How to build a winning technology team
Startups are a hot topic these days, but in reality, creating a winning technology team hasn’t become any easier.
Every day people start bold projects that are doomed to die because they fail to understand the single most important factor in succeeding: the team behind the wheel.
If you want to build a building, a bad construction crew will get you bad results – it doesn’t matter if you have the best blueprint in the world.
What few realize, is that good (even great) people can compose bad teams if they don’t know what they’re doing.
To help you escape this gloomy fate, here are four principles for teams managing software development.
Principle 1: Build something you love
Almost every project begins as a labor of love, but not all are created equal.
If you’re setting out to build a major tech team, you need a project that gets everybody excited to wake up in the morning.
It’s one thing to be in a “cool industry” or to have a “hip workplace”, however, the psychological effect of working on something awe-inspiring or potentially world-changing is another thing entirely.
Without an exciting focus that can inspire your team, your biggest challenge will be maintaining enthusiasm after your initial burst of energy subsides.
Principle 2: Be slow to hire, quick to fire
When things are going well and business is booming, it’s always easy to hire promising people to lighten the load.
But even in your startup’s darkest days, the decision to fire somebody can be extremely difficult.
However, if you want to build an effective team, you have to approach things like a general manager building a winning sports franchise.
The penalty for wasteful teams is a lower quality bar, slower completion times, less collaboration, morale issues, and a tax on everybody’s emotional investment.
You can’t tolerate waste – you need all muscle, no fat.
Principle 3: Be smart about project management
What happens when somebody hits an insurmountable problem?
Do you get pinged right away or do you realize halfway through the day tomorrow when you make your daily trudge through the jumbled deluge of unorganized task updates?
If the answer is #2, you probably need to revisit your approach to project management.
Smart project management means making sure information and updates reach the relevant people as quickly as possible, and that they are able to take action/resolve things as rapidly as possible.
This means: Notifications, alerts, reminders, and anything else you could possible need to make sure that you see what you need to so (and do so when you need to see it – which is immediately).
Now, not everybody needs to know everything right away. You must factor this into your planning.
A CEO or a Project Manager will likely have far more updates flowing their way than a junior engineer.
However, if that engineer is essential for some specific task, he better know about any updates relevant to him the second they happen.
To optimize task management for your team, start by figuring out who needs to know what – then make sure they do.
Principle 4: Meet daily
Why daily? Because you cannot allow your team to lose sync even for a second.
When done right, daily meetings can keep information flowing and initiatives running smoothly.
Done wrong, meetings waste time and overworked employees may begin to wonder why this couldn’t have been sent in email.
So, how can you ensure that the right information is covered quickly and that minimal time is wasted?
The key is defining a hard-limit, something like 15-20 minutes, after which the meeting is over no matter what.
Forcing things into this constraint tends to compress information into only what’s essential and limits banter when none can fit.
The second thing to do is make sure you have a clear sequence of what is being covered (the agenda).
Generally, I believe in daily status meetings where each person relays what they did yesterday and what they’re going to do today.
This ensures everybody is aware of what’s happening throughout your project.