Joining the Pack as the Lone Wolf

Despite the evidence suggesting that remote workers are more productive than office-based ones, there still exists an erroneous notion that they spend most of their time binge-watching Netflix. Such misconceptions, however, are not only false but also unhelpful. In reality, working-from-home employees tend to clock in more hours than their counterparts commuting to a physical workplace each day.

Although broad assumptions are often misguided, there are instances where they hold true. Many enterprises seek to hire a skilled developer who can code round-the-clock with ease, deliver projects on time, and have a flair for translating design concepts into reality.

When people hear this stereotype, they conjure images of fictional characters such as David from War Games, played by Matthew Broderick, or Angela Bennet from The Net, played by Sandra Bullock. They think of socially awkward prodigies with unparalleled coding skills and an insatiable drive to excel.

The prevalence of this stereotype is partly due to the fact that it accurately describes certain individuals. As some programmers favour working independently and thrive when in complete ownership of the code base. These exceptional individuals possess unparalleled talent but their poor people skills pose a disadvantage in a team-oriented environment.

Challenges of Working with Lone Wolves

Hiring a competent developer who can skillfully manage the code can be difficult, especially if you lack technical expertise yourself. However, the inherent issue with solo developers is their isolation. Working without any external involvement can breed detrimental behavior which ultimately affects the entire codebase.

Occasionally, you might encounter code that looks like a bowl of spaghetti, with little to no annotations to help guide fellow programmers. Solitary developers with a penchant for coding also have a tendency to duplicate code instead of working in a modular fashion. Given their love for coding, this approach appears justified. However, this eventually results in an unwieldy codebase full of redundancy.

Communication plays a vital role in remote teams, and it is imperative to ensure that all team members effectively collaborate. Inadequate cooperation from a developer can lead to significant issues. Though churning out code in large quantities is feasible, it is essential to evaluate its quality and relevance. At times, this judgment can be challenging to make.

Working with a Lone Wolf can be an arduous task, particularly in trying conditions. They may become excessively possessive of the codebase, rejecting any modifications or recommendations from others. Moreover, if they develop an emotional attachment to being the sole proprietor of the code, they may become overly sensitive to any criticism about it.

Consequently, it is advisable to try and incorporate your unbridled developer into the team to transform them from a Lone Wolf to a pack animal. But how exactly can you achieve this feat?

Express Expectations

It is imperative that the company’s remote-work policy, as well as the job position’s description, lucidly communicate the expected standards of behavior and efficiency. Distributed teams must observe a higher number of rules to ensure a successful working environment. Additionally, a programming style document should be created, outlining the guidelines for desirable code. While such documents may already exist, they need to be updated and shared with all team members. If any documents do not exist yet, it is best to create them and disseminate them as soon as possible.

Documentation, if available, must be utilized effectively. Although individuals keen on remote work are presumed to be self-sufficient and capable of working independently, it is still important to ensure that all employees remain committed to the company’s ultimate goals. Consequently, if an individual deviates from the group’s expectations, it is recommended to have a conversation with them.

Maintain Close Contact

At Works, we have discovered that combining a distributed team with the Agile Development Methodology is the most effective strategy. This is likely because Agile places a high emphasis on regular communication between team members. By leveraging tools like Slack, virtual daily stand-up meetings can be organized even when members of the team are not physically present in the same location.

By incorporating daily check-ins, the team has developed a stronger bond. This has facilitated a more extensive collaboration and understanding of each team member’s expertise, including sharing of project updates, existing challenges, and future plans. Even the most introverted team members are likely to participate more willingly if they feel included in the group.

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Managing Code

Granting any of your developers the authority to claim ownership over the code is not advisable. To prevent bottlenecks and secure access to the code for all developers, it is recommended to store it in a unified, centralized location. Employing a Version Control System (VCS) ensures all team members can access and collaborate on the same set of documents, review code updates and new modules prior to testing.

If you are concerned about an overreliance on a single developer as the sole expert in a specific codebase, investing in training and mentoring can encourage more team members to feel competent and confident in working with it. In case of unexpected emergencies like ‘Angela Bennett being hit by a bus,’ having a contingency plan is crucial. One effective method is to encourage team members to practice pair programming, as this spreads knowledge and experience and is a useful guard against potential dependencies.

Scope Consistency is Crucial

A clear vision of short and long-term goals must be conveyed to the development team for success. While acknowledging enthusiasm and dedication towards excellence, it is essential to prevent Lone Wolves from altering code beyond the scope of their work, which can lead to wastage of time and resources even though the existing code can deliver the expected outcomes.

The following goals can be decomposed into actionable tasks using project management tools. Ensure that the list of tasks assigned to Lone Wolf is up-to-date, so if they are staying up all night working on a code, it is for a task that meets your expectations.

Hire Competent Individuals

Investing the required effort and energy to accommodate the specific needs of a Lone Wolf can offer a rewarding addition to your team. Nonetheless, the most effective way to build a remote team aligned with your requirements is by making well-informed recruitment decisions.

Rest assured that we conduct thorough screening and vetting of every potential candidate we recommend to you. Our screening criteria not only ensure technical prowess but also include proficiency in remote work. Every CV forwarded to you represents an individual well-equipped to deliver exceptional code as part of a distributed team.

If you require a highly skilled programmer to join your team, we can provide valuable assistance. Feel free to contact us to discuss your needs, and we will introduce you to the newest member of your staff.

Also, you can check out our blog post on creating real business value by leveraging global talent.

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