The Field Guide to Leading Teams

09/26Data-driven only works with the right data.

Activity charts on their own are a terrible metric for progress. If you’re just staring at graphs of the number of commits, comments, and PRs you’ll be sorely disappointed when it’s time to actually measure your progress towards your major goals.

Worse, bad metrics are easy to game even unintentionally. You’ve seen this with the Chronic Oversharer on your team – the person who loads every daily update with gobs of detail about stuff that just doesn’t matter. This behavior is ultimately a fault of the team lead; this person is just trying to satisfy the metrics that they’ve been told explicitly or implicitly that matter.

Start with the end goal in mind and then work backwards to find the inputs that get you there. Disregard vanity metrics that might appear like work.

Work with the right data and your insight will improve dramatically.

Best Practices

  • GitHub has a contribution graph to visualize commit frequency. They even have a spiffy VR visualization for it. But commit frequency is meaningless most of the time: 10 small commits could have the same result as 1 big one.
  • Data is useful only when contextualized, like the percentage of your team that's blocked each day. A manager should fix the issue, measure it again, and then check for a result.