Am I Getting 100% From My Development Team?

A common question executives ask is whether they are getting everything they should from their Development organization.  Software development is often a mysterious and magic process to those outside the discipline and as such, is very difficult to quantify and evaluate.  The difference between an average team and a great team is huge (I am talking 10x!) so recognizing when things aren’t right and taking steps to make them right should be a top priority.

Here are 5 basic things to look for:

  1. Talent – every person on team doesn’t have to be a rock star but many of them should be!  Have you hired top notch people who were raved about by someone you trust?  Great engineers love what they do and likely develop for fun and/or have some kind of project on the side.  Are you consistently “wowed” by what these people come up with?  TIP: If you hired from Monster, chances are excellent you don’t have the talent you need.
  2. Transparency – Do you know what the Development team is working on and when it is supposed to be done?  Are there basic metrics in place? (development metrics to be covered in a future post)  Can you see how the team is progressing towards upcoming milestones?  There is no reason for Development to be a “black box” – executive management should have a clear picture of what is going on.
  3. Morale – is your Development team excited?  Do they get how what they are doing is changing the world?  Do they feel like they have the power to make a difference or are they just coders?  When a team is working right, there is a buzz that you can feel.  If it is dead quiet in the dev area, nobody arguing at whiteboards, and developers clocking out right at 5pm, you have a morale problem.
  4. Output – is there great stuff coming out of the process?  Are deliverables produced on time?  Do they hit the mark set by the Product Manager?  Are your customers happy with what they are getting or are they frustrated?
  5. Are you impressed? – A great Development team should consistently impress the hell out of management.  You should be thinking things like “how did they get that done so fast” and ” that new feature is really cool!”.  If that is not your consistent reaction, something is not working right

If you are now thinking that your team is not where it should be, don’t be too quick to start replacing people.  The problem may indeed lie with the individual team members or with the VP of Development, but just as likely, it may be with executive management.  I have seen several great teams that were unknowingly held down by the environment created by senior management.

We will talk about specific steps you can take to improve and/or unleash the potential of your Development team in a future post.