There’s an unhealthy obsession with companies looking for a way to measure developer productivity.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve led multidisciplinary technology teams across some of Australia’s largest enterprises. Most recently, I led the development of an internal development platform, supporting the experience of over 7,000 engineers as an executive manager at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Today, I lead the DevOps Evangelism team at Atlassian, where I regularly meet with Fortune 500 companies, traveling the world sharing insights and guidance on optimizing for high-performing and engaged software teams and leadership.
In my conversations with senior leaders, I’ve come to understand the desire to measure productivity. Senior leaders are under pressure to deliver results while capitalizing on their investments in teams and technology. There are no sinister intentions behind measuring developer productivity; leaders genuinely want their teams to be as productive as possible. The problem is that developer productivity is incredibly difficult to measure, resulting in organizations allocating disproportionate effort and resources while trying to find the magic measure. This investment in measurement takes precious time away from initiatives that could help developers be more productive.
Imagine the possibilities if the same amount of time and energy was invested in improving developer productivity rather than trying to measure it.
Fact: Happy developers are productive developers
Intentionally improving developer experience is the most potent way to improve developer productivity within an organization.
Happy employees are productive employees may seem like an obvious statement, but this gets lost in the developer productivity discussion.
Think back to any high-performing developer you’ve worked with; chances are they’ve gone above and beyond what was formally expected of them. This developer was likely highly engaged, had everything they needed to perform at their best, and generally enjoyed their work.
The behaviors associated with employees who “exceed expectations” are known as have organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and are driven by job satisfaction. Thousands of academic research papers back the notion that satisfied employees are productive employees — software developers are no exception.
So, if satisfied developers are productive developers, developer productivity is a by-product of developer joy.