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Questions to ask about team performance

Before measuring the performance of development teams, it is important to understand the purpose of having these indicators. They must not, under any circumstances, become objectives for the teams, otherwise, they will cease to be a good measure (see Goodhart’s Law). They will help us ask the right questions. There is nothing worse than solving the wrong problem, so it is essential for each team to be able to ask the right questions and find the answers themselves.
“Do not set objectives but measure.”
The measurements will allow each team to know if they have a problem on a particular aspect or not. The checklist enables teams to understand how they function, how they should adapt, and assess their level of competence. An effective and basic checklist would be based on three aspects:
  • Delivery speed
  • Quality
  • User and team satisfaction (Team’s own satisfaction – Team NPS)
These three indicators already provide a compass for all teams, regardless of the development process they use. These indicators are also part of the pillars of Lean.

Delivery Speed

We focus on what comes out of the team and observe the output. The Accelerate study has highlighted 4 key indicators to monitor in organizations, with the first 2 indicators being related to speed:
  • Deployment Frequency—How often an organization successfully releases to production.
  • Lead Time for Changes—The amount of time it takes for a commit to get into production.


Does it meet a real need, and does it function well? The last 2 indicators from the 4 Key Metrics are related to this aspect:
  • Change Failure Rate—The percentage of deployments causing a failure in production.
  • Time to Restore Service—How long it takes an organization to recover from a failure in production.

Team work

Here, we refer to the satisfaction of both users and the team itself. At the team’s output, we assess if what has been produced is valuable to the customer. Is the team in a good state of success? The Net Promoter Score (NPS) of the team is crucial. A team in a positive state of mind will achieve better results and feel more open to changing its processes and improving its performance. The human resources aspect is also essential, as a team with low turnover will be more productive in the long run. Having knowledge of the team’s environment is crucial to determine if they are in a good context and if the conditions for success are met. For instance, at Back Market, the motto is “figure it out, make it work,” where each team enjoys autonomy and significant freedom to avoid synchronization costs among teams.
The real performance of each team is measured, not the process.
Teams have the autonomy to choose their process, but they should also be capable of assessing their productivity to evolve it as needed. It’s essential to ask questions to the teams, but equally important to let them answer. We often have the habit of answering for them. Ideally, teams should be asked a set of retrospective questions. They should be able to ask themselves the right questions, and one approach could be using Spotify’s squad health check model. Each team should create its checklist to monitor productivity, tailored to its specific context. It’s important for the team to feel that they own their code and their project, the tech leads are there to supervise and support them. The team needs to be able to question and comment their code, while the tech lead encourages reflection. This way, they can truly adapt and improve accordingly. These are the points we raised with Ludi Akue and Dimitri Baeli during our webinar on the questions to ask about team performance. Don’t miss our next webinars!