Nucleon by Jeppe Hedaa is a short and concise book that is rich in thought-provoking ideas. To give you a sense of scope, the subtitle, “The Missing Formula That Measures Your IT Development Team’s Performance” speaks volumes. The book weighs in at 119 pages with front matter (always read the front matter), six chapters and eight pages of endnotes. I will admit that I am a sucker for grand unifying theories. I am still rooting for Stephen Hawking to posthumously pull a rabbit out of the hat (I sure hope someone is looking through Hawking’s personal papers). Mr. Hedaa, founder and CEO of 7N, developed the theory that team effectivity is a function of the sum of each person’s effectivity (the ability to be effective). Effectivity is a function of people, organizational, and complexity factors. Arguably the idea that people, organizational, and complexity factors influence effectivity is not controversial.  But, these factors can be consistently measured and then used in a deterministic manner to predict performance is controversial. Mr. Hedaa spends the six chapters of the book developing a logical argument based on experience and data for the premise that there are ways to measure the factors that matter and that knowing the answer matters to leaders that want to get the maximum value from the money they spend on software development (the broad definition that includes development, enhancement, and maintenance). The Nucleon formula is:

Nucleon Formula 
Copyright Jeppe Hedaa 2018

The formula is intriguing for a number of reasons. Highlighting one of the reasons is the premise that teams are made up of individuals and that the professional caliber of each of the individuals influences the effectivity of the team. Mr. Hedaa makes the case that while everyone is valuable (a good humanist point of view), in software development some people are more valuable for delivering value. In any specific development scenario, people with more relevant skills, experience, and ability to work together are more valuable to the team. Not radical, but it is a direct statement that demonstrable multifaceted meritocracy has a place in anyone’s consideration when building a company or team and it needs to stay top of mind. That last part is the might set some on edge until they consider the possible alternative: mediocrity in a brutal digital marketplace yielding unemployment.

Jeppe makes the case that Nucleon helps leaders to shift from a focus on raw cost and broad cost-cutting initiatives to a focus on reducing the cost per unit of delivered (done) work. The argument that Hedaa makes is that teams with a higher level of effectivity deliver more substantially (think exponential) more useful output than teams with lower effectivity ratings. Output goes up faster as effectivity rating increase.  

Mr. Hedaa spends two chapters on people and only one chapter each on organization and complexity.  Cleary he believes that people are central to his model. One statistic that Jeppe quotes, based on 7N’s data, is that agility, practical experience, and team consistency increase team performance by 51%.  People are important but to be effective all of the factors need to be evaluated and tuned.

One of the areas that I reflected on in the complexity chapter was the idea that complexity is unique by industry and hard to change over the short-run. It would be easy to suggest that complexity over the short-run was a constant using a literal reading, however, understanding what drives complexity can help a leader find people that align well with the factors that generate complexity.  If the changing culture isn’t on the backlog, then adjusting the other parts of the equation to embrace that complexity is important. Jeppa suggests that cultural alignment accelerates a positive culture, and a positive culture improves performance.

While I would like to have seen more of the inner workings of the model or the mathematical derivation on the components, Mr. Hedaa has done a ton of research (7% if the book is endnotes reflecting the research) and uses that research to logically make a case for his model.  Even if you resist the idea that effectively can be quantified and that effectivity is predictive of the value a team can deliver, the ideas in the book are worth a careful read and more than a few late nights contemplating how you can translate those ideas into more effective teams. Buy a copy!

Note: Jeppa Hedaa will be interviewed on the Software Process and Measurement Cast 544 on Sunday, April 28, 2019.