Saturday 25 August 2018

Applied Software Delivery : Hidden Impact Of Team Leaders

Upon reading software management books, one of the things that I don’t recall reading much about is the impact of team leaders on the overall team's performance. Most software management books talk about lean production, theory of constraints, etc. These concepts are important, however these books do skip the very important factor in software engineering, people. Good team leaders can make a software team fly or crawl.

No matter what you call your team leaders, managers, scrum masters, supervisors, etc. These people have huge impact. Good team leaders resolve issues, bring people together and ironically enable the team to be more self organising. Team leaders are the ceiling of your teams performance.

When it comes to software development things are not easy, especially at scale. Your typical software team will be facing issues with the following:

  • Infrastructure 
    • Build servers 
    • Release pipelines 
    • Laptops 
    • Environments 
    • Access 
  • Timely, clear and prioritised: 
    • Functional Requirements 
    • Non functional requirements 
    • Business priorities 
  • Bugs 
  • Customer requests / feedback 
  • Ambiguous or bad decisions 
  • People 
    • Absence 
    • Behaviour 
    • Conflict 
    • Lack of staff 
  • … the list goes on

At scale there are hundreds of things that can go wrong during a sprint. Good team leaders work with their teams to implement permanent solutions to these problems. They assign work to the right people in the team, they provide right level of support and coach for optimal performance. This is not easy stuff, especially when you have to do it everyday. It is unlikely that team leaders in your organisation will be able to do this out of the box, which means you will need to listen, train, mentor, coach, and generally invest in them.

Managers of all levels often overlook this and focus on the wrong things. Personally, I have fixated more on the lean production concepts such as single piece flow, theory of constraints then team leaders. Why? Well, process is easier to implement and change. People are hard. They are not code, they are not servers, they can’t be changed with few lines of code and they can’t be reconfigured within few seconds. It takes time and patience. In software engineering this is the hardest and the most important thing you can do, invest in your people, especially in your team leaders, before you fixate on agile concepts and technology.