Growing incredible teams: some useful tips

Working as the project manager in outsourcing companies in our country means that you are responsible for almost everything – writing the specification, creating application prototypes, schedules, plans. Sometimes you can even find yourself writing tests or editing designs. As a result, busy and tired PMs completely forget about their teams. They start treating them as resources. 1 item of development resource. “Hmm…Let’s put this 2 items on this projects and that one will go here. They are from the different offices/buildings? No matter…They are professionals! So they just have to write code.” As people are simply the “functions” they provide. And not even noticing we start using all the tips from “How to prevent teams formation” list.

Leaving aside the questions of if it is profitable for the company to “grow” the teams I would like to talk about the process itself. I think it is the most interesting part of the PM’s work – help the team to form the union when the team becomes the more powerful thing then the sum of all its elements.

At first we need to define what is the “growing” process and what is the result of that process.

The Stuff of Which Legends Are Made

You will quickly understand that you see the Grown Up team.

Things which are important for the team differ a lot from what managers can guess: money, status matter much less. Team members won’t leave such team for a small salary increase. So the turnover is much less in such teams.

Team members also have the strong feeling of the “team identity” – they are unique, with unique jokes, phrases. They “feel” each other and have the common space. They are proud of what they do, of the team. They think they are better than others in the company. Really devoted to the product they are developing.

The proud of the product the team creates is a big part of the progress. Team feels the real ownership of the product – they start not only working on the user stories – they improve the product, make suggestions, think of it, of the users…It is the totally different level of being devoted to the product.

Possibly the team had some difficulties which they overcome together (it helped them to unite).

photo 1(17)

The most easy to notice sign of the Grown Up team is JOY. Team members like their work, they want to get up in the morning and go tot he office, as they have new tasks! As they would meet the team! You can’t miss their good mood, jokes and “healthy” feeling.

How PM can help such teams to evolve

Tip 1: Do not interfere.

They can do much more you can even imagine. Developers are more likely to form such a team then not to do that. Seems that companies often do all they can to prevent teams from growing, not to support them.

So just make sure you are not the blocker on their way.

Tip 2: Let them sit together and create the “team workspace”

You should make sure your team has a possibility for the casual interaction. Yes, of course they can use skype…But what about the discussion of the results of the yesterday’s football play? The informal interaction builds the strong bounds among the team members. Also the communication becomes much easier. QA engineer can sit together with the developer and they can debug the code together to find the issue. Designer comes to discuss some flow changes, he starts drawing the sketches on the board, other team members take part into discussion and the solution is found quickly + all team members already know what was the solution).

Tip 3: Several projects at a time – no way

I am writing about that again – the situation when developer takes part in 3-4-5 projects simultaneously. He switches between them several times a day, he is in several teams.. Do you think it is possible to “grow” in several teams at a time, keep all the connections in mind? No chance you’ll have at least “grown up” team.

63Tip 4: No quality reduction

Of course, no one would say “Let’s reduce the quality of the product!”. They all talk about the speed increase and budget saving. But how we can do that? Working faster? And what about quality?

How can I be proud of my work if I deliver the shitty product? I will be at least ashamed to put in to my CV, when I leave this company… 🙂 But it is not the main reason. To be satisfied with my work the results should meet my internal quality standards. And you can be surprised how high they are! Developers have high standards for the product they deliver. These little bastards, who make so many bugs have high standards! Pfff!!! If PM forces developers to “finish that faster” they do their best, but they can be not satisfied with the result. Have you heard that at the kitchen “Our product is a real disaster inside….”? And a loud sigh after that.

65Quality reduction kills motivation and willingness to contribute to the project. How the team can feel proud? How they can feel the best, unique?

Tip 5: Trust your team

A lot of PMs doesn’t trust their teams. They want to control all and everything. When you don’t trust people they start behaving as you fear they would do. No progress, no sign of initiative. You don’t trust them, you don’t respect them. Why they should respect you?

64Of course you can’t be protected against the low skills level of your team members. If you start the complicated projects with only junior developers – you have a big chance to fail. You should get the right people. But as soon you get the team you have – you need to trust them. All the precautions you are making to prevent the failure (or prove that it was not your fault) will make things worse.

And what are your thoughts on this topic? Why the companies think so much about forming the most productive from my point of view “unions”?

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