Last month’s COHAA event had a good turnout. Those who attended got to eat Bibibop, hang with local techies, and hear software developer and tech lead Jason Blackhurst speak on effective team building.
So, what’s the secret to having an effective software-delivery team?
You might conclude that the best teams simply consist of a group of your company’s most talented people. Not necessarily so. Google did a study on effective team building and identified 5 traits that effective teams have:
People want to know that their work matters. Effective teams grasp the tangible impact their collaborated efforts have. Teams that know this tend to produce better work. They are focused on the positive change they are producing, which boosts self-worth.
People also want their work to have personal meaning. Effective teams have team members who personally buy in to the roles, plans and goals of the team. Team members also believe that their role is important to the team’s success.
Jason mentioned the “Hero Developer.” You may have one on your team. Heck, you may even be one. This is the person everyone, perhaps even unconsciously, goes to to get stuff done. Because this person is so effective, the hero shoulders most of the work while his teammates are reduced to mere supporting mechanisms of his or her efforts.
This is bad. Others on the team feel their work is less meaningful, which leads to lower moral, less team collaboration and, ultimately, lower quality work.
Structure and clarity
Effective teams have structure and clarity. Team members with clear understanding and agreement of their roles and responsibilities can confidently pour their energy into tasks they own, rather than waste time trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing or, worse, duplicating another team member’s work.
Team members must be able to depend on each other. A short-timer who is counting the days to retirement and has stopped pulling his weight can do serious harm to a team. Never mind that you now have five people doing the job of six. If the team perceives no one cares about the slacker’s work ethic, the problem can become contagious. Others might think it’s OK to let their work slide some too.
When Jason asked the room to share our experiences, one guy shared a story about a co-worker at an old job years ago who had an offsite manager. This person had gone to great lengths to doing nothing. For instance, he figured out a way to systematically send out pre-written emails throughout the day to look like he was working, when, really, he was out taking a “long lunch.”
Jason said that sometimes an honest conversation is in order. Talk to the offender privately about his or her work – or lack of work – and see if this turns things around. Are these conversations awkward? Sure. But at least you’ll save your team.
The most important team trait, however, is psychological safety. Team members must feel safe enough to speak up. Effective teams make it comfortable for everyone to be vulnerable, ask questions (even “stupid ones”), express concerns, offer ideas and so on.
A person in the room offered up a personal story about a time when the scrum master was also the manager of those on the team. This hurt the team’s psychological safety because people felt reluctant to say things that the manager might not like.
When every team member can freely engage in the conversation, teams become more unified, and better solutions, creativity and problem-prevention result.
If your team is underperforming, or even if it has room for potential, try focusing on these 5 Google traits. It could lead to happier workers and better software, which is no small thing.