Output, Results, and Things That Are Difficult to Measure

This is a brainstorm rather than a well thought out (or thought out at-all) blog post. I briefly considered a tweet stream, but wanted to give my few followers a break.

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about what it means to be productive on a software team – or how that productivity is viewed, tracked, or measured. I’m not going to dive into performance reviews, as those have a lot more moving parts and dynamics – but just the general view of how we view result – or output from any individual, and any organization.

Traditionally, “output” is a bullet point list of things-you-did. This is output – or production. It’s certainly measurable, and if someone has no output or results, there’s likely an issue. But there’s another kind of output that doesn’t get talked about enough. What about the person who makes other people better? The person who coaches, mentors, and finds ways to make people around them productive?

Jessica Kerr, calls this attribute ‘generativity’

I like the term, and have begun using it recently…which is probably why I’ve been thinking more about this over the past few days.

Some points to consider (and potentially discuss):

  • Output is linear. I can produce 0 things, and I can produce n things. More things == more production. (Note that all produced things are not equal).
  • Generativity can be positive or negative. I can help the team achieve more than the sum of their parts, or I can be an asshole and hold everyone back.
  • You can be both Generative and Productive. While you can be Productive without being generative, I don’t know that it’s a good thing to be Generative and not Productive. More on this below the bullets.
  • Generativity requires leadership – this means that generative people tend to be more experienced (and that less experienced people may focus entirely on output).
  • For those who care about measuring, Productivity is much easier to measure than Generativity.

I don’t know of a system that’s done a decent job figuring out how to measure the non-tangible output (Generativity) of team members. I’ve seen highly generative (IMO) people viewed poorly because their output was difficult to measure (which is why I included the third bullet above), but I think generative people are critical for success in most teams. Of course, the best generative people I know also produce some measurable results as well, so perhaps that combination is necessary.

Five for Friday – April 27, 2018

Here are five of the things I found interesting this week.

  • It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Patrick Lencioni – this quote from him still makes me chuckle…and also wonder a bit about what happens when I’m not around.
    As a leader, you’re probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you’re not around.”
  • I’ve mentioned (or think I have) that I’m not afraid of working myself out of a job (or role). I ponder this a lot, and came across this (not new) article on Working Yourself our of a Job to Accelerate your Career.
  • I enjoyed this article on how important it is to stratify data in order to get accurate analysis.
  • Jesper Ottosen ponders, Could Modern Testing Work in the Enterprise?
  • Most importantly, I have a new dog. Meet Terra!

Five for Friday – April 20, 2018

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately, and this quote from The 5 Levels of Leadership (John Maxwell) rings true in so many of my thoughts and reflections.
    “If you think you’re leading but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.”
  • I’ve mentioned my love of personal kanban here before, but I have a thing for productivity in general. I read this article on time blocking which reflects a lot of the things I’ve figured out on my own over the last decade or more.
  • Within time blocks, when I really need to focus, I do two things. First is that I listen to orchestral music. Jazz and music with lyrics both are distractions to me. Some people swear by pomodoro but when I was writing HWTSaM, I fell in love with (10+2)*5 – which is simply 10 solid minutes of focus, followed by a 2 minute break, repeated 5 times – followed by a longer break. At one point in writing that book, I was so far behind that I took a week of vacation to catch up (which is a little ridiculous for a book where I received 0% of the sales) – but I would crank out 3 sets of 10+2*5 every morning, then another every afternoon, and I was cranking out pages.
  • To help, I even wrote a Windows Vista gadget (anyone remember those?) app for this technique (link if you’re massively curious). It’s odd that I procrastinated on writing the book to write an app to help with procrastination – but that’s me!
  • Finally, this is mine (and Brent’s) but worth another share. Our Modern Testing principles (listen to the podcast for a whole bunch more background) can be found by going to moderntesting.org

Five for Friday – April 13, 2018

  • Quote I’m pondering: “Anyone operating with a theory of leadership that assumes that experts know what is best, and that then the leadership problem is basically a sales problem in persuasion, is in our experience doomed at best to selling partial solutions at high cost” – Heifetz, et al in The Practice of Adaptive Leadership.
    I’ve been (re) studying adaptive leadership quite a bit recently, and hit home on a few of my poor-leadership experiences.
  • What I’m reading – The Five Levels of Leadership, but John Maxwell. I’ve read one of Maxwell’s other books, but I’m finding this one really valuable in forming a model in how leaders grow into better leaders.
  • I enjoyed (and shared with my team at Unity) this article on Continuous Improvement and Feature Branching. Well worth the read.
  • There was a time when PSP (Personal Software Process) was (well, not popular, but far more interesting than it should have been). I thought of PSP when I read this article on tracking time, but completely without the icky feeling of bean-counting that PSP always gave me. In fact, I’m going to try tracking what I do for a month purely for self-reflection on my own prioritization. Definitely interesting.
  • Finally, for all of my readers who enjoy my love of wine, there’s this article fro National Geographic – Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze

Five for Friday – April 6, 2018

  • Quote I’m pondering – “When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.”
    I’ve been re-reading (in pieces), The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. I love all of his writing, but this (his only non-fiction book) has so much great information on organizational health that I find gold every time I read it.
  • I started re-reading The Advantage after thinking of it in this post: Culture is the Behavior you Reward and Punish.
  • I spent a bit of time with Docker this week. I would have spent more, but I figured out how to build a container running a web server (nginx), tweaked the configs as needed, and pushed a repo so the container could be re-created on demand in about 45 minutes. I honestly think everyone working on any sort of web tech should know the basics of docker at a minimum. It makes me want to be a new tester again so I don’t have the problems of 1994.
  • I work with people across 7 timezones. I’m good at timezone math, but not that good. This week, a co-worker pointed me to Figure it Out, and my brain is now free for other tasks
  • At Microsoft, execs often “pursue outside interests” – which in micro-speak means they were fired. Last week, I heard that Terry Myerson (former Windows exec) is pursuing outside interests. I only bring it up because my impressions of Terry while in Windows (the stupid project I worked on to make android apps run on Windows phone was technically part of Windows) were pretty low, and I think the move is good for msft (although a little slow on the action).

Five for Friday – March 30, 2018

Some of these links are worth full on blog posts, but I’ll try to keep this short.

  • This quote re-popped on my radar this week while thinking about leading change. “What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”
    It’s from the Heath brothers book, Switch. While many of us may complain about why change can be so hard, it’s often because the message of what we want to do isn’t clear. The harder challenge, frequently, is making our message clear.
  • This is a few weeks old, but Katrina Clokie’s talk on Testing in DevOps is worth watching.
  • Cindy Sridharan is back with another wonderful post on Testing in Production, the safe way. It’s long, but worth reading
  • I read books on defensive programming well before I was a very good programmer. I have a huge soft spot for developers who promote methods of preventing bad code from ever being written. Adam Boro wrote a nice article on the subject – Become a Better Programmer by Making It Hard to Write Bad Code
  • Last, but not least, Jeff Nyman wrote a fantastic blog post this week that is absolutely worth reading – Let’s Broaden Our Testing Wisdom

Five for Friday – March 23, 2018

I skipped last week while I was at Testbash, but back again to share a few things of interest to me this week.

  • What I’m reading: Practical Monitoring. I’ve been thinking a lot lately how I take teams who are not used to using monitoring extensively, and get them ramped up, and this book has been excellent for me getting my thoughts organized.
  • Quote from the above book that reminds me a lot of Modern Testing is:
    “Monitoring is not a job — it’s a skill, and it’s a skill everyone on your team should have to some degree.
  • One thing I thought was really fantastic about Testbash was that Rosie (until recently, Bossboss of Ministry of Test) brought her new baby with her, and Bossbaby was accepted and embraced by all.
  • An important point to remember when it comes to culture: Culture is the Behavior You Reward and Punish
  • Finally, interesting information about Slack and the privacy of direct messages.

Five for Friday – March 9, 2018

  • Two quotes I’m pondering from Peter Drucker (both appear in Stephen Denning’s The Age of Agile)
    • There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.”
    • It is the customer who determines what a business is.
  • I thought yesterday’s post from Unity on International Woman’s Day was really well done.
  • While I realized this fully during my time at Microsoft, it’s official; research says that the Peter Principle is a full on truth.
  • I enjoy the concept of the “Manager Readme” – Michael Lopp (aka Rands), posted his version this week: How to Rands. I have a much less well written readme of my own on our internal wiki.
  • I’ve mentioned before that I think Kanban is wonderful. Like most wonderful things, if people do it wrong, it’s less wonderful. That’s why the first quote of this article made me want to read the rest.
    If you ask 100 people “What is Kanban” probably 50 (or more) will answer “A white board with sticky notes on it” or should we say a “Kanban wall”.

Five for Friday – March 2, 2018

  • Quote I’m Pondering is an old one from Elisabeth Hendrickson, but I seem to find a need to pull it out in a conversation almost every week when discussing how “agile” a team is.
    A team is agile if it delivers business value frequently, at a sustainable pace.
  • Book I’m Reading – The Age of Agile, by Stephen Denning
  • My latest webinar is posted – a panel discussion on the Future of Test Automation
  • I ditched cable TV a month or two back, and so far have been pretty happy with rabbit ears and Youtube TV (and, of course, netflix). There are some drawbacks, but nothing so severe that I regret saving a hundred bucks a month.
  • Most people wouldn’t dream of spending $400-500 on a coffee maker. But nine years ago, I bought a DeLonghi Magnifica, and it has held strong, and made wonderful coffee to help fuel my day that entire time (ok – it did need service for the grinder once). For those with a similar model, I typically brew with the two cup button, with level and strength set to 10 and 2 respectively.

Five for Friday – February 23, 2018

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Squamish, BC while my car charges. But still inspired as much (or more so) than ever.

  • I spent the week skiing in Whistler. I come here every year (sometimes more than once), and I fall in love with the place a bit more each time I visit.
  • It’s vacation, so after I (finally) finished Dan Pink’s When, I read the latest Jack Reacher novel. Don’t judge me, but I’ve read them all, and while some are better than others, (and none are literary greatness), the books are engaging, fun, and a great escape. BTW – if you’ve read these, I’m sure you’ll agree that Tom Cruise is the absolute worst choice to play Jack Reacher in the movie adaptations.
  • I unintentionally ramped up my conference speaking this year. I love the conferences, but often don’t anticipate the time investment – especially months in advance. I’m working harder at saying “no” more often. I (now) try to consider whether I’d say yes if the conference was next week. If the answer to that question is no, I lean heavily towards no for the conference months from now.
  • Danny Faught had a wonderful post this week on his work on wikipedia. It’s inspired me to try and get more involved myself.
  • Quote I’m pondering: ” “Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan