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Why Does Logging Hours Feel So Offensive?

Is logging hours just a fact of modern life, or is it an archaic ritual that does more harm than good?

· Agile Zone

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Friday afternoon rolls around, and the obligatory call for weekly hours goes out. “Make sure your hours are up to date!” And I die a little inside.

In truth, assigning hours to tickets is not actually that much work. As I have been told many times over, logging hours can’t take much more than a few minutes. So why does this simple act of corporate obedience feel like I have just been beaten over the head?

Because It Feels So Pointless

For a software developer, logging hours is only just slightly above the thoroughly discredited practice of counting lines of code as a measure of productivity. 

Martin Fowler has a great blog post called CannotMeasureProductivity that looks at why even more sophisticated metrics for software development fail. 

Peopleware explores the popular notion of the 10x developer, providing the results of experiments that show just how wildly different the output can be for different developers doing the same task in the same amount of time.

Given that I am not billing a client for my hours, what do these metrics even mean? Those asking for my hours have never been able to explain exactly what they are trying to measure, and what decisions they are trying to make with these metrics. 

Because It Feels Like a Lack of Trust

I have put in a lot of effort to be able to do my job to the highest standards. I have spent many weekends studying up on that latest piece of technology that I am expected to use for my job. I experiment with bleeding edge projects so I can understand their strengths and weaknesses, and share those results with the world. I make the effort to certify myself to give others a quick way to validate my skills.

And you hired me because of this.

Yet all this work and effort feels completely undermined by management asking for an hour by hour account of my day. Am I that bad at my job that you really feel the need to know where every hour of it was spent? Is someone taking these reports and analyzing them for inefficiencies? Will my annual review be a slide show of generated charts highlighting outliers and performance against the average?

Because I Don’t Know Where These Numbers Go

Once I enter my hours, they seem to just disappear into an enterprise void. I’m sure they get summarized, collated, totaled and presented as part of a spreadsheet somewhere, but I never see it. I have absolutely no idea who looks at these numbers, what decisions they make with them and what judgements they are making of me because of them.

Because It Feels Like a Lazy Management Technique

Meaningless numbers being interpreted in secret ways by management that never speaks to me just feels like a lazy, robotic management technique. Of the top 10 factors for on-the-job employee happiness, this faceless number crunching directly and negatively affects “1. Appreciation for your work” and “4. Good relationships with superiors”.

Fellow DZone Zone Leader Dave Fecak recently conducted a survey which showed that:

As for management, about one-third of you described your bosses as ‘mostly incompetent or dysfunctional’, which came with a whopping two-thirds dissatisfaction rate.

Effects Far Beyond the Act of Recording Numbers

It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t being annoyed by the physical act of recording my hours. As tedious as it was, those few minutes every week just didn’t account for just how much the process irritated me.

It wasn’t until I actually articulated all the negative connotations associated with hourly logging that I realized just how deeply this enterprise ritual offended me.

Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I suspect many others feel the same way. What do you think? Is logging hours just a fact of modern life, or is it an archaic ritual that does more harm than good?

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Published at DZone with permission of Matthew Casperson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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