The SPACE framework – our view on Satisfaction and well-being

by René van Osnabrugge / 10 May, 2021

How we perceive developer productivity at Xpirit

On March 6th Nicole Forsgren and co-authors published the report “The SPACE of developer productivity: There’s more to it than you think”. When you ask us, this is an important report when it comes to the perception of measurement in general. We have seen many companies that struggle with metrics. On many occasions, metrics or KPI’s are used to window dress behavior. Convincing managers to let go of the most obvious metrics and KPIs is a struggle. At the same time, we see the devastating effect of the Kill Productivity Indicators (or Key Performance Indicators), as they reflect exactly what the organization likes to see. Measure the number of bugs and bugs will be reported as tasks. Measure the number of commits and people will commit more frequently. Measure the lead time of a story and new stories are created 2 days before delivery.

As stated in the report: “after decades of research and practical development experience, knowing how to measure productivity or even how to define “developer productivity” has remained elusive, while myths about how to measure productivity are common. Far too often, teams or managers attempt to measure developer productivity with simple metrics — attempting to capture it with “one metric that matters”.

To overcome this ever-present challenge, the SPACE framework has been introduced. The framework helps in debunking the myths of developer productivity, and provides guidance on how to measure the 5 dimensions to help in grasping “developer productivity.”

SPACE stands for Satisfaction (and well-being), Performance, Activity, Communication (and collaboration), Efficiency (and flow). At Xpirit, our consultants have been working in this space for many years, and we would like to share our views on the different dimensions. In this post, our view on Satisfaction and well-being.

Tip: you might also like our opinion article about the SPACE framework.

Satisfaction and well-being

As stated in the report: ”Satisfaction is how happy and fulfilled developers feel with their work, team, tools, or culture; well-being is how healthy and happy they are, and how their work impacts it.”

The hardest part of this dimension is the measurement. How do you measure satisfaction and well-being? Of course, there are many ways to do employee satisfaction surveys. You can look at metrics of leave days, sick days or absent days. The quality of the work that is delivered is also an indication but at Xpirit we stick to one of our guiding principles when it comes to this dimension. People first!

What do we mean with this? The best way to explain this is by giving some concrete examples.

Communication channels and personal attention

The best way to “measure” if someone is satisfied or in a “healthy” state, is by talking to them. Colleagues talk to each other continuously. We find each other on our social channels. We have a #water-cooler-chat channel in Slack, where we discuss basically everything. We have a WhatsApp group where everybody gets informed, we have an off-topic group for all “non-work” related. Every 2 weeks we have a Friday “drinks” meeting, where we talk to each other and get management updates. We spend 4 hours together every month to do masterclasses and do a full innovation day every 8 weeks to work together on “epic shit”. Before (and after!) corona we spend our Tuesday evening at the office, enjoying each other’s knowledge, good food and beers!

Next to that, we have continuous feedback to each other and from our people manager. This way every signal can be picked up to get and keep people healthy and satisfied.

Personal tools

In this world of “always” on, we think it is important to take care of yourself. Employees can have a subscription on the meditation app Headspace. For their personal growth everybody has access to a personal coach, and we do regular offsites with the whole team, to learn and interact with each other.

Books, real ones or audio books, can be ordered at will to learn and stay mentally fit. Last but not least we have a companywide fitness deal, so that people can get in shape at highly reduced costs.

Work-life balance

At Xpirit we work hard. It is definitely not a 9-5 job and we all know that. But at the same time, we are in control over our own lives and are fully supported. If you need extra time for family or health, take it. We support you.

Psychological safety

We think it is important that everybody feels safe. You can say what you want, without consequences. Our regular off sites where trust and team building are the most important topic, are key in this. Trusting each other enables us to have vivid discussions, conflicts and arguments, but also enables us to focus on the greater good and commit to results without personal issues or anxiety.

Summary

As we described above, there are some hard metrics that we can think of, but at Xpirit we value a personal approach; The Epic Shit Index. How do you feel about yourself and your work? And we measure that continuously. With each other. Personally.

We’ll elaborate on the SPACE framework in a series of blogposts, each covering one of the five dimensions during the coming weeks. 

SPACE is the acronym for Satisfaction & well-being, Performance, Activity, Communication and collaboration, and Efficiency and flow. Each of these dimensions is key to understanding and measuring productivity, according to the researchers. For each of them, the framework suggests a number of distinct metrics that apply to different levels, including individual-, team- or group-, and system-level. Interestingly, SPACE does not advocate for using all of the metrics at once, rather to carefully select a reduced set of metrics that span across all three levels and capture different productivity dimensions. The full article outlining the SPACE framework has been published here.