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S.P.A.C.E. Framework - The Ultimate Framework For Measuring Your Tech Team Productivity
The SPACE framework allows you to measure and understand team productivity from five dimensions: Satisfaction, Performance, Activity, Communication, and Efficiency.
👋 Hey! My name is Piotr, and every second week I make a spotlight on a single practice from the Product Cards deck.
One of the biggest challenges for product, design, and engineering leaders is measuring and improving team productivity.
Team productivity is a controversial and complex concept. It involves many factors that affect how well your team works together and delivers software products. You can’t just use one metric to measure it. You need a holistic and multidimensional approach covering all team productivity aspects. Luckily for all of us, that’s what the SPACE framework offers.
The SPACE framework is a research-based technique that allows you to measure and understand team productivity from five dimensions:
It allows you to avoid common pitfalls and biases when measuring team productivity, such as focusing on output over the outcome, quantity over quality, or activity over value.
SPACE framework card comes from the Product Cards deck I created. There are 100+ more cards like this to learn and engage with your team.
Here’s a short video:
In this blog post, I’ll tell you about the SPACE framework, why you should use it, and how to implement it in your organization.
Grab a good cup of coffee, and let’s explore the SPACE together. ☕️
What is the SPACE framework?
SPACE framework is a research-based approach to measuring, understanding, and improving team productivity.
It was developed by a group of researchers from GitHub, Microsoft, and the University of Victoria, and it encourages product, design, and engineering leaders to take a holistic approach to productivity.
SPACE stands for:
Satisfaction and well-being: How happy and healthy are your team members? How do they feel about their work environment, culture, and tools?
Performance: How good are the outcomes of what your team is delivering? Are your customers and business happy? Is your team meeting the organization’s quality, security, and reliability standards?
Activity: What are the artifacts of your team’s work? How do they spend their time and energy? How do they balance different types of tasks and priorities?
Communication and collaboration: How well do your team members communicate and collaborate with each other and stakeholders? How do they share information, feedback, and knowledge? How do they coordinate their work and resolve conflicts?
Efficiency and flow: How smoothly and quickly are your team members completing their work? How often do they encounter interruptions, distractions, or blockers? How do they cope with uncertainty and complexity?
These five dimensions capture the most critical aspects of team productivity. They are interrelated and interdependent. For example, a team member's satisfaction can affect their performance, their activity can affect their communication, and their efficiency can affect their flow.
Why should you use the SPACE framework?
Here’s how I convince people:
It puts people first.
It aims to increase the happiness of customers, employees, and business stakeholders. You get the whole package.
It’s suited toward team performance as a whole.
It recognizes that team productivity is not a single number or dimension but a complex phenomenon that depends on various factors and contexts.
It helps you avoid common pitfalls and biases when measuring team productivity, such as focusing on output over outcome, quantity over quality, or activity over value.
It is based on actual research and empirical evidence from real-world software development projects.
It provides a common framework to compare your productivity across different projects, teams, or organizations.
If you want to measure productivity the right way, SPACE is the answer.
Five S.P.A.C.E. dimensions of team productivity
Now that you know the SPACE framework and why you should use it, let's dive deeper into each dimension of team productivity and see how you can measure them.
Satisfaction is how happy and healthy your team members are. It reflects their emotional state, motivation level, and well-being. Satisfaction is important for team productivity because it affects engagement, creativity, and retention.
To measure satisfaction, you can use surveys or interviews to ask your team members about their feelings, opinions, and preferences regarding their work environment, culture, and tools.
You can use metrics such as:
employee satisfaction score (ESS),
employee net promoter score (eNPS),
employee engagement index (EEI)
Example questions you can ask on your own to measure satisfaction:
How satisfied are you with your current job?
How likely would you recommend working at this company to a friend or colleague?
Do you feel valued for the work you do?
How much autonomy do you have to decide how you work?
Do you have the resources and support to do your job well?
How do you rate your work-life balance?
Performance is how good are the outcomes of what your team is delivering. It reflects their impact, quality, and reliability.
To measure performance, you can use metrics such as:
all sorts of product metrics (feature usage, customer retention, customer activation, conversion rate, CSAT, NPS)
lead time (time needed from getting from “todo” to production),
cycle time (time needed from getting from “in progress” to production),
time from incident to recovery (MTTR),
the number of released defects,
Activity is what your team members do daily. It reflects their workload, prioritization, and allocation.
To measure activity, you can use metrics such as:
lines of code (LOC)
number of pull requests
Communication & Collaboration
Communication is how your team members communicate and collaborate with each other and stakeholders. It reflects their information sharing, feedback exchange, and knowledge transfer. Communication is essential for team productivity because it affects learning, innovation, and coordination.
To measure communication, you can use metrics such as:
PR merge times
Quality of meetings
Focus hours total in a week
Cross-team review times
How effective are your meetings?
How do you rate communication between our teams?
What’s the quality of feedback you’re getting?
Efficiency and flow
Efficiency is how smoothly and quickly your team members complete their work. It reflects their speed, flow, and waste.
Example questions you can use to measure efficiency:
How many handoffs are there in a process, and how many involve different teams?
How easy or hard is it to stay focused and finish work without distractions?
How often, when, and how much are you interrupted, and how does that affect your development work and flow?
How long does it take for a system to complete a task, how much time is spent on adding value, and how much on waiting?
How to implement the SPACE framework in your organization?
If you want to implement the SPACE framework in your organization, here are some steps that you can follow:
Explain why you want to measure team productivity. People may fear you’re not trusting them. Be open and clear about why it’s important and how you’ll handle objections. Get everyone to agree on continuous improvement. SPACE framework is designed to help everyone in the organization. Not to spy on your team. Measuring development productivity correctly and using the results can boost product quality, delivery speed, and people's happiness.
Define your productivity goals and objectives. Before you start measuring your productivity using the SPACE framework, define what productivity means for you and what you want to achieve.
Choose the data sources and methods that you will use to measure each dimension. Based on your productivity goals and objectives, you need to choose the data sources and methods that are reliable, valid, and relevant to your context and that can provide you with both quantitative and qualitative data.
Collect and analyze your data. Once you have chosen your data sources and methods, start collecting and analyzing your data. You need to apply the appropriate techniques and tools to process, visualize, and interpret your data and use multiple dimensions of the SPACE framework to get a holistic view of your productivity.
Communicate and act on your productivity insights and recommendations. Communicate and work on your productivity insights and recommendations. Share your findings and suggestions with your team and stakeholders using clear and compelling stories and visuals. Implement your recommendations using evidence-based and agile practices.
Monitor and evaluate your productivity progress and outcomes. Track your productivity metrics and indicators over time and compare them with your goals and objectives. Assess the impact of your actions on your productivity outcomes and learn from your successes and failures.
Start with one team and just a handful of metrics. Get easy wins, share success, and scale to the rest of the organization.
Best practices for using the SPACE framework
Now that you know how to measure each dimension of team productivity using the SPACE framework, here are the best practices that you can follow to use it effectively:
Use multiple data sources and methods to measure each dimension. Don't rely on a single metric or source of data to measure team productivity. Instead, use quantitative and qualitative data from different sources and methods, such as surveys, code reviews, commits, pull requests, issues, bugs, tests, deployments, etc. This will help you get a more accurate and comprehensive picture of your productivity and avoid potential biases or errors.
Use relative and contextual comparisons to interpret your measurements. Don't compare your productivity measurements across different projects, teams, or organizations without considering the context and the goals of each. Instead, use relative and contextual comparisons to interpret your measurements and understand how they align with your expectations and objectives. For example, you can compare your current measurements with your previous ones, your targets or benchmarks, or similar projects or teams within your organization.
Use the SPACE framework as a diagnostic tool to identify problems and opportunities. Don't use the SPACE framework as a prescriptive tool to dictate what you should do or how you should do it. Instead, use the SPACE framework as a diagnostic tool to identify problems and opportunities for improvement in your productivity system. For example, you can use the SPACE framework to determine which dimensions are underperforming or overperforming, which are correlated or conflicting with each other, or which dimensions are most important or relevant for your situation.
Use the SPACE framework as a communication tool to share insights and recommendations. Don't use the SPACE framework as a communication tool to blame or praise individuals or teams for their productivity. Instead, use the SPACE framework as a communication tool to share insights and recommendations with your stakeholders and collaborators. For example, you can use the SPACE framework to communicate your productivity goals and expectations, achievements and challenges, or productivity actions and plans.
Further reading materials
If you want to learn more about the SPACE framework and how to use it, read the original paper: "The SPACE of team productivity: There's More To It Than You Think"
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How are you measuring your team's performance?
Good luck, have fun, and see you in a bit!