The software development industry is one that is rapidly shifting and evolving. With new technology advancements hitting the market every day, development team managers need to be flexible in their management style and persistent in overcoming obstacles.
As a manager, it is inevitable to face and overcome challenges. The real question is: which challenges are the most pervasive and how do you overcome them with the least loss of productivity?
According to Ronak Rahman, developer relations manager at Quali, whose software tries to address infrastructure complexity, the biggest challenge for managers right now is learning to rely on their team to avoid micromanaging.
“We employ full-fledged developers… and then we try to tell them how to do what they’re experts at and that creates a lot of friction, especially when you have managers who don’t understand that,” he said. .
Rahman went on to explain that he considers developers to be creatives. Therefore, team members often feel an increased investment in the software they build.
According to Rahman, it is essential to give them space to explore that creative instinct or else they will wilt and productivity will eventually suffer.
“Micromanaging and telling them how they’re going to deliver this piece of art, this thing that they’re pouring themselves into, can sometimes be just a little too much to bear,” he said.
He explained that a manager’s job is to remove roadblocks for the developers on their team so they can produce the best possible end result.
However, many managers fall into the trap of not fully trusting their team and are thus trapped into being a helicopter manager.
Promote team loyalty
Josep Prat, open source engineering manager at the data infrastructure company Avien, elaborated on this, saying he believes a major challenge managers must overcome is to build this trust.
Creating loyalty and a team mentality is not an easy task for any manager and unsurprisingly it has become even more difficult to create such an environment in a world without physical offices.
“We’re in hybrid or completely remote environments, so that said, we have a team that feels that cohesion is very difficult right now and that can be one of the biggest challenges right now,” explains Prat.
Mike Morris, co-founder and CEO of Torc, the productivity organization for remote work developers, built on Prats sentiments and said he believes creating this loyalty is crucial when it comes to retaining good employees, a common struggle for many managers.
“[Remote work] has completely opened people’s eyes to the fact that there are no limits,” said Morris, “they can work for any company… that flexibility has really made people aware of the fact that they can work anywhere and on any project… and now there is very low overhead when changing lanes.”
Communicate with remote teams
The transition to remote working has proved challenging for several managers as they struggle to maintain productivity and communication in a workforce that has changed so much in such a short time.
Morgan Logue, VP of research and development at the low-code/no-code organization Outsystems, pointed this out, saying that communication and good context is a challenge managers must overcome to lead productive teams.
“Companies are very used to synchronous communication and face-to-face stand-up meetings… When you move to a remote workforce – even if you’re all in the same time zone – people don’t work the same hours… It requires you to create a shift from processes in which the context is driven by personal communication to a process in which the context is driven by documentation,” he said.
Even with written documentation, however, Prat believes intentional conversations and face-to-face meetings are key to reminding the developers on your team that they don’t work in a vacuum.
Morris also touched on this, saying that human connection within the team will make developers feel less alone and also foster a culture of loyalty to the organization.
“Often [in person] this would have been the ‘water cooler talks’ or an employee softball team or just general moral events, and that has yet to happen, even virtually,” he explained.
Morris went on to say that forging this human connection also means a shift in the way meetings are held.
He said: “You could do a 15-minute stand-up with someone, but you really have to take the time to say, ‘Hey, how are you? you? What is happening? What’s new in your life?’ and if you don’t, you’ll miss it if something’s wrong.”
Prat emphasized that understanding team members’ needs and suggestions helps create an environment where every member of the team feels valued and heard.
Logue added that it’s more important than ever to listen to your developers and get to know your team to learn how best to receive and retain information.
“How does your team communicate best? Some teams are very written in the way they communicate while [some] tend to be more visual,” he said. “So making sure you understand how the team members communicate and how they process information is critical to a team’s success.”
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be an obstacle to find the right balance between active and open communication while avoiding a micromanagement style.
“It’s a thin line that every manager has to walk carefully. I have to give developers autonomy, but I also have to give them the tools to do the work they need to do,” Prat said.
Morris said one way to do this is to provide developers with tools that give them the data they need to track how they’re performing, rather than having the manager constantly tell them.
“Just say, ‘Here’s this developer productivity tool, it’s your data and you can do whatever you want with it, but we’re going to give you the opportunity to see how you compare to other developers who are similar to you’… It has the same effect as using an Apple Watch to track your activity,” he explained.
Morris went on to say that these types of tools are useful both for managers trying to maintain developer productivity while avoiding micromanaging, and for developers to see which areas of their work they really excel and enjoy.
Measuring Team Success
Quali’s Rahman said a major reason why some executives still struggle with balancing too closely and too hands-off is because they measure success in terms of throughput and focus only on the volume of software sent to them. production is pushed.
“My experience is that sometimes deadlines just don’t shift,” he said, “I think that’s the wrong approach, managing by date using Agile methodologies without authorizing the developer.”
Prat stressed that the most important job of a manager is to empower and enable their developers.
He said, “You have to create and unlock spaces and opportunities for the team to basically remove all obstacles in the way of the people they manage so that they can reach their full potential.”
Rahman also said that when deadlines are not met, managers who micromanage often seek solutions to a perceived specific pain point rather than addressing the long-term problem of the developer’s inability to be the “controller of their own destiny.”
To overcome this challenge, Prat emphasized the importance of asking the people around you for help.
“Try to find an education or talk to a senior manager in your company. Find someone who can guide you and see what your gaps are or what you need to improve,” he said, “and talk to the people you manage and ask for feedback, that should happen in every face-to-face contact. a.”
This constant feedback from team members is especially helpful with the ever-changing nature of the remote workforce.
Logue explains: “There hasn’t been enough time to have best practices for the rapid evolution from agile to an asynchronous form of agile…People who are used to following patterns that are well established in the industry are at a loss on this moment because there are no patterns for it.”
Tackling developer burnout and ‘heroes’
One challenge that Ronak Rahman, developer relations manager at Quali, pointed out was preventing developer burnout.
He explained that in the past, developer burnout was almost built into organizations because after one developer burned out, another eagerly waited to take their place. However, this is not the case in today’s world.
“That burnout model doesn’t look so good anymore, and now we’re concerned whether developers are burned out or not because we can’t just throw one away and get another one lined up,” he said, “I have need a full-stack developer because the world is so complicated from commit to release that they need to know everything and there are now fewer people who can.”
To address these challenges, Rahman said managers need to start driving by results rather than measuring success by seeing how much work is being completed each day.
This prevents developers from getting burned out as they don’t feel the added pressure of having to update managers at every turn. Moreover, this way of managing lends itself to a more hands-off approach, which also prevents micromanaging.
“It’s lazy to manage based on how you see people in the office… managing for real results being delivered rather than who you see the most and who is working the most hours,” Rahman said.
He went on to say that this management technique also helps prevent employees from developing hero complexes. This is because with less focus on trivial details, there will be less need for a “hero” to come in at any hour to solve problems halfway through.
“That hero actually prevents improvement. The company has no motivation to move forward if there is a hero standing in the way who is willing to do anything at any time of the night. You know they’ll never get it right, so you’re really settling for a worse result by letting in heroes,” Rahman explained.
Managers and the big layoff
Morris also discussed the ways the Great Resignation has prompted many people to rethink their management style to avoid losing employees in such a flexible workforce.
“I think the big layoff really just proves how easy it is to change jobs. It’s not that people stop working, it’s that everyone just changes jobs and a lot of people go from a 9-5 to a freelancer so they can choose the projects they want to work on,” he explained.
He expanded on this, saying that while it was a struggle at the beginning, this can actually be a somewhat positive thing for managers as it forces them to re-evaluate their relationship with the developers on their team.
According to Morris, forcing managers to adapt to the new temporary nature of the workforce will eventually help them look inward to try to understand why their team keeps switching.
“Right now people can say ‘I’m going to be working on this project for the next three months and then I’m going to find my next thing’, so they’re in control,” he said. but feeling comfortable…it’s a different way of looking at your talent.”