I came across a humorous post from thedailywtf.com on an “innovative” way to measure productivity through SVN check-ins, which of course met with expected results, with some employees increasing their productivity by over 600%. It also led to the development of a nice little reusable asset that could be used to increase productivity:
Still, it irked Milo that he wasn’t reaching his full productivity potential. He was wasting a lot of time writing code; time that should be spent checking code in….
With his script, dubbed “PHLEGM” (Programmer’s Helper for Literally Engaging in General Machination, named by one of his colleagues), he could stretch what would usually be one checkin to 20-30 commits. It’s evolved like an open source project with his fellow team members adding new features.
The post also led me to an old Joel post on productivity related to Amazon’s attempt to measure customer service productivity based on number of calls logged:
“Thank you for calling Amazon.com, may I help you?” Then — Click! You’re cut off. That’s annoying. You just waited 10 minutes to get through to a human and you mysteriously got disconnected right away.
Or is it mysterious? According to Mike Daisey, Amazon rated their customer service representatives based on the number of calls taken per hour. The best way to get your performance rating up was to hang up on customers, thus increasing the number of calls you can take every hour.
Joel’s also been quite critical of productivity measurement and incentive based systems at work before. However, I can’t think of a better alternative to the usual rating systems used in companies, especially large ones with tens of thousands of employees. Can you?