Re: Productivity metrics?

Subject: Re: Productivity metrics?
From: SteveFJong -at- aol -dot- com
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 13:07:50 EDT

Geoff Hart raised a number of entirely valid objections to productivity
metrics. Why would anyone believe in them?

Productivity metrics have an emotional component which confuse the issue:
they're about measuring *us* against our peers in a competitive situation (is
my raise at stake?), and none of us likes that. But remove the emotional
component by looking elsewhere, and suddenly productivity (and metrics in
general) becomes something we routinely rely on. Do you pick mutual funds on
the basis of their long-term return on investment? Would you give a raise to
the store clerk who rings through the most customers in an hour, or the
fewest? (And whose line would you want to stand in?) If you had cancer, would
you opt for treatment with a 95% success rate or a 45% success rate?

Geoff is absolutely right about how variations in writing projects can affect
individual productivity. High productivity only occurs in the context of an

entire system of production set up to support it. The busiest clerks work in
the busiest store--no customers, no productivity. The busiest writers work in
the company with the strongest focus on turning out product releases. Also,
the busiest writers have the most assignments; managers make assignments, so
managers have a lot to do with productivity!

But from the perspective of a hiring manager, when you staff a new project,
how many people will you need, and how long will it take? Those, I think, are
the fundamental questions productivity answers--which is not so threatening.

Finally, I think there's no one golden measurement--certainly not
productivity!--but if you combine metrics across quality dimensions, you can
quickly home in on an accurate representation of quality that leaves nothing
significant unknown. Yes, the clever tech writer can outwit productivity
metrics by typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" all day, but
is there any place in the real world where that actually works? In my group
nothing goes out that I don't see, and I'm not that easily fooled 8^)

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc., 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
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