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Shipping Greatness by Chris Vander Mey

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Chapter 6. How to Measure Greatness

YOU CAN FREQUENTLY ASSESS the quality of a team by the quality of their metrics. Metrics are the lifeblood of a team lead because everything in your job is a negotiation, and metrics provide a rational foundation for discussion. If you don’t back up your statements with metrics, you’ll sound like Animal the Muppet. You also need metrics because you are constantly making judgment calls, and good data creates good (or at least defensible) judgment. Great leads live by their metrics because metrics point out problems, track progress, and celebrate success.

How to Collect the Right Metrics and Only the Right Metrics

There’s a story, possibly apocryphal, that tells how Frito-Lay came up with one metric by which it could run its business. Frito-Lay stocks store shelves, taking up critical inventory space. Ideally, it will take up exactly the amount of space on a shelf that it needs—too much, and its products get returned. Too little, and it misses out on sales.

You can imagine multiple ways of figuring out how to create a metric for this business. You could sample the number of products on shelves every day and then forecast a trend, but that would be very time-consuming, especially if products are typically stocked every two weeks. You could measure store profitability and then look at stock levels, but that would deliver data that’s confounded by store effectiveness and size.

Frito-Lay solved this problem by measuring “stales,” the count of products that ...

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