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Five tips on managing a development team – in listicle format

Since the internet is awash with listicle’s I thought I’d give it a go. I hope you enjoy my top five tips on managing a development team. (I toyed with the idea of titling this “I wrote a blog post about managing a development team and you wouldn’t believe what I discovered” to see if that kind of click bait actually worked, but couldn’t bring myself to do it).

Number 1 – Hire good people

This is the most important tip. When you’ve got a team of great developers you can do great things with them. If you’re not achieving what you want to, then you know it’s a case of tightening up processes and improving communication and that your developers will be able to rise to the challenge.

How do you hire good people? That’s a whole blog post to itself but like all things in development it should be something you continually assess and improve on. If you’ve made a bad hire, examine why you made the bad hire and what assumptions you made or what clues you didn’t spot. If you made a great hire, assess whether it was luck or whether the qualities in the person you hired were obvious from the interview.

Once you’ve done that, write a listicle with your top tips on hiring good people. 🙂

Number 2 – Retrospectives

These really are vital to making a team work well together. I’ve found that even a simple retrospective of “what went well?” and “what didn’t go well?” does wonders for a team. The key is to create realistic actions and to review the previous actions each retrospective to ensure they’re being addressed.

As well as creating actions to improve the team, they let people get things off their chest in a controlled manner and also create a sense of team unity and purpose.

Number 3 – Take time to help your people improve

Good developers always want to improve themselves, however when they’re head down in the code they sometimes don’t get time to reflect on their work and their own skills. Taking a little time out away from keyboards lets you both take a step back and talk about how things are going and what they need to improve.

When I say “improve”, this could be their own knowledge, processes, equipment… but fundamentally it’s about improving performance and productivity.

Number 4 – Don’t be afraid to let people go

This sounds harsh, but I mean this as a last resort. If you’ve tried to help a developer improve but despite your best attempts they’re still not working to their best abilities or if their best abilities fall below what’s required for their role then you’re doing them and your team a disservice by carrying on with them.

When a developer isn’t working well enough they get increasingly frustrated and it affects the rest of the team. It’s not a good situation for anyone.

Obviously there are various legal issues around this tip, but for contractors it’s usually quite straightforward and contracting wages should be higher to take into account this risk in their work. For permanent staff I would always want to treat people fairly and as a company it would only damage relationships with your other staff if you didn’t handle this kind of situation fairly and honestly.

Number 5 – Do as little as possible

This one sounds like real management speak, but I’m not suggesting you should be taking long lunches every day. When you’ve got a team working well together, just leave them to get their work done. Ensure that you have an eye on things since your high level view is something which other people won’t have, but we all know micromanagement is the enemy of productivity.