Whether you’re a startup founder or a long-term dev team manager, you want your developer team to be as productive as possible.
Here are a few tips you can use to help your team improve, become more efficient, and deliver on projects faster.
The Engineer’s Way of Improving Team Productivity
The importance of providing your team with the right tools cannot be overstated. It's not the only important factor, as we’ll see later, but it can definitely make certain processes go more smoothly.
For instance, since code debugging is one of the most tedious tasks a developer needs to perform, you can equip your team with tools that will help them debug faster and more conveniently.
Let’s say you observe that your developers, who are working remotely in different parts of the world, are getting stuck with debugging code.
Debugging your own code is challenging enough. But if you have to debug someone else's – and they live in a different time zone – it can cause massive delays.
Using a debugger can help manage issues like these and make the entire team faster and more efficient.
Go beyond the system – to the people
However, increasing productivity isn’t just about finding the right tools to get the job done. A dev team is a group of human beings, not just code. And humans are complex organisms.
Additionally, software developers are highly intelligent individuals. Thus, they tend to not perform as well if what they’re doing isn’t challenging.
The point is not to look at productivity just at the system level. You need to also see the people who are inside that system.
This is a big problem I see with most startup founders or dev team managers. Most neglect developing leadership skills.
A team of developers isn’t so different from any other kind of a team. It’s a group of individuals put together to accomplish a goal. No matter how “horizontal” you think your team should be, at the end of the day it will fall apart without leadership.
Having been an avid learner in the subject of leadership, I will be borrowing some wisdom from John C. Maxwell’s The 17 Indisputable Laws Of Teamwork.
Make Sure Your Team Has a Vision
A vision gives direction to the team. It provides a battlecry that will make each member emotionally invested in the team’s goals.
A vision also ensures that individual achievements aren’t meaningless trophies. Each member can now align their individual goals to what the whole team ultimately wants to achieve.
For instance, take a look at Apple's vision statement:
"We are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We don't settle for anything less than excellence."
With this kind of vision, each team member will believe that each line of code they write contributes to creating great products and not settling for anything less than excellence.
Productivity naturally occurs, as each member will have a higher view of their contributions to the team.
Focus on Your Team’s Strengths
Having talented developers in the team doesn’t necessarily translate to excellence in performance. Each member of the team has a particular expertise that needs to be utilized in the right tasks for that expertise.
A team’s dynamic changes depending on how members are placed. For instance, place one person in the wrong task and you'll get a confused team. Or worse, it will generate frustration (and resentment).
But pairing the right people with the right tasks will create progress and a high level of motivation (and thus productivity) in the team.
So how do you ensure that you’re focusing on your team’s strengths? Here are a few tips:
- You must personally be familiar with every aspect of the team’s vision and shared values.
- Not only should you be intimate with the vision and core values of the team, but you have to know how to adapt the team depending on each situation. Rigidity and an unwillingness to adapt kills productivity.
- It’s important that you, as a leader, know each member personally so you’ll easily understand which tasks they’re more suited for.
Constantly Work on Better Communication
This may sound cliché, but I cannot overemphasize the importance of communication.
Software developers, especially when they’re “in the zone”, wearing headphones, shut themselves off from the outside world. They do this so they can focus.
It’s great. Coding is an art. The coder is the artist. Any distraction ruins the masterpiece.
But this doesn’t mean we cannot introduce systems and tools that encourage everybody to speak their minds and share ideas.
Stand-up meetings provide for a short but very effective way for everybody to get updated on the team’s progress.
Communication tools such as Slack or Telegram ensure that information is shared in real time.
Github and Gitlab also have tools that allow teams to discuss issues and be able to resolve them.
For example, team members can review each other's code and ensure proper collaboration on improving shipped code:
The bottom line is that increasing your dev team’s productivity is a mixture of systemization of tasks (such as equipping them with the right tools) and enhancing their potential as human beings.
This not only will ensure you have a highly productive team, but also a group of happy individuals avoiding burnout and enjoying doing what they do best.