Guest: Christina Forney (LinkedIn)
Company: Uplevel (Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk

Engineering executives and leaders assume and expect that their organizations are spending the majority of their time working on initiatives that deliver value. In reality, many developers are spending 80-90% of their dev time on customer support issues and/or meetings because the systems are failing or going awry.

Uplevel is an engineering intelligence platform that helps organizations make better data-driven decisions and iteratively improve how they deliver software or value or product to their end users. It looks into an organization’s entire engineering efforts and their impact on their team’s health. It provides actionable insights to ensure the teams are focused on innovation and working as effectively as possible.

In this episode of TFiR: Let’s Talk, Swapnil Bhartiya sits down with Christina Forney, VP of Product at Uplevel, to talk about the importance of taking a “health check” so that leaders understand what’s happening across the organization, how are their people spending their time, how are they executing, how are they operating, what are the people doing to achieve business goals, and if the organization is overextended or if it can push a little harder.

Uplevel provides data and context regarding an organization’s

  • Execution health — This can come in the form of metrics like DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA), which is the accepted standard of measuring whether or not teams are shipping.
  • Process health — Looking at the volume of meetings, scattered calendars that are not aligned across the organization, as well as sprint health kind of metrics.
  • People’s health — This includes toil, “deep work and hard thinking” time.

Forney hopes to bring a human-centric approach to engineering organizations and engineering leadership. Greater understanding, both within the leadership and within teams, creates greater cohesion and a more motivated and aligned organization.

Common themes/patterns that they’ve seen:

  • Inverse relation between the amount of “deep work” time people have and how much their “always on” metrics are exceeding, i.e., if they don’t get to do “deep work” at work, they get it done in their own time, which means they’re overworking. The quality of their work may go down because it causes burnout.
  • Developers are spending too much time in meetings.

Advice for companies looking to improve their organization health:

  • Build trust through transparency and visibility. Developers are incredibly suspicious of being tracked and monitored. If your development teams know what’s happening across the organization and that what you’re looking at is to support and improve their experience, they’re going to be motivated to help you make that change.
  • Instead of just issuing a broad policy, explain the pattern that you’re seeing across the organization and the consequences. For example, if the organization is not getting enough “deep work” time, you may have a new policy to not have meetings on a certain day. Explain why it matters — that it’s not just about them and their schedules but it’s about the organization as a whole, and how they can contribute to a better working environment for their peers.
  • Productivity is multifaceted. Determine which component (efficiency, effectiveness, velocity, or capacity) is actually the problem. By digging into the deeper layers of what’s going on, you can you pinpoint and understand how to support your organization.

This summary was written by Camille Gregory.

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