Chapter 23. Engineering Productivity

Camille Fournier

I’m often asked about the characteristics of great engineering managers. This is a question that almost always has a long answer that involves, “Well, she’s good at X, and he’s good at Y, and then there’s Z…” Every management role is slightly different, and a great engineering team will have managers who reflect a set of complementary skill sets (such as operations, people management and coaching, and product focus) that are aligned with what their subgroup most needs.

However, for most of us, there is one characteristic that is not optional or debatable, which is that a great engineering manager is capable of creating a highly productive engineering team. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the management side of engineering. Call it what you will — drive for results, goal oriented — if you are not great at getting your team to be productive, this is a critical growth opportunity.

How do I know this is important? Ask any engineering manager at a startup what one of their most dreaded questions is, and they will almost certainly mention “why isn’t it done yet?” Engineering productivity is a difficult thing to measure, but most of us know intuitively what it feels like to be on a productive team. We’re shipping things, we’re focused, we feel like we know what we’re doing and why it is important.

So, what ...

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