3 ways to motivate your developer team with metrics

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3 ways to motivate your developer team with metrics

Metrics are essential to assess how developer teams and organisations can work smarter and improve software delivery as a whole. Execution metrics, including the likes of throughput, delivery and number of deploys, are mostly looked at to determine how a team performs, and if overall, they are efficient. But, while useful, these metrics alone can sometimes be a distraction. For individuals, they may not be inspiring to achieve, and for businesses, they may not provide a complete picture of results — at least not without connecting them to a bigger goal or vision.

To avoid developers feeling like they’re just another cog in the machine, here are three ways that managers can get their teams motivated, behind metrics, and demanding the right ones to track.

  1. Make your goals clear

Before managers can even consider utilising metrics, they should not only clearly define the organisation’s overall goals, but the team’s itself. That way, every developer can understand what to shoot for, and as a result, get intrigued about the metrics to get there. Only once goals are established can managers consider how their team will execute upon them and figure out any obstacles that could stand in the way — helping to increase their team’s overall chance at success.

After all, if developers have clarity on the company’s and team’s mission and vision, they can understand how their work directly impacts the customer and the success of the organisation, which is highly motivating. When team members understand their role and value, they will be more motivated to improve their performance because they can see the direct impact on business outcomes.

Individual contributors may even start asking for access to more information by asking questions such as: “Are we spending too much time on technical investment?” or “Are we far off on our estimates?”. That way, they can diagnose their own problems and improve their work. Answering such questions can also help a team determine which metrics to track.

Once everyone has clarity on the company’s and team’s mission and vision, all will recognise how their work fits into the bigger puzzle — and not only feel more valued, but more likely to demand metrics.

  1. Consider intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards

One of the most key, but one of the more challenging, aspects about achieving business outcomes is extrinsic motivation. Businesses want to set stretch targets because teams faced with stretch targets tend to push themselves to achieve the challenge.

For example, if a manager’s goal is to reduce their developer team’s mean time to recovery from 55 minutes to 50 minutes, they are going to hit that number and feel quite satisfied. But if a manager sets the goal at 45 minutes and the best their team can do is 47 minutes, getting to 47 is still way better than getting to 50. Even if the team didn’t hit that stretch goal of 45, they’ve still achieved more by aiming for it.

It’s important that managers realise that teams need the safety to be able to push themselves to those stretch goals and that safety comes in part from the right approaches to motivation, and the flexibility to fail.

  1. Steer away from shortcuts

Managers face a number of challenges as leaders, one of which is always having a lot of context around the decisions being made and the goals being set. As a result, they may feel like it’s best and even easier to process that information and convey the results to their team, rather than bringing them along on the journey. But the likelihood of alignment through that approach is extremely low — the bigger picture is what gets teams excited, and focused. It even helps with understanding.

If I tell my team to make sure they hit their numbers because “I say so” and they should “just trust me,” that’s not going to work. Similarly, if managers show up and say they need to have 27% allocation to bug fixes and 32% allocation to new features because that’s their diagnosis of the problem from looking at the dashboard, they’ll get their team allocating their time that way, at no actual benefit to the business.

To overcome this, managers should steer away from shortcuts by starting with the reason and ending with the numbers.

Overall, metrics are a positive way to motivate developer teams but it takes the right metrics and the right strategies to be successful. Once these three ways are explored and steps are taken, managers will know once their team is energised by metrics because numbers will start going up and teams will be asking how they can do even better.