Single-Dimension Measurements: How NOT to measure technical staff


I'm facilitating a roundtable, Test Management 101, on Stickyminds, and someone just posted a question about how to measure testers to show return on investment: measuring the number of defects they find. Ouch. When you measure developers on the number of lines of code, or testers on the number of defects, or carpenters on the number of cabinet doors they create, that's a single-dimension measurement. Single-dimension measurements skew everyone's thinking about who's good, who's not, and what to do about it. Single-dimension measurements lead to Dilbert-esqe situations, such as the one where the PHB (Pointy Haired Boss) announces extra pay for each defect fixed. Wally decides to write himself a minivan (create defect-laden code which isn't measured, and then fix it, which is measured).

Technical staff assesssment is impossible to measure with a single-dimension measurement. You need at least some combination of how the person works, how much they create, and how good that creation is. Fuzzy to start? Yes. Customized to each situation? You bet. Hard work? Yup. And, that's the job of management – to look beyond easy non-answers to define the real measurements.

(I'm working on an assessment mechanism that will require each manager to define the kinds of people, the knowledge required, and how the employee applies that knowledge to the product as part of the assessment. It's hard. And when I'm done, it will be much better than single-dimension measurements or those useless review sheets companies use now. If you want to help me test the tool, email me. )

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