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As an engineering leader, it’s your responsibility to set your team up for success. Data can help you do that.

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Engineering organizations are often measured by their outputs. Engineering speed, code quality, and work completed are all important goals, and in most organizations are a critical component of business success. However, as an engineering leader looking to drive progress toward those goals, you’ll need to focus on key inputs: the factors that contribute to developer success.

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A data-driven approach to inputs can help leaders achieve a developer-focused work environment. The right data, used responsibly, makes it possible to determine when your team members might need support and when they might benefit from extra space. Data can also provide a starting point for conversations with your team, so you can collaborate to create an environment where they can excel.

Together, you can work toward optimizing processes, fostering autonomy, cultivating psychological safety, and encouraging professional development – all important examples of inputs that contribute to your team’s success. Now let’s dive into each of these in more detail.

1. Optimizing processes and clearing blockers

Teams can often sense when work isn’t moving optimally through the development pipeline, but it’s not always easy to determine why. Engineering data can help provide visibility into team processes, so everyone can work together to get things back on track.

With the right data, teams can:

  • Test assumptions
    Your team may have a shared understanding of how things should be working, but that doesn’t mean it reflects reality. Objective data can be key to assessing whether a particular process or best practice is actually producing the desired results.
  • Spot trends
    With data, it’s possible to look at your team’s performance over time and identify the impact of key changes, like a shift to remote work.
  • Identify high-impact improvements
    Metrics that correspond to the various stages of your software development lifecycle can help you spot opportunities for adjustments early on in your processes, many of which can have significant downstream impact.

Be sure to involve your team members in any attempts to optimize and improve processes. As the ones whose day-to-day work will be most impacted, they’ll likely have a valuable perspective on how to boost efficiency. A collaborative approach will also help ensure that they understand the reasoning behind any changes and are invested in the new processes’ success.

2. Fostering developer autonomy

When you’re constantly checking in on your team members, you may be doing more than just interrupting their flow – you may be threatening their sense of autonomy, and by extension, their motivation. Data from your DevOps and project management tools can give you the basic visibility you need, so you can dedicate valuable meeting time to more meaningful conversations and more impactful interactions with your team.

When using data to gain visibility, it’s critical to maintain a culture of transparency and safety. Your team should know what data you’re looking at, why it’s important, and how it will be used. In addition, you should be careful to ensure that data is always placed in context, and not used as the basis for punitive action.

3. Cultivating psychological safety

Used properly, data can even help leaders enhance psychological safety – a prerequisite for successful teams, and especially those that take the larger risks necessary for driving innovation. Objective data can be an important tool for combatting biases and checking assumptions. It can also help keep problem-solving conversations and other forms of constructive feedback focused on the work, rather than the individual behind it.

4. Coaching developers to excel

With psychological safety in place, it’s possible to have open discussions with developers about their ambitions. Data can help you track patterns and spot possible opportunities for improvement, while keeping conversations grounded in specific units of work. Data can also make it easier to set and track progress towards specific, actionable goals that drive professional growth.

Reflections

As an engineering leader, it’s your responsibility to set your team up for success. You won’t be able to write or even review every line of code, but you can create an environment that allows your team members to perform their best work. Objective engineering data – and a focus on inputs – can help you do that.

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