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Middle Metrics: Solving Engineering Management's Top Problem

David Kyle Choe
May 31, 2021

Why a lack of visibility holds Engineering Managers back and how Middle Metrics start to solve the problem

It's fair to assume that no one should expect a person to successfully drive to a destination looking through a foggy windshield just because they have Google Maps up and running. No matter how clear the end destination is or specific the directions are, if someone can't see clearly in front of them, they'll crash.

If this is true, then why do so many engineering and product organizations expect engineering managers to be successful without being able to see clearly in front of them?

After speaking with dozens of top engineering managers across the US, we found a striking commonality: their greatest challenge is a lack of visibility. Muddled metrics and numbed feedback convolute a clear view for managers on what is going on day-to-day. They may be clear on the end objective, the path to get there, and yet find themselves driving blind. The source of this blindness is two-fold: insufficient data and analytics, not manager incompetence.

This is why we created Staat. We built the windshield defogger. We've developed a more contextual and intentional product on top of a more useful framework to give engineering managers the visibility they need to drive their teams more effectively. Staat centralizes disparate data found on separate project management and development tools and presents them in a balanced view providing the middle ground visibility necessary for engineering managers. By serving the right metrics in a team-centric framework, we've removed the need for hacked solutions, writing scripts, and extraneous meetings to gain the insight needed to be productive and effective.

Currently, the data and analytics that engineering managers use sit on opposite ends of a spectrum:

Data and Analytics Spectrum

Engineering managers need, what we call, middle-ground visibility, powered by Middle Metrics, to be fully effective and efficient. Middle Metrics showcase in-sprint progress to help engineering managers make real-time decisions and ultimately improve long-term performance. Engineering managers need to clearly see what's happening without the blinders of irrelevant details in order to improve upcoming, higher-level evaluations, and overall progress. Despite having access to powerful tools, those tools weren't built specifically for engineering managers – having the best-in-class wipers do not solve the issue of foggy windshields.

That being said, Middle Metrics are not designed to be the panacea for all of engineering management's problems, instead, they are the missing piece of the visibility puzzle. Middle Metrics and are most effective when used in conjunction with tools and ceremonies like qualitative, conversation-based data gathering, regular check-ins, and collaborative planning rituals. Just as the car's defogger, GPS, and steering work best together, Staat, Middle Metrics, and other tools and rituals work best as a unit.

In addition to a lack of middle-ground tooling and access to Middle Metrics, engineering managers are often gauging progress based on frameworks and metrics that aren't compatible with the kind of work that happens in the day-to-day. Metrics like lines of code or time spent exclude relevant context and are too granular, while higher-level metrics like delivery lead time and deployment frequency fail to provide fresh insights for decisions that engineering managers have to make on the frontline.

This lack of visibility is the root of a whole suite of other problems:

  1. Engineering managers feeling unproductive
  2. The misuse of metrics
  3. Inaccurate estimations and planning
  4. Distrust or harmful team cultures
  5. Wasting time & energy

It's easy to see how things can spiral out of control. We believe there is a better alternative: Middle Metrics.

Drive with clarity.

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