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The "Ask a Manager: Measuring Performance" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Engineering Management 102 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ryan discusses performance management and measuring performance with Jem Young. They discuss various ways to determine if a team is performing well, such as team members pointing out problems and offering solutions, team members feeling comfortable giving feedback and suggesting improvements, and the team setting their own objectives and key results. They also discuss the importance of engagement, autonomy, and avoiding ineffective metrics like lines of code or relying solely on visible projects for measuring performance.

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Transcript from the "Ask a Manager: Measuring Performance" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> All right, well, this is the portion where we are going to ask a manager, I don't have all the advice and I love to lean on peers to help me think about it maybe a little bit differently. So we're gonna be talking on the topic of performance, management, and measuring performance.

[00:00:17] So I'm going to lean on Jem Young to help me, a seasoned manager and peer. Jem, I have a couple of questions for you that I'd love to kind of hear how you approach them. So what did you found useful to know that your team is performing, they're doing the right things?

[00:00:34] How do you get signals into that with your team?
>> Yeah, my view is may be a little different. I found it useful to know I can see how my team is performing if they point out problems. I totally don't mind complaining, I complain all the time. I believe in the power of venting to make yourself feel better, but they also bring solutions too.

[00:00:56] So like, man, this thing sucks, here's what I think we should do about it. And I see that cycle starting to build up, where people start solving their own problems and they bring those to the team. That means the teams are performing cuz they're spending their time on the right things.

[00:01:11] That's a really strong signal for me. Another one is in terms of performance. If people are giving me feedback, and they feel comfortable like, hey, Jem, what about this process here? I think, maybe we shouldn't do stand up this time in the morning. Or maybe we shouldn't have this meeting cuz prople aren't really even in the office at this point.

[00:01:29] And people feel comfortable doing that, and looking at the team as a whole. I feel good about the team performance, because it means our culture is really healthy and they feel comfortable doing that.
>> I love that there, helping you do your job better too. It's like I saw this point that maybe you didn't see.

[00:01:45]
>> Another one is, it's kind of on the measurement side, but it's a little bit different on, so we use OKRs on the team, they're still fairly new. But one thing I've found is I say, here's some objectives, what are other objectives? And the team can come together and create their own objectives, and they agree on that.

[00:02:03] Says a lot about the team health and culture and performance where they're like, okay, we agree these are obvious problems. And then they write their own key results and their own timelines and milestones and things like that. I don't have to do that. That says, they own these areas which make me comfortable in these areas.

[00:02:19] And that frees me up for it to do other things. But more importantly, if they don't hit those targets that they set, then we can have a conversation, not in any blameless way or in a totally blameless way. But you're the one setting these targets, let's figure out what's going on and what we can fix.

[00:02:35] And it's more collaborative at that point, and it's not me dictating, it's not them dictating, it's just we're coming together and figuring this out. If we can do all that and the team's functioning, that means they're performing really well, and I'm free to focus on other aspects of the role.

[00:02:50]
>> Yeah, I think in those ways too, you're helping them feel more engaged too, right? Which's feeling engaged with the work and not just, well, my manager told me to do it, that's a huge difference, right? And feeling like you can own some of those outcomes, and that can be really helpful.

[00:03:10] I love what you said too, like people bringing problems to you, I love that. And I'm actually comfortable with even the venting. I appreciate when someone has suggestions, or possible solutions, and they're looking for my advice on them. But sometimes it can be just like, Ryan, I'm just frustrated.

[00:03:26] I'm so frustrated with this process that we're doing, I don't have an answer, but it's not working. Can we talk about it? And then, the two of us can have a bit of a conversation around that. And maybe I'm unaware of some of those things. So I'd really love that too, because having that open dialogue and having people feel comfortable to have that conversation is huge.

[00:03:46] That's what you want, because they have a different vantage point than you do as a manager, and you want them bringing up some of those points.
>> I like your sort of engagement, I don't think we even brought that up. But yeah, if the team's engaged and people are engaged, that says a lot about how well they're performing, and how well they're not stressed about things necessarily.

[00:04:05] Or if they are, they're engaged enough to bring that to you and bring that to the team. And between engagement and something like OKRs that they've set themselves, it's really not that hard to measure at that point if your team's performing or not. There's always the part on how are your partners viewing the team and things like that.

[00:04:23] But that's my job as a manager to kind of go out and do that. That's not at a team level. But I think people make seeing if my teams are forming well probably too complicated. A lot of it you can just feel as a manager. Just like if you're driving down the street and your car's not running right, you can feel it.

[00:04:40] You can always say, it's this way, that you just know something is off. And that, to me, is kind of the instinct of a good leader, is you can just feel when things are going well, you can feel when things are not.
>> Yeah, those gut signals, it kind of give you a signal that I need to dig in a little bit here.

[00:04:57] I think another thing that you mentioned too that I really liked was almost, I'll kind of frame it a little bit different way, but you're allowing your team to decide what metrics are important for those OKRs and really show up to speak to the work, is, yes, they're engaged.

[00:05:12] But then, also demonstrates their depth of knowledge in the space too. I think that's really helpful, because having a high performing team is they understand it, they understand the details deeper than you do in some areas, and they should. So I think that's a really good call out, and I really liked that one as well.

[00:05:30]
>> And also, I guess another lens is how autonomously is everybody operating? Do they need to ask for feedback and advice all the time, or is it they only bring the critical stuff? That says a lot about kind of the experience of the team. When they're asking me questions, the type of questions they're asking says a lot about how engaged they are, how engaged other people are.

[00:05:50] But I really like the autonomous working mode, but coming back together at the right intervals.
>> Yeah, and they probably feel comfortable to make calls on their own too. They're not like, Jem, can I get your permission to do this? It's like, no, yeah, I feel like this is the right call.

[00:06:04] I might get input on it, but I'm gonna push that and make that call. I like that. What are things that you've maybe found? Maybe you've tried something for measuring performance, or paid attention to something, or you've seen something so egregious that you're like, I would never ever use that as a metric for performance already.

[00:06:21] Did I cover them all, or did any come to your top of mind?
>> Lines of code is such a bad pattern.
>> Yeah.
>> There's things that are really, really complex. Especially, I work in the platform space where a lot of times we don't know what the problem is, or we don't know how complicated it is, because we're looking at other people's code that they built on top of the platform.

[00:06:42] So things like a refactor, I couldn't say like, hey, here's a target for getting this refactor done. Get it done in this time frame, because we don't know what it'll take. Maybe it'll be short, maybe it'll be long. So I think measuring hard metrics or lines of code, or did you get this thing done on this specific time frame, it can often be a bad sign of performance that people tend to lean into.

[00:07:09] And I think, I mean, I don't wanna criticize other managers, but I will, it's easier. Just look at, hey, we'll close a lot of pull requests, but Emily didn't. And like a sheer of numbers are really easy to point to because it's kind of a lazy way of doing things, but it doesn't tell a bigger story.

[00:07:28] And I see that way too often, of people trying to measure in terms of hard numbers, without digging in and being like, actually, they changed one line of code, and it was brilliant because it actually solved this other problem. But it took them maybe a week of research to figure out this is just the one thing we need to change.

[00:07:45] And that's where being the engineering part of the management comes in. But I think if you lean too much on the people side and not enough from the engineering and understanding what your team is doing, you just rely on pure numbers, which is just incorrect.
>> Yeah, there's so much nuance to everything that's being done that you really have to kind of understand, like that you call that out for the lines of code.

[00:08:04] I also wanna celebrate deleted code. It's like, yeah, we don't need more complexity. You deleted lines of code, [LAUGH] I'm almost wanna celebrate that more than I want to count lines of code.
>> Another one is, people, I don't know, your director or manager or whoever is coming in like, so and so did such a great work and you're relying on that as a metric of performance.

[00:08:28] It's really good to acknowledge those type of things, but some of your higher-ups or even partners are only gonna see the really highly visible projects. And if you're only focusing on the team members who would like to do the highly visible projects, you're missing all that hidden glue work.

[00:08:43] Like documentation writing and tests that no one sees, but it's critical for your team to function. So it's another one like, yes, acknowledge it, but you can't lean on that as much. And be like, hey, Ryan, you haven't got as much praise from my manager in a while.

[00:08:56] What's going on with you? And that's just a poor way of measuring performance.
>> I might look at that on you, Jem, is why is the manager not aware of the good work, that your manager is not aware of some of the work that's happening on your team?

[00:09:09] That so and so has written so much solid documentation that might go unnoticed, but it's super impactful. You wanna help celebrate that or share that up to your leadership too. So yeah, it's a good call out. Cool, well, thank you, Jem.
>> Thanks, Ryan.