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I am writing objectives for one of my developers at the moment and we want him to take on some of the mentoring of a more-junior developer, partly as a means of increasing his seniority and partly because mentoring benefits both parties, so he'll learn something from the experience too.

The team in question is relatively small and they are going to be meeting regularly to peer-mentor and walk through project show-and-tells, for example, so how he might achieve this objective isn't too much of an issue. The problem I'm having, though, is that I'm struggling to work out how to make such an objective be measurable — in the sense of SMART objectives.

What sort of criteria would people here use in order to measure the success or failure of an objective around "having a greater input in the mentoring of junior members of staff"?

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6 Answers 6

The answers so far suggesting X number of meetings are not very specific, which is required by SMART. At best you're measuring how many meetings have taken place and not whether the meeting actually accomplished anything.

Feedback is more specific, but it is not likely to be accurate if the mentors are liked by the developers being mentored. The results might be similar to students rating teachers.

Do the developers being mentored have SMART goals related to the walk through project show-and-tells? They should.

How about getting the mentor to describe in her SMART goals specifically what she will do to help each developer achieve his goals. This could / should obviously be different for each developer and therefore the mentor would have different goals too for each developer.

A concrete example, but not related to project show and tells. Let's say Sarah has the SMART goal of: show five examples of js prototypical inheritance used appropriately in your own code within the next month. Appropriate use will be determined by a senior developer.

Sarah's mentor Billyboy could then have goals such as

  • Explain one example each of appropriate and inappropriate js prototypical inheritance with Sarah by next week
  • Create four quiz like questions around the Douglas Crockford chapter from Javascript The Good Parts and review answers
  • etc.

I don't think the above is a perfect example, but I hope you get the idea: you need to decide specifically what it is you are hoping to achieve with the mentoring before you can measure it. And one final idea, since mentoring is very much like teaching I wonder if you could draw from that discipline? What are effective ways of measuring teachers?

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There are two approaches (IMO) to Measurable.

  1. Self Recording. That is, the person has an aim of running X mentoring sessions with Y members of staff - and they simply records the number that they did.
  2. Feedback. Implement a feedback system (even a Google Doc or email will do) and have the Measurable as "I will receive feedback from 3 junior staff members. The average score for my performance will be 7 / 10"
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When I've had goals like this, I have used feedback from staff as a measure of improvement, as other answer mentions, but you could also use a measure of time. If you're recording time spent on tasks, and can categorise some of those tasks as "mentoring", then you could have a target of "at least 5 hours a month" or "spend 5% of project time mentoring" or similar, that you can then track via timesheets/agile tools.

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Based on your stated goals in the first paragraph, increasing seniority and both parties learn, I'm not sure you can make this a SMART goal for exactly the reason you are struggling.

How do you intend to measure "increasing his seniority" and how do you determine that any improvement is based on the mentoring? How will you measure the learning from both parties and you determine whether the success or failure is because of the mentor, the mentee or the pairing?

There are so many influences in a team work setting that influence the how and the what of our work, the mentor, another developer on the project, the developer who sits next to you, etc. The challenge for you in making a SMART goal from the mentoring will be determining how to measure the exact impact of the mentoring while excluding the impact of all of these other factors.

Having said all that, I still think it is a good idea to do mentoring for all of the reasons you stated. Having been both a mentor and mentee at various stages of my career, I believe this is an excellent way to help work new members into the team.

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The unfortunate thing about SMART is that it encourages people to believe that all worthwhile endeavors are objectively measurable. Not everything is like that.

I think that "mentoring effectiveness" is one of those things that is ALWAYS going to be intrinsically subjective. Perhaps the best course of action is to keep it simple: ensure that meetings are occurring and chat with the mentees. You can then judge SUBJECTIVELY if the person is diligent and effective about their mentoring.

Yes, it does mean that the person has to be likable and someone who can relate to the mentees. The mentor relationship is something that is personal and different for each person-- you can't put a score on it.

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All projects should already have milestones to mark various stages of completion. One or more projects gets assigned to the developer, with explicit instruction that the developer delegate completion of parts or all of the projects to the trainee. I'd make the working assumption that every time the trainee completes a milestone of a project, the trainee has learned something new, or solidified some current understanding. And the more milestones the trainee completes, the more the trainee has learned - I hope.

If you ever taught a course, the course has objectives and a final project. And the final project is graded on its degree of completion. Think of projects as courses. The milestones completed determine the degree of completion.

One advantage of the trainee completing milestones is that you gain a degree of confidence that the trainee will be able to complete parts or all of similar projects in the future. You get a two-fer:

(1) the projects are all work related and parts or all of these projects will recur in the future, so any training the trainee gets on the way to completing the milestones is relevant.

(2) the more milestones the trainee completes, the more confident you can get about the trainee as an employee asset.

At the end of the day, you measure what the trainee knows or has learned by measuring what the trainee has done. I personally like this solution because it is simple and effective. Having said that, somebody else may have a better solution.

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