Jan 12th, 2021

Defining Success

Part 2: What makes a software team successful?

  Written by: Jesse LaDousa, Chief Operating Officer

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Last week I started my ‘Defining Success’ series of articles with a piece on knowing when done is done. This week, I’d like to back all the way up and talk about how we build a successful software development team in the first place. Our industry is young compared to many others, but we have the benefit of a very large workforce and an abundance of data to look for patterns, practices, and ways in which to continually improve.

We’ve all been on project teams that were highly-functional and successful. We’ve also been on teams that were highly-dysfunctional and failed to deliver. There are many internal dynamics that play into the success of a team but for this article I want to focus on how to build the right team in the first place. There are several key elements that provide a team the opportunities to succeed.

Hire Good People

It all starts here. When building a team, you must hire good people that share the mindset of your organization. There is a seemingly endless supply of individuals that can write/test code and manage projects but finding the key people that fit your culture is far more important than just base-level technical skills. A highly proficient developer that can only work as an individual is not going to be as successful as a moderately proficient developer that can be collaborative in the group to push project goals forward.

Delegate Authority

You have hired good people that share your company’s mindset and embrace the culture. They are highly collaborative and strive to work as a team towards the goals of the project. Now it’s time to let go and delegate the authority to them to do their job. A good self-organizing team will figure out how to get their work done in the most effective way. Telling them how to get their work done will only slow them down. Trust your team.

Set Goals & Track

Trust your team but verify against the goals and plan. Any good project has objectives and measures to ensure success. Don’t set these at the beginning of the project and then forget about them. Review them often and track the team’s progress against them to ensure you are on track and the team is delivering efficiently.

Be Transparent

Leadership must be transparent with their goals for the project and with changing business needs that can disrupt the work. Teams will learn from this transparency and embrace it to allow the leadership team to understand the true state of the project. Roadblocks, challenges, and missteps are part of every project. Embrace them by being transparent and coming together as a team to solve the issue(s).

Celebrate Victories

Finally, celebrate along the way. Find ways to acknowledge team successes throughout the course of a project, not just at the end. Teams and individuals want to know they are valued and that their work matters. Show them frequently that this is true.

Many things go into building a successful team. What other things have you or your organization done to make your teams great?

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