They’ll Measure You

If you happen to be a Product Developer in a large company, a day will come when you will hear the dreaded word. Metrics.

Human minds are traditionally weak in dealing with unstructured information. This leads to the propensity to measure something in order to understand it better. Measurement by itself is not a bad thing but reckless application of a successful principle into uncharted territory should be dealt with caution. Measurement of an activity is the first step in automating it. There are several intervening step but the direction is towards factory-ization. Look around in the manufacturing world and you will see dozens of examples. Look around in the software world and you will see that some activities have already started getting measured and incentives aligned with the metrics the measurement throws up (application support for example is measured. The measurement parameters – mostly ticket clearance velocity – are wrong but that doesn’t take away the fact that the activity is measured).

Developing products is a creative process and I have my inhibitions about such processes being measurable. Harper Lee would have definitely lost out to James Hadley Chase if she was measured on the number of books written. Charles Dickens would have won hands down if “words per book” was applied as measure of articulation (incidentally, Dickens was paid by the word, which leads to the first warning for measurers – “beware what you measure for thou shalt get just that”). There is no need to measure and discover the best developer if you have just seven working for you – everyone knows who the best is. Yes, there is a need to measure if you have seven thousand (if you have that many then most likely you have been factory-ized already. You have implicitly “allowed” yourself to be measured).

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