As a Product Manager, you’re used to setting up KPIs and OKRs to measure the performance of your products, and you can do the same for your team. Team metrics are valuable for your company, your products, and most importantly, for your team members.
But beware-there’s no one golden metric that all teams should measure. The metrics you select will vary depending on what your team needs. So before measuring, pause a moment to evaluate: what are you trying to accomplish? Maybe you have an excellent team and are simply trying to further optimize, or your team is great overall but has trouble streamlining a few tasks, or you’re adopting a new software tool and you want to understand how it affects productivity.
Once you determine where you are, it’ll be much easier to define where you want to go.
Types of Team Metrics
There are various ways to break down team metrics, and some are more quantifiable than others. Time spent on a task, for example, is much easier to quantify than levels of burnout in team members.
Overall, we can break team metrics down into three categories: Performance, Wellness, and Synergy.
Performance is what we tend to think of when we think of traditional job assessments: here we measure productivity, efficiency, output, and outcomes. Wellness has to do with how your team members are feeling at work-are they experiencing burnout? Do they feel appropriately challenged in their role? And finally, Synergy is a look at team dynamics. This is a good way to improve interactions and communications between team members, as when reducing friction in cross-functional processes, or determining the most effective meeting structure for your team.
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In each of these categories, there are a couple of additional considerations: internal vs external, and individual vs team. Internal vs external means there are opportunities for both internal or external evaluation. That is, you as a team leader can assess the team from an external point of view, or you can invite team members to offer their own evaluations from an internal perspective. Further, when creating your metrics, identify whether a given metric applies to the team as the whole, or to individual team members. Having this clear definition will make the assessment process easier moving forward, especially when measuring the harder-to-quantify metrics.
Performance measurement is the more traditional way to assess employees, focusing on productivity, efficiency, output, and outcomes. These metrics are often the simplest ones to quantify and determine a goal for.
In a Product Team, this can be as easy as measuring team performance against the metrics of your product; if your product meets the requirements and KPIs, then the team is a success by default. You can measure individual contribution to meeting these end goals (who contributed what pieces of the project) or you can measure team performance (speed in execution, success of product in market).
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Let’s go to one extreme of performance measurement. In engineering and development, it’s common to granularly measure performance, as with story points and throughput. Engineers use these to break down work into units of measure for effort required to produce an item, or else to measure how much is produced in a given amount of time. This is about as detailed as you can get in assessing performance, and could likely be extrapolated out to other kinds of positions. With this method you could create a system to measure the units of work each team member contributes, as well as the monetary value of a certain unit of work from each team member.
But not only is this a lot of work and measurement, it’s arguably ineffective. Measuring units of output by effort and time taken can be effective in positions of rote labor-words per minute or boxes unloaded-but in a field such as product it’s difficult to accurately break down work into easily measurable units.
Instead, other methodologies include measuring competency against expected level and role, and taking a more holistic approach and assessing satisfaction and well-being, performance, activity, communication and collaboration, and efficiency and flow ( SPACE).
This said, there is still space to measure quantifiable data around performance. But make sure you define beforehand what you want to measure and why -a specific issue you’d like to address or behavior to monitor, rather than an ongoing and comprehensive performance evaluation.
A potential impetus could be: your team is complaining about constant interruptions and extra requests. So you measure the number of interruptions your team members face on a daily basis, and when. Or, you notice that you always underestimate the amount a certain part of the roadmap takes, so you measure how long it takes to complete a specific task so you know how much time to budget, or else are able to identify the reason that task takes so long.
Things like this can be measured through time trackers where team members self report the metric you’re trying to measure as it appears throughout their day or week-but make sure you know what the goal of this measurement is, and communicate it to your team. You’re not trying to be Big Brother and peek over your team’s shoulder to see how they spend each minute; the intention of measuring this data is to pinpoint or further define problem areas and bottlenecks so you understand what actions you or your team can take to alleviate the issue.
You can also measure for less easily quantifiable goals. Determine what you as a Product Manager want to see from your team, or have an open discussion with your team about your team values and decide this together. Perhaps you value helpfulness; you can track how often your team members help others with their tasks. And if you value initiative, measure how often they volunteer for new and challenging tasks. Though these metrics are more subjective, it can be helpful for you as a team leader because it will spur you to identify what kind of team you want to have and move in that direction.
You can also have team members evaluate each other. This is similar to 360° feedback, but is constrained to members of the team only. Ask them to fill out periodic evaluations of their teammates based on the goals or agreed upon values. You can also ask them questions about team performance such as: How do we work as a team? How satisfied are you with this team? What are areas of teamwork we can improve?
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And finally, since you are also part of the team, have your team members evaluate you as well. Determine what areas you want to improve on as a leader, or ask your team members where you have room to grow, then create metrics for these attributes you’d like to improve on an ongoing basis.
It would certainly be easier to define team metrics if we were all robots; work would be something in our system that we could debug, reprogram, and measure. But we’re human, and for better or worse we bring human elements to the workplace.
If you want a team that can execute, innovate, and collaborate effectively, it’s imperative that you pay attention not just to your team member’s outcomes, but also their feelings. There is a strong correlation between well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity.
Well-being refers to happiness and health, both physical and mental. Though this is certainly affected by the workplace, well-being is also managed with activities outside of work. What you have more control over as a team leader is job satisfaction, or how team members feel within their role, team, and company.
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When we talk about job satisfaction, we talk about leading teams full of people who feel appropriately challenged, but not overworked, and creating an environment where everyone can identify what tasks they are best-suited for and grow into their full potential.
Some possible metrics to measure for job satisfaction are:
To check in on these metrics, you’ll again have to ask your team members to self-report. You can create questions based around these metrics and have your team members fill out a weekly check-in.
Another metric to measure is flow. Flow is a buzzword, but for good reason: its energizing, enjoyable, and has positive effects on productivity and wellness. You can measure flow in a binary, as in: have you achieved flow today? Answer Yes/No.
Or you can measure flow in percentage of the day spent in flow. Your team members can use a time tracker that they start when they enter a flow and stop when it’s interrupted. They can take notes as well describing 1) what kind of task it was, and 2) what brought them out of it. Over time you can identify what tasks each team member is best suited to and increase the amount of time each day spent if flow-which should also improve job satisfaction and wellness.
These metrics are taken individually but should be put together to tell the story of the entire team. If one team member is fantastic and all the other members are miserable, that’s not a healthy team, despite that one person’s high scores. The way in which metrics vary between team members can also give you clues into ways the team can improve, or insights into team dynamics.
Speaking of team dynamics, these are particularly hard to measure. Thus far we’ve primarily focused on metrics for individual team members, but it can also be useful to study the interactions between different members, and to set KPIs for the whole team.
Setting KPIs for the team can be as simple as making a goal for the number of meetings you have over a period of time, with the intention of making sure you interact enough to keep familiarity. For example, you can plan to have one standup a week and one coffee date catchup a month. This is especially important when working in a hybrid or remote team, as your social interactions would otherwise be far and few between. If you’re having too few meetings and socialization sessions (or too many!), simply taking note of this can keep you on track for a baseline of team interaction.
In fact, meetings are a great place to gather metrics. There’s a reason that the “this meeting could have been an email” meme exists. But meetings can also be an opportunity to promote healthy conflict, idea sharing, and collaboration. To make sure your meetings are the second kind, and not the first, it can help to take a “team pulse” to set objectives and measure your team’s experience of the meeting.
To create a team pulse, sit down as a team and decide what you want to get out of your meetings. Make a shared document where you list the data you want to collect, and have the team fill it out after each meeting giving a rating to each action point.
You might have different pulses for different kinds of meetings (e.g. planning vs retrospectives), but try to keep as many metrics the same across the board as possible so that you can measure progress over time and identify areas for improvement. For example, if you see you have a consistent problem with time management week after week, you can address this head on until the metrics improve.
Which Metrics Are For Me?
Don’t get overwhelmed by the possibilities in team metrics. Either on your own or with your team, define which areas for growth are a priority and then define metrics that will measure these. There is no one metric or set of metrics that work for all. You can come up with a set of continuous improvement metrics you measure over the long term, and also in-depth sprint metrics to tackle short-term issues you’ve identified.
This said, be careful of having too many metrics. You don’t want to overwhelm your team or yourself by trying to improve everything at once; this can discourage your team by making the change seem impossible.
And don’t look at team metrics as solely a way to build profit or monitor performance. Rather, look at it as a way to help your team optimize their workflow and enhance job satisfaction.
Finally, remember that metrics aren’t the be-all-end-all. Metrics can tell you that someone’s performance has declined, but empathy and communication will help you understand that it’s because of a personal hardship. Metrics are one tool to manage a team, but they should be used in tandem with other tools, and always putting the humanity of your teammates first.
I’m Carlos González, CEO at Product School, and I enjoy sharing weekly tips for Product leaders!
This article was also published on The Product Management Blog.