As a manager, I have always been intrigued by high-performance teams (HPTs). Such teams comprise individuals who are committed to their tasks and capable of producing excellent financial outcomes. While researching the subject extensively, I discovered that most available resources pertaining to HPTs are theoretical and provide little practical guidance on how to create one. As an engineer, I am constantly exploring the most effective means to achieve a goal. However, I have not managed to find a foolproof way to establish a team or develop a product. Nonetheless, through extensive study, I have formulated a “code” that has proven successful for me. In the ensuing paragraphs, I will outline this “code” and explain how it can assist me in swiftly transforming my team into a high-performance entity.
What’s the secret?
Every Monday, I eagerly await the arrival of CTO Craft‘s Tech Manager Weekly newsletter, handpicked to deliver an assortment of informative articles on various topics such as engineering, culture, processes, and leadership. Instead of going through a regular newspaper on Mondays, I typically spend my time catching up on my reading list. While browsing through my reading material one Friday afternoon, I came across an article written by Simon Powers, which featured the formula suggested by him.
According to my understanding, the performance of a team is determined by subtracting the influence of external factors from the team’s potential.
Upon close analysis of the intricacies of the code, I grasped the importance of this formula. Upon reviewing both the achievements as well as shortcomings of my engineering team, I was able to connect each one with either the potential of the team or external interference. Whenever any group suffered from release delays, it was usually because of the team’s flawed assumptions (low team potential) or the project’s external factors that affected it significantly (high outside interference).
Being an engineer, I am always on the lookout for techniques to improve productivity and effectiveness. With this in mind, I have concluded that to boost the factor X in the equation X = Y – Z, we must enhance Y and decrease Z simultaneously. I have therefore decided to explore the variables that have had a profound impact on the success of teams within our organisation in the past. Additionally, I will evaluate how external factors may have influenced those outcomes. In the succeeding sections, I will elaborate on how this formula applies to our engineering group and company and what strategies we can adopt to maximise our efficiency.
A team’s potential can be found in the talents and traits of its members, as well as in the way they collaborate with one another. With perseverance and diligence, these abilities and collaborations can result in a thriving and productive team. Based on my observations, there are specific elements that have a favourable influence on the performance of my team, such as:
PurposeAs a leader, it is crucial to invest time in defining, elucidating, and comprehensively communicating the team’s objectives to its members. Although this may not always be an easy feat, it is vital in fostering fervour and zeal in the team and nurturing these positive sentiments. A robust mission statement can be the impetus that inspires team members to wake up every morning with eagerness. It is my duty as a leader to guarantee that my team recognises how their work is affecting the company as a whole.
SkillsetsIt is imperative to evaluate whether our team possesses all the essential proficiencies necessary to execute the task with efficiency. In a contemporary agile team, it is critical that software engineers, product managers, and designers are all involved. If my particular expertise is necessary to address the present business challenge, I must make it accessible to the team, either by hiring a specialist or providing training to current staff members.
Mental SecurityWhen team members possess the confidence to take risks without fearing negative repercussions, they experience an increased sense of psychological safety. This cultivates an open, supportive atmosphere in which individuals are unafraid to admit their mistakes and learn from them instead of attempting to conceal them. Whenever I notice team members hesitating to actively engage in team meetings and retrospectives, such as by raising their hands or asking pertinent questions, I regard it as a warning signal.
Changes in Speed, Course, and Acceleration, as Well as Changes in Relative Location (VDAP)In the field of physics, an object in motion is characterised by its velocity, direction, acceleration, and current position. My former supervisor, Scott Carleton, proposed that these same features could illustrate the collective efforts of a team working together towards a common goal.
- Velocity can be used to measure the pace at which a team is advancing towards the desired target. By computing the number of story points completed during any given iteration, teams can gain insight into how fast their development process is progressing.
- The ability to identify and correct errors efficiently and swiftly is reflected in the velocity of the team’s progress. Retrospectives are a vital practice for assessing our progress and identifying areas for improvement; however, determining their effect on our rate of acceleration has been challenging.
- The team’s current direction refers to their present actions in contrast to the intended actions.
- The team’s current position in comparison with that of their rivals reflects their current status. Each day, we hold a five-minute “stand-up” meeting to determine our progress in relation to our competitors’.
Based on my past experience, implementing a dependable internal process that recognises the VDAP (Value-Driven Agile Process) enables my team to heighten its agility, independence, and accountability in implementing the necessary course corrections.
An organisation’s efficiency can be impacted if it has to contend with diversions or disruptions caused by external sources.
Altering ObjectivesDue to the constantly evolving state of the business world, hitting a moving target can be a difficult task for organisations. When goals are changed during a project, it can be disorienting for teams and negatively affect morale. From my prior experience, I have learned that if I don’t have a big-picture perspective and continually realign the team’s efforts, their performance can decline. This can create a sense of frustration and cause a general decrease in productivity.
Leadership AbsenceDuring a change in leadership, it is natural for employees to experience some apprehension. Fear and uncertainty usually stem from not knowing what kinds of changes the new leader, supervisor, or manager might introduce. For a new leader, establishing trust and credibility with each team member is one of the most crucial but time-consuming responsibilities.
Organisational AdaptationIntroducing changes to the organisational structure can have a similar impact on teams as the introduction of new leadership. Teams are typically required to report directly to their respective department managers, which means that any departmental reorganisation or restructuring will affect its corresponding teams. Consequently, in light of the organisational modifications, it is critical to recalibrate, establish new goals and objectives, and review pre-existing ones. Even departments not directly impacted by the changes may need to review their collaborations with those that are. Due to the upheaval, it is probable that the abilities of individuals and teams may vary.
MicromanagementFor engineers, it is crucial to engender a sense of independence and confidence, allowing them to perform to the fullest extent of their abilities. When managers adopt an excessively meticulous and restrictive approach, it can adversely impact morale and productivity. To ensure the team is efficient, it is better to be transparent in the issue’s statement and offer guidance, but allow the team to take the lead in determining how to address the issue. It is critical to recognise that micromanagement can have an adverse influence on the team and their output.
Squad ConflictWhen working on a single codebase or product, no engineering team can effectively function in silos. Consequently, it is necessary for them to collaborate with other teams to accomplish their objectives. Unfortunately, engineers may encounter overlapping duties, which can hinder the delivery process. For instance, an engineer may have to wait for a pull request from a separate group. Additionally, a team may release code that disrupts another component of the program that is the responsibility of their respective team. Lastly, waiting for a code review from another team may delay an engineer’s progress. These are some of the most prevalent issues I have witnessed between teams that could be prevented by having defined procedures and guidelines in place.
I will evaluate the possible factors that could affect my engineering team’s performance that I am capable of directly managing. For instance, while I may not be able to prevent internal reorganisation, I can decide which abilities to prioritise when recruiting engineers. Once I have identified the aspects I can influence, I will establish quarterly goals to improve my team’s performance.