Metric 1: Flow State Percentage
Jobs that require a lot of brainpower—software programming for instance—also demand deep concentration. You know that feeling when you’re “in the zone,” cranking on something. That is flow, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Unfortunately, most of us are constantly interrupted during the day with meetings, emails, texts, or colleagues who want to talk about stuff. These interruptions that move us out of “flow state” increase R&D cycle times and costs dramatically. Studies have shown that each time flow state is disrupted it takes fifteen minutes to get back into flow, if you can get back at all. And programmers who work in the top quartile of proper (ie uninterrupted) work environments are several times more productive than those who don’t.
Ideally programmers and other knowledge workers can spend 30% – 50% of their day in uninterrupted concentration. Most office environments don’t even come close. To get started, ask your engineers to track for a few days their personal flow state percentages: how many hours each day are they in flow, divided by the number of total hours they’re at the office. And then brainstorm ways that the team can move this number up. For example, perhaps there’s a little paper sign at each person’s desk that says “Go Away, I’m Cranking.” Or maybe you have a day where no meetings are allowed. Tom Demarco has written insightfully on the topic of flow.
Flow: why the 9-5 workday just doesn't work for tech startups.