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Viva La Developer! Why Giving Your Devs Freedom Means More

Published Oct 09, 2018 by Kelly Kirkham

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Donald Knuth once said: “People think that computer science is the art of geniuses but the actual reality is the opposite, just many people doing things that build on each other, like a wall of mini stones.” Your team of builders each sets stones that contribute to the foundation of your business. Whatever project you may currently be focused on, ensuring that your development team is in optimum shape is critical to your overall success.

Developers are a unique set of individuals. And if you find yourself responsible for managing a team of developers, you may feel your leadership skills shifting throughout the day. Making sure that project timelines are being met, keeping everyone in line with their career goals and retaining employees can be a lot for one person to handle. This is why we have assembled helpful tips below to keep your development team in tip top condition.

Decrypting the developer

A recent survey conducted by Stack Overflow found that 80% of developers code as a hobby outside of work, to refine their skills or even just for fun. It is rare to find an industry where so many employees perform their duties while at the office and at home. After all, lawyers usually don’t argue cases in their free time, just as doctors rarely treat patients outside of the hospital or office. The survey also showed that the majority of developers had five years or less experience. These two statistics show that the majority of developers are unique because they are motivated, still working to educate themselves, and in the early stages of their career.

The developer workforce is a perfect storm of opportunity, which means that managing a team can present a host of difficulties not seen in other teams. Developers are high in demand and often aggressively recruited by companies. Stack Overflow reports that more than 75% of the developers polled are either actively looking for new employment or are open to new job opportunities. Half of developers polled have been at their current position for less than two years. Management has to be on top of their game to keep developers motivated and satisfied in their positions.

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Below you will find five tips to help you manage your team while sharpening your leadership skills to keep your developers excited to be a part of your organization:

#1. Set them free.

Checking in is great, unless, that is, it interrupts your developers while they are focused or what we call “in the zone.” Switching tasks or planning an impromptu meeting can ruin hours of painstaking work. It is better to trust that your team will accomplish tasks on time without your oversight or interference. Let your developers write code. Trust us, they love it. Also, give your team space to work out problems before you step in. Problem solving creates innovative employees and helps developers meet their personal and professional goals.

Writing code can be a creative process, and excessive organization can limit the space to find creative solutions. Find out which developers like to be included in project planning, and who would prefer to be approached with small tasks. Not every developer has the same routine, so it’s important that you identify where each individual will create the best work.

#2. Ask very specific questions.

Sometimes management feels like they have provided all the necessary information to complete a task, but could leave many employees scratching their heads. Rather than depending on the figure it out as I go method, it is important that you ask very specific questions to understand what might be missing. Ask your developers if they can see any problem spots, and if they have what they need to complete a project.

However, even if you ask all of the pertinent questions, this is only valuable if you listen to the answers. Your development team have a set of highly specialized skills. Make sure that you don’t underestimate their expertise, particularly if they say something won’t work the way you would like it to. Trust that your team understands the technology, but have the foresight to give them the opportunity to discuss any problems they might encounter.

#3. Take care of busy work.

Stack Overflow reports that 52% of developers spent 9-12 hours a day in front of their computer. So many hours in front of a screen doesn’t leave much time for the busy work found in typical office environments. Instead of loading up non-development chores and meetings, respect your team’s time and effort with uninterrupted time to create their best work. As a manager, it is in your best interest to protect your team’s concentration.

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#4. Recognize strengths.

You may have noticed that your team of developers are not a cookie cutter set of individuals. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Try to cater not only to what your employees are good at, but to what they enjoy. Developers work on code around the clock, so if you can identify what they most like to work on you can reduce the frustrations encountered daily in the office.

By focusing on helping your team enjoy the work they do, you can create a happier workplace environment that benefits all. For more information on the benefits of happy employees, take a look at this post.

#5. Focus on quality.

Often the development process begins with a very vague idea of how the finished product will look. Rather than focusing on how quickly the job is completed or if it matches your vision, focus instead on the quality of the end result. Trust that your team knows what will actually work rather than meeting your early, somewhat fuzzy, expectations.

Ask important questions early on in the project to search out possible trouble spots and places where the end result might not meet your ideas of functionality and appearance. Sometimes the best way to achieve a goal doesn’t take the route originally established, and that’s okay as long as the finished product has the quality set by your business standards.

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