Mar 30th, 2023

Best Practices

Care for Your Team

  Written by: Scott Storlie, Senior Delivery Lead

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We live in fast paced world where it is far too easy to focus purely on the metrics-based success of our projects. We allow ourselves to tune out important inputs from our team members, give adverse reactions to inconvenient news, and often fail give our team members enough acknowledgement from start to finish. The theme for this month is Philanthropy or “love of humanity,” therefore, the following best practices are a few of the ways that we focus on caring for our teams.

Estimates and Commitment

During sprint planning, the team decomposes stories into tasks and estimates the hours of work required to complete them. Those estimates are combined with the sprint calendar to define who will be working on what each day. The team is responsible for their own commitments and completing the planned work within the sprint.

While reviewing this drafted sprint plan, our leads are cautious in our response to the team’s initial estimates – especially when they are significantly different from what we were expecting. As leads on the project, it is a crucial for us to review the team’s plan and ask clarifying questions. However, the tone of our voice and the context of our words are just as important.

Ask for clarity on the gap of understanding between their decomposition of the work and what you were expecting. A good project team can have these reviews and achieve the appropriate results. Ensure there is a clear understanding of why the tasks and hours assigned are correct or incorrect and update the plan accordingly.

If the team is uncomfortable responding when you inquire about their reasoning, it is likely that they will simply make the change just to appease you. In that case, they will not be able to deliver as expected. Even worse, they will spend a significant amount of time outside of normal working hours to compensate. Allowing this to happen is not properly caring for your team.

Reasonable Working Hours

At Clientek, we are fortunate to work with a diverse collection of professionals from across the globe. While this is a huge benefit, it does come with complications. One that we pay very close attention to is the interpretation of communication. This is especially true when working alongside resources in an opposite time zone. When we are starting our workday, they are nearing the end of theirs. We must be careful when requesting follow-up actions from our daily standup discussions to ensure that they understand when we expect the deliverable(s) to arrive.

When you are working with a team that is nearing the end of their workday, be clear about when you expect them to get you a response. “We need this today” should be used sparingly for any task that is going to take longer than a few minutes to complete. “Can you please add this task to your story and ensure that it gets completed before standup tomorrow?” is a much clearer message that defines your expectations and allows them to account for it when planning out their day.

Even if you are a tireless worker that is willing to sacrifice his or her own free time to regularly get unplanned tasks completed outside of normal hours, respect and encourage reasonable working hours for your team members. Getting an email 5 hours after a standup from a team member that is trying to accomplish a task well past the end of their workday is not a win. Repeating this behavior wears down your resources and sends a bad signal of your respect for their time.

Giving Credit Where It Is Due

When your schedule is busy, it is easy to miss the minor wins and milestones within a project. During our projects, team members often demo new functionality so that we can see progress being made both early and often. This also allows us to ensure that the project is staying aligned with the customer’s goals and objectives. At the end of the demo, the team will ask if I have any questions, and too often my answer is simply “No”. That simple response is a missed opportunity to build up the team’s confidence. If you don’t have any additional questions, let them know that you are thankful for their efforts and that they “nailed it!”

When you have successful releases, take some time to send out a notification to your team, company leadership, and even a larger stakeholder group (when applicable) to confirm the release and reinforce the hard work that every team member put into it. Give your stakeholders the opportunity to respond and commend the team as well. A simple email chain from the project leadership and then follow-up emails from the rest of the group helps to drive home the team’s role in meeting the customer’s goals. This is an effort that takes mere minutes to complete but supplies a meaningful morale boost for the team.

Too often in life, we take for granted how small efforts can greatly impact those around us. Take the time to listen, respect, and say thank you to your teams and the hard work that they deliver day in and day out.