Halp with software dev SMART goals
June 3, 2021 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm at a new, very large company. I haven't met my manager yet and he has no link whatsoever to the actual project I'm on. This project does not 'interact' with the rest of the company. I do not interact with the rest of the company. But I have to set SMART goals for manager to evaluate in September. Help me come up with something, anything!

I'm so stuck on this. I'm a software developer on a large, important project. But the team I'm on is made up of various contractors. Only three us of are employees of this company requesting my SMART goals. And I've never even had an orientation to the company. I basically 'belong' to the project and the project only.

This project is in early stages and we only started banging out code in the last month. We don't have all the requirements. We don't know if we will have to scrap our work and start over. So we don't know how much we have completed. And won't for quite some time.

In this context, I need to come up with 5 SMART goals in the categories:
Service Delivery Excellence
Employee Engagement
Customer Satisfaction
Business Growth
Financial Stewardship

Can you please help me with some these even if they are total BS? I can't think of a single thing I can say that would have a metric like '30% increase', '70% complete' because with this project, we are just scrambling and doing our best to work and the truth is this performance review stuff is a huge distraction.
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
- Disruptive inflection increase of 30%; leading to an overall 10% improvement to team evangelization synergy.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: No joke - I was actually thinking one strategy would be to use a lot of jargon so my manager has to pretend he actually knows what I'm talking about.
posted by kitcat at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2021

Oof, I had to do a similar thing in December it was such a waste of time. If it's truly impossible to give specific metrics, could you frame them as go/no-go? Then your manager will be able to see you're getting tasks done and it's a lot easier for you to check things off your list and not stress about it.

Some examples:

-Complete beta code for small section of New Project for client on time (even better if you are the one deciding what "on time" means)
-Communicate with customer about New Project about beta code in order to improve customer satisfaction
-Complete onboarding trainings for Contracting Company in order to best provide service (even better if you don't have any onboarding training--look at you, you've already done it!)
-Complete onboarding trainings for Client's company in order to best support Client
-Attend X number of all-hands meetings for the client in order to better understand their needs
posted by lucy.jakobs at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Can you just write down stuff you’ve already done or will definitely have done by Sept? One in each category e.g.
Employee Engagement = complete your induction processes
Financial Stewardship = Limit expense or overtime claims

Don’t overthink this. It’s just box-ticking.
posted by paulash at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Do you have a project plan? I often find that the best way to measure progress on large programs are by which milestones in the project have been achieved. So your goal for September might be "Milestone 3 achieved: basic framework written and plan agreed on for migration status" or whatever. Planning solely to appease management is worthless, but a good project plan should make your life easier, not harder.
posted by kdar at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2021

SMART is pretty straightforward (almost too simple), the hardest part, as you've noted, is the measurability. Sometimes software projects are just "it works or it doesn't" and that's not (at first glance), a measurable thing.

One strategy: if you use a project management system where you build out tickets and these tickets/issues/tasks are used to break down the project into chunks of work, you can use these chunks of work as the metric.

That is, the goal can be "Complete X# or Y% of tickets towards the completion of project Z".

This works best if you have a PM who is planning ahead a bit and can frame it in terms of milestones, or broad functionalities. Then you can have, 'complete X milestones by Y'
posted by dis_integration at 1:53 PM on June 3, 2021

Response by poster: We will have Jira for tracking, but it's not set up yet.
Talking to the client? I'm not allowed to do that.

I really like the idea of Go/No Go and also keeping things really simple.
posted by kitcat at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2021

So this is actually a really good thought exercise for you, not just a thing for measuring later. In each of those categories:
1) are you perfect? (of course not, nobody is)
2) How do you know? What evidence do you have or could you have?
3) what thing or things could you do to incrementally (we're not solving world hunger here, just improving) to be even better?
4) How will you know if it's better? This can be an improvement in one of the indicators in step 2, or a completely new indicator you would like to have, but don't (like, if you don't get any customer feedback, and at the end of the rating period you do, then that's an improvement! Even if the feedback says you suck! Because now you can do something about it.)

Then your process for the rating period is
Measure the thing (baseline)
Make the change
Measure the thing again (optional, depends if immediate results are likely)
Measure the thing again

And the beauty is, even if your action didn't have any results, you write it up as a positive - tried to fix the thing. Didn't have the desired effect. New plan is... And it shows you care, which is more than most people.
posted by ctmf at 5:10 PM on June 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Are there technical quality goals you want to influence? At least X% code coverage with unit tests, less than Y% of the builds fail, etc? Things that be measured with tools are way easier in this regard.
posted by cgg at 5:50 PM on June 3, 2021

Is it possible to meet and discuss with your manager about this before you have to set them? IME it's best to clear up ambiguity on expectations early, and if they're the one that's going to be evaluating your results, it'll be best to make sure they're on-board. That said, I'd say that listing specific tasks completed (or even progressing towards completion) in the time-frame under evaluation is just fine as far as measurable goals go.
posted by Aleyn at 6:30 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you can, try to find some other employees who have worked at the company for a while and are willing to tell you the real deal about how the company actually operates: are setting and achieving these SMART goals a key component to getting promoted/raises, or does everyone believe these goals are a complete waste of time and there's actually no way to get a raise without first leaving to work for a competitor?

Another (shameless) idea: if your manager will be the one evaluating your goals and performance, does your manager have any of their own objectives or goals they are tasked with achieving? Can you get your manager to help you define some achievable goals that can be linked to supporting your manager's goals? (that would make your manager look good...)

> We don't have all the requirements.
> We don't know if we will have to scrap our work and start over.
> Talking to the client? I'm not allowed to do that.

It might be advisable not to set any personal goals directly related to the success or failure of this project!
posted by are-coral-made at 7:47 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I echo the content above -- what helps your manager sell the success of his team to the customer and to his boss?

The goals should be "evaluate approach" and "improve approach" or "skill up on tooling" or "help team gel and become a trusting collection of collaborators." Measurable things should be your decision log (or "why not this idea") and the time-to-evaluate an approach as well as "retrospective actions taken from each sprint" for continuous improvement cycles.
posted by k3ninho at 3:46 AM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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