Title: McKinsey Developer Productivity Authors: dannorth.net Category:#articles Number of Highlights: 6 Source URL: https://dannorth.net/mckinsey-review/ Date: 2023-10-07 Last Highlighted: 2023-10-07


Software development is one of the most ruthlessly scrutinised and measured of all business activities. Historically, from the 1960s and 70s onwards, software development has been an expensive and risky endeavour. Initially this was due to the cost of computing and operating machinery, then as this came down and programmer salaries soared, it became about remuneration.


Generative AI tools may enable developers to produce code twice as quickly. I do not know, I have not measured this or looked at the research, but I will take your word for it. However, after three decades of hands-on development experience in many large and small organisations, using many programming languages, paradigms, and technologies, and across many business domains, and having consulted in countless others, I can confidently assert that most of programming is not typing code.


You fail to consider the Hawthorne Effect, whereby teams behave differently when they are aware they are being observed, although this is disputed.


And this is the nub of the whole article. Your highest-value developers are 10x by enabling other developers! Often the least useful thing they can be doing is producing code themselves.


I have seen 10x or even 100x impact in cloud operating expense due to poor choices or lack of understanding in infrastructure provisioning and management, or more accurately a 100x reduction in op-ex costs due to a focus on getting the provisioning right.


However, rather than measuring the person in isolation as your article suggests, I take a holistic view of poor performance. If we assume we are hiring smart and motivated people—and if we are not then we need to look at our recruiting operation—then if someone is identified as a “weak” performer, I take that as signal that we are letting that person down.