How to measure Productivity?

This happened in one fine day in a team meeting. One of my co-workers raised her doubt on measuring the productivity.

A Tool to measure productivity?

She picked up a task and based on her initial understanding estimated that the task would require two hours to complete. When she started with the task she ended up in exploring for solution and a bit of research for about six hours and learned that two lines of code will fix the task. So she coded those two lines complied in ten minutes. Now, what is the productivity and how to measure that?

I really don’t have an answer,as I can’t quantify the productivity to a mere number and I believe most development and testing tasks are like this. Do you have an answer?

Addendum added an hour later:

Every one is forced to show their productivity,that is the only measure any company needs. Will KLOC ,Burn Down Chart or any other metrics show the productivity correctly here?

Addendum added After Aravind’s Comments:

I liked all the points in comments by Aravind  below



8 thoughts on “How to measure Productivity?

  1. Yes. What is the point? I think taking humans and ranking them against each other is ugly and ethically shady. What I like instead is team heroism in service to a goal. That goal should be delivering customer value. Rewarding individuals to compete against one another is old fashioned and I prefer to work places that value collaboration and teamwork.

    So, why did she decide to work on this task alone rather than with anyone else? Was it possible that with joining minds she could have discovered the lines of code needed in two hours? What does this code accomplish? Is it more important than other code? What does this deliver to the end user?

    Productivity measures are generally small numbers for small minds. I weary of them.

    1. Lanette,
      Every other member in the team is running behind to complete unrealistically estimated tasks assigned to them. Every one in the team is new to that technology. No time to discuss with other team members, eventually no team work. I faced another situation where two developers are working in two different screens. Data entered in one should get populated in the second screen. The person developing second screen didn’t even have time (or bother) to ask other person, created his own table and picked data from that. Then during a discussion later this was found. The pressure to show the productivity and unrealistic estimates are the reason for this. And I have strong feeling that agile methodology is very well (mis)used just to pressurize the team, forcing them to show some workable software every sprint. And many situations people clearly say “I know this is not the correct approach but I don’t have time and I am not allowed to re-estimate now”
      All are falling into the productivity trap and the agile is completely misused or misunderstood.

      Productivity measures are generally small numbers for small minds
      I completely agree with that and I too weary of them.
      –Dhanasekar S

  2. Productivity measurement is a nice thing to cook up things. we often hear from people who measure productivity with a mathematical formula is that it helps us to work more. We need skills to work more or rather we need to learn more to improve.

    Most of us (not strictly) follow that simply because everyone else is following.

    For me, any productivity measurement is just an indicator. I m of the feeling that any measurement without any introspection or attention is simply waste of time and the results/understanding will be tilted. With partial understanding, it leads to bad decision making and unlikely to serve the purpose.

  3. I would like to add few pointers about my perspective on productivity.
    1. Productivity cant be measured for a day or hour rather it can be measured for a month or a week. This will give the average productivity across a week.
    2. Why it has to be measured? coz without measuring, it cant be improved.
    3. Does productivity applies for research tasks. I think so, productivity applies to all activities except the cases of creative tasks(like painting) and rocket science 🙂
    4. Which process improves productivity? agile or water fall or … I would say common sense
    5. And productivity can be measured and improved once the team was setup and it can atleast deliver something. Before this stage, measuring and publishing productivity can have negative effects on the team.
    6. Blind rules like 2 fixes/day wont make any sense in productivity measurements
    7. Productivity measures can have exceptions at specific cases

    These are my perspectives and I have applied these at different instances and had positive results.

    It is good point to discuss and argue

  4. Ragu,
    I am not sure whether there is a generic way. How I do is, setup a consistent way of measuring productivity(for Ex work items, bugs etc) across time and across different teams. Measure it every month/week. Track the increase/decrease and identify reasons and take corrective actions.

    In short I meant, where you start doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you are improving or not.

    1. Hi Aravind, all

      I understand what you are saying with the “consistent way of measuring productivity”, but your examples don’t seem to support the cause. Or maybe your example is not quite how you do it at work. Could you give a specific example how productivity would be improved with your method?

      What I see as the problem is that you are basically saying productivity of testing can be improved by tracking the changes in bug counts over time. This is, not only impossible, but also an oversimplification of what testing is.

      Please correct me if I misunderstood what you said. Thanks!

      Best regards,

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