We don’t want to spread any stereotypes but let’s be honest: IT is indeed a special environment to work in. Tech people prefer more straightforward communication, don’t like going around the bushes, the level of sarcasm and scepticism here can go off-scale. The work itself often creates tensions, high market demand spoils engineers with endless perks and special attitude… All of this makes it harder to manage software engineers and keep them motivated.
Mickey W. Mantel and Ron Lichty refer to this problem as “managing the unmanageable” in their eponymously-named book. And this name says it all.
However, we wouldn’t succeed as a software house for more than 10 years on the market, if we didn’t know the secret sauce of managing software development projects. Want to learn what the main challenges are and how we handle them? Keep reading!
Challenge # 1: Managing software projects with poor communication in the team
There are more introverts among IT professionals than let’s say, in the sales and marketing field. So don’t expect communication thriving naturally in your IT team. Usually, it requires special attention and efforts from managers.
First of all, be strategic while building teams. Consider not only technical skills but also how different personalities will match each other. It’s great if you manage to combine people with different dynamics in one team, so you don’t have to shake a group of pure introverts or try to calm down a team of extroverts all the time.
The other rule of thumb here is not to impose anything by force. It might be useful to reconsider your understanding of successful communication when managing software engineers. If people in your team feel more comfortable while chatting than speaking face-to-face, don’t force them to quit the former and do the latter. Find common goals, interests, activities, communication media and channels that unite the team members and nurture those.
Last but not least – tune communication between the dev team and business, by making sure both sides participate in Scrum ceremonies regularly.
Challenge # 2: Handling task overestimation cases
Agile teams estimate the tasks on their own. And for some people it could seem like a good chance to request more time than actually needed for completing a task, just to have some more relaxing hours.
If only one team member does it, others can spot and prevent this from happening by using poker planning and applying the Fibonacci scale. However, when the whole team is conspiring, how to recognize and end this?
Recognising the problem isn’t that hard. You can try to estimate the same tasks with another team, for example. In any way, sooner or later, such overestimating teams are clearly visible as always lagging behind with their progress.
But just finding the evidence and waving it in front of the “slow” team’s noses won’t help to solve the core problem – lack of interest in the success of the project. To solve the issue, you need to talk. Ask developers if they enjoy the project, or whether they would like to do something else or change something in the project. Make sure they understand their impact on business or users. Think whether the target is clear and if you celebrate or praise your team adequately for achieving it.
Challenge # 3: Dealing with high turnover among IT specialists
It takes a lot of time and nerves to find a good software developer. So it’s not only painful when after some time she/he decides to quit. It’s frustrating to manage a software team with no employee stability.
The IT labour market is harsh. There is a high demand for qualified professionals. Companies try to beat each other with their offers and extra perks. Daily exotic smoothies and Madagascan chocolate brownies seem to be a standard every software candidate expect you to provide…
However, there is something you can do to make sure people stay with you longer and don’t feel tempted to quit. Help to find career development paths for them or new roles to try within the company. Invest in relationships, not just perks and conditions. Create a supportive culture, that your employees don’t want to change to anything else. You cannot beat all the offers on the market, but you can suggest something priceless: positive human relationships, rapport and mutual support.
A certain level of turnover is, of course, inevitable. Face it and back it up with good knowledge transfer plan
Challenge # 4: Sceptical rebels undermining morale in the team
Almost in every IT team, there is this guy who always has a sarcastic comment on whatever you have to say, doubts every statement, thinks that everything should be handled differently, thereby undermining the morale of the whole team. We call them sceptical rebels.
As such people drive you nuts, it’s might be hard to control yourself while interacting with them. But reacting emotionally on their stunts, getting furious, and wanting to continue skirmishing is exactly what such people want from you.
It’s important to understand that usually sceptical rebels are critical thinkers and thus – a great asset for every team. Their sharp comments could have a perfect reasoning and common sense if you see through the curtain of sarcasm and don’t take it personally.
Learn to deal with sceptical rebels wisely. Answer their stunt with kindness. Practice listening. Whenever they disagree – let them do things their way or let them be in charge. That way you can turn your “enemy” to your ally and build respectful bonds between each other.
* * *
We hope you enjoyed your reading and draw some useful conclusions about managing software development teams from it. If you have any questions, suggestions for future content or ideas to discuss – feel free to leave a comment below or contact us directly.