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Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.

Vol 10, #1: How Effective Are You?

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013

How Effective Are You?

A colleague emailed me, asking me how she could tell if her staff was effective. She had developed a few metrics. But her gut was telling her she was looking at the wrong data.

She was right. She was looking at the wrong data. Her managers wanted to know how effective people were. Why? Because her managers wanted to know which people were the “weak links.”


Okay, now that I’ve gotten the growl out of my system, let’s separate the productivity and effectivity discussion.

Productivity is the output of features over time.

You can game this measure, because features are not normalized. You can make the features smaller or larger. This is why you cannot compare velocity between teams. I explain more about this in Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management.

And, this is why it makes zero sense to measure any given person’s productivity. Not only are the features not normalized, but people do not work alone. Knowledge workers are interdependent workers. Your work depends on other people delivering work to you, and you delivering work to other people. If you work with anyone in any organization, you cannot talk about personal productivity, because you depend on other people.

Effectiveness is choosing which work to work on.

When you manage your project portfolio, for the organization or yourself, you are being effective. You are asking the zeroth question, “Should we do this project at all?” Once you ask the zeroth question, you can start to ask many more value-based questions, and rank the work. I explain that in Manage Your Project Portfolio.

Now, here’s the best part. You want to be both effective and productive. And, to do both, you want to be effective and productive as a team.

You want productivity? You need a team of people to work together. You need a diverse set of people who bring different strengths, who still fit the same culture. It’s a challenge to find those people, but once you do, you have great people who can create great products.

You want those people to be effective? You choose which project a given team should work on for now, and let them loose.

Teams may still encounter problems, and might need help solving them. But the biggest problem: is everyone else available to work with me on my project? will not be the problem they need to solve. And that will make everyone more effective.

If you are a manager trying to help people be more effective or productive, start with the zeroth steps. Don’t think you can measure individual productivity. Don’t use team velocity as any more than a guiding indication than “things are okay” or “things are not okay.”

If you are a team member trying to be more effective and productive, find time when everyone is available to work together on your project. Even if you have to artificially timebox that time, “Hey, let’s all work on Tuesday from 3pm to 5pm on the Whatsis project.”As a team, if you see your velocity shrink, you should identify the problems and act. Velocity is a team diagnosis tool.

And, do rank projects in your project portfolio. Especially decide which projects you are not going to staff for now. Knowing which projects you are not going to staff allows you to fully commit to the projects you are going to staff. That makes everyone much more effective.

Hiring Geeks That Fit is Available on Leanpub

Have you checked out Hiring Geeks That Fit yet? It uses stories and examples of questions to explain how to use cultural fit so you understand how to hire technical people for your organization.

If you are looking for a job, take a look at my book: Manage Your Job Search. Looking for a job is not the mirror image of hiring, so this book is different from the hiring book.

I’ve created a bundle, All About Jobs, on leanpub, where you can buy both books together. Stay tuned for webinars about both books.

See Where Johanna is Speaking

Join me at AgileIndy for my keynote about agile management, and a tutorial about agile project management, March 7-8, 2013. Early bird registration ends Feb 6. Register now for the best price.

I’ll be at Let’s Test, in Sweden the week of May 20, 2013. I’m looking to combine that trip with other work in Europe. Want some training or other consulting? Let me know.

Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues here.

I keep my blogs current with my writings: Managing Product Development, Hiring Technical People, and Create an Adaptable Life.


copyright 2013 Johanna Rothman

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