things can not be created by "management" but rather by "leadership". A good manager will get people to work at their full capacity. A good leader will inspire people to acheive things far greater than what they ever previously thought possible.
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