When you zoom out, the measure of productivity often changes.
- For a single-minded programmer, productivity might be lines of code committed.
- For a development team, productivity might be working code.
- When you zoom out to a product view, working code that implements a feature no one uses is waste, but implementing features that people use is productivity.
- Zoom out further to a business level, and it’s not just about using the feature, it’s about that feature making the customer more likely to pay for your service or product.
- Zoom out again to an ecosystem (or, for you MBAs, value chain/system) level, and it’s not just about what people will pay for, but what adds value to their lives. And not just any value, but adds more value than the cost of providing said value. (N.B.: people are not rational actors, and will sometimes pay for things that don’t add value to their life.)
Now we’re in the realm of things that are hard to measure. And zooming out once again to a global level doesn’t make it any easier. What does productivity look like on a global scale? Even if we are creating value for people at a direct cost lower than the amount of value produced, are we factoring in the negative externalities to our productivity? If we are introducing pollutants, or stress, or social inequality into the world, are we truly being productive?
I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to start a conversation.