During his work as a software developer, Karol Sójko curiously observed how different development teams he has been part of have been organized. He started taking notes of what worked out and what did not.
– This is a good thing to share with others, he thought, and thus the idea of writing about it came about.
To do: Team
The subtitle explains the content further: “Simple productivity techniques for improving your team & making software that matters”.
“To do: Team” is partly based on Karol Sójko’s experiences as team leader for Schibsted Tech Polska´s consultants in Gdansk. This team specializes in helping companies in Schibsted Media Group with short-term development projects.
We asked Sójko to share his five top tips to get your team more productive.
1. Engage team members in personal development
Every week all team members should have some time set aside in their calendar for personal development.
This is time to work on researching tools, study something, make a presentation or other professional growth activities.
– It is what we call “sharpening of the saw”. From time to time you have to invest in yourself. Therefore a team leader who creates space and time for team members to improve themselves, will benefit himself as well.
But personal development has to be scheduled, emphasizes Sójko. It must be put into the calendar with the topics for study agreed.
– And it should not be vague, but broken into things that can actually be achieved in the specified amount of time, he says.
2. Create shared leadership
As a leader it is not your role to solve every problem on your own. Instead, your role is to create the space for everyone to solve the problems together.
Sójko says many leaders are focused on having all the answers and final saying in everything. – But that creates an environment where people don’t outperform themselves, he says.
– Team members who rely on their leader for all answers, will perform as expected. However, if you create the space for innovation, they will keep surprising you with great and amazing solutions you wouldn’t come up with on your own.
This means empowering the team and allowing everyone to take responsibility for their decisions.
3. Take time to look back
It is very important to create meaningful retrospectives sessions, when you look back at what has been done and think about potential improvements.
– I have been part of many wrongly conducted retrospectives over the years, says Karol Sójko.
Common problems are retrospectives sessions that are either to vague or lack calls to actions afterwards.
– My recommendation is to focus on the structure of the retrospective. All people in the room should give each other Acknowledgement, Ideas and Deltas (AID). Deltas are things you need to change.
In Sójko’s experience a retrospective without structure often ends as a blame game, while a good structure like AID breaks down the issues into something doable.
4. Develop software that matters
Often there is a gap between how the client and the developers understand what needs to be done.
Sójko recommends in his book to use so-called impact mapping.
– It is a technique that breaks down the business goals into four levels:
- Why are we doing this?
- Who can produce the desired effect?
- How can they help us achieve the goal?
- What can we do, as an organization or a delivery team, to support the required impacts?
Impact mapping is used to ensure that everyone – both the client and the developers – has the same vision for the product to be developed.
5. Improve communication
Focus on your clients, and especially how you communicate with them, recommends Sójko in his book.
He points out three typical sins in the communication with the clients:
- First sin: Using too many buzzwords. A better solution is to just do things!
- Second sin: Developers are too focused on the code they develop instead of the business goals of the product
- Third sin: Ineffective meetings. In order to avoid those, always have an agenda and a plan for what you want to achieve in the meeting