5 Strategies Dev Team Managers Can Use To Boost Productivity
I’ve worked in different-sized companies throughout my career, from an early-stage startup to an enterprise-level organization. Everywhere, there were common things that every manager wanted to achieve: a high level of productivity and making sure the team was continuously improving.
To keep your team productive and improving, you need to have a strategy in place. Randomly trying something might work once or twice, but if you don’t follow a structured approach, you’ll most likely end up running into problems down the line.
So let’s talk about some of the strategies that you can start using in your team. Implementing at least some of them can ensure that your team runs more smoothly, your deadlines are met, and the overall quality of your team’s work remains high.
Plan and Organize Teamwork
When we work in a team with architects, developers, designers, and product managers, it is always recommended to use a tool to plan and manage your teamwork.
This includes all the inter-team dependencies, such as requirements analysis, proof of concept (POC) design, getting approvals from the product team, and developing the final feature. Then it proceeds all the way to user acceptance testing, system integration testing, and deploying the feature into production.
There are so many awesome tools and productivity apps out there, e.g., Jira, Trello, ClickUp, etc., that can help with organization. Each of these tools has its own selling points, but you have to pick something that meets the core needs of your team.
If the team has a backlog management board where product managers and architects can play around and plan ahead what needs to be built around the product, it gives a holistic view of the milestones that a team needs to achieve.
During each sprint or program increment planning session, it’s easier to take tasks from the backlog because we have already sorted out what the priorities are and which tasks should be done first.
Finally, during any development work, it’s easier to track the process when using a specific tool. And it makes it easier for the non-tech members of the team to check on any progress and, if there’s anything that needs to be done, to make the process smoother.
Non-tech members such as, for example, those focused on marketing have a vision of the product in business terms but might not be so in-tune with the tech side of things. If everyone is using the same tool, quickly checking it makes it easier to get a better idea of the development process.
Make Communication Easier
Communication is very important when it comes to teamwork. When you’re working by yourself, you don’t need to share updates or communicate with others. In a team, however, you have to make sure that each and every person involved is on the same page while developing or planning for a feature. Ensuring that everyone is in agreement applies to both intra- and inter-team communication.
Instant messaging is something that every team uses, but when you have multiple teams working on the same platform, they should have their separate chat rooms or channels, and some of them will be common between teams. We can achieve this kind of setup by using Slack, Google Chat, Facebook Workplace, etc.
These days, so many of us are working remotely, which can actually make communication much harder than before. Video conferences have become a part of our daily lives and an important element for communication when you can’t just walk over to your colleague’s desk for a quick chat.
The whole team setup is distributed these days, and video conferences are one of the best ways to connect with everyone in real time without risking miscommunication and confusion.
Even when it comes to office work, sometimes video conference tools like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, etc. can come in handy because of instant communication. Suppose a particular team member is stuck on something; they can immediately ask the product owner or another member of the team for help. This can boost overall productivity and give your team the power to minimize interdependent blocking issues.
While the effects of instant messaging on team productivity have been the source of debate over the years, a study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has shown that employees actually use instant communication as a way to minimize interruptions. It allows them immediate access to necessary information from other team members without having to step away from their current task.
Ensure Easy Access to Production Debugging
While the development team is building new features and trying to push something in production, anything can go wrong, and any of the production services can go down because of bugs in the code or server-level errors.
This is the moment when I have seen so many teams go blind and not know how to dig in and solve the issue immediately. The service is down, and ultimately users are being affected by it, which at the end of the day affects the business.
The first thing every team needs is a monitoring system where they can see the status of all the services that are in production, see the status of user acceptance testing (UAT), or stage the environment. Having your server status displayed in one place helps you figure out which service is down faster.
Once you’ve figured out what’s caused your whole program to crash, logging services play an important role when we first start debugging around the affected service. We have to figure out what went wrong, and having a logger service connected with the servers is always a blessing.
Remote debugging is also another approach that makes the debugging process of services more efficient and painless. You can try to use services like RookOut which have a pretty awesome tool for remote debugging. It allows you to dig into your production services flawlessly.
RookOut provides a feature called non-breaking breakpoints that allows getting the application state, including the full stack trace, local, and global variables. Without changing anything in the code, you can pipeline your data to wherever you need it, which will definitely maximize your dev team’s efficiency.
Create Effective Meeting Plans
Meetings are a core part of a team. We organize meetings for planning, analysis, decision making, and whatnot! But there are times when meetings can become a pain point for the developers, and it can affect the productivity of the team.
As the meeting owner, the dev team manager should do some work before the meeting on the agenda and how to approach the overall session to get a conclusion or some action points out of it. Whether you’re using PowerPoint or some other visual aid, it’s important to have a clear outline and plan for your meeting so it runs as smoothly as possible. Make sure to leave room for questions at the end though.
Some organizations have a weekly no-meetings day, and that day is dedicated to the developers doing their work at a stretch without breaking concentration for meetings. It is really effective and a better approach to ensuring that meetings do not hinder your dev team’s productivity by breaking up their workflow and affecting their concentration.
Multitasking might sound great in theory, but it can actually make your team less productive if they’re constantly switching from one task to another. According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking can cut down someone’s productive time by about 40%.
It is the dev team manager’s job to think about the effectiveness of their team, and too many meetings cannot be something that slows down the overall output or affects the team members’ ability to focus. If you want to read more on effective meeting planning, check out Steven G. Rogelberg’s The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance for more insights.
Make the Most of Your Team’s Strengths
Every dev team manager’s dream is to have a team with cross-functional capabilities where everybody can do everything. That doesn’t always happen in reality. Most of the time, your team members will have their own specializations. That’s a good thing too! This way, they can help you build or architect something in-depth by focusing on what they’re good at.
As the dev manager, it’s your job to know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, which work your team can pull off easily, and which they can’t. A 2013 case study showed that team design, including things such as structure and work allocation based on knowledge and skills, were among the main factors affecting productivity.
Being aware of your team members’ areas of expertise will allow you to make the best decisions for them. You can provide help and training where necessary and delegate tasks according to the strengths of each developer. As Kevin Pritchard and John Eliot point out in their book Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork, ensuring the success of your team is all about effective coordination whether we’re talking basketball or software development.
To develop your team members’ strengths, you should always try to provide external paid or free resources, e.g., O’Reilly, Pluralsight, egghead, etc., or try to arrange internal sessions where they can share their knowledge with fellow developers. When a team grows their knowledge of the latest technologies and strategies, it is always to the benefit of the organization.
Building an awesome team is somehow easier than maintaining that awesomeness. Everyone starts out with a certain level of enthusiasm about future projects, excitement, and eagerness to get to work.
Keeping that momentum going, however, is hard. As the manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that team members don’t end up suffering from burnout, that they have access to all necessary resources at all times, and that they maintain a steady level of productivity.
Rather than expecting a big growth in productivity overnight, aim for a gradual change. Ultimately, this will mean that your organization doesn’t have to worry about the development of any new feature because they will know this team can do it.
Proper planning and having a clear goal about what you as a manager want from your team is the most important step toward achieving the formation of an awesome team. Having such a team means the organization doesn’t have to worry about the development of any new feature because they will know this team can do it.
Good Strategies Make for Good Teamwork
Every manager out there wants their team to succeed and be as productive as possible. Achieving that requires having a well-planned strategy in place.
In this article we’ve looked at several things you can start implementing to improve your dev team’s productivity level.
As a team manager you can provide tools for better planning and organizing, as well as improving communication, whether you’re in the office or working remotely. You can also ensure that tasks are assigned based on strengths and weaknesses for a smooth workflow and that your team doesn’t get bogged down in distractions that kill its productivity.
With a few simple and straightforward changes, you can have a more efficient, less stressed-out team that meets deadlines and provides high-quality work.