Forward Motion – Keeping Your Development Team Busy

As a manager, we always want to keep our development team busy and moving in a forward motion, so they are productive and deliver quality products to our customers in a timely manner. Projects need to keep moving to ensure delivery dates are met for our clients; any slow down on the process has a monetary cost to the customer. Think of your team’s progress like a train rolling down the track to its destination, delivering the product to its customers. When a train is stalled on the tracks, it delays delivery to the customer, delays the trains behind it, and results in increased costs.

The Top 3 Things that Slow Developers Down

We need to ensure our projects keep moving, and when they are not, we need to find out why they are stalled and get them back on track to keep them rolling.  So, let’s look at the top three things that slow our developers down and find solutions.

  1. Blockers slow down the forward progression of developers.
    • Blockers are issues that stop a developer from moving forward on their task. When a developer has a blocker, ensure they know whom to contact to get it addressed to move on. Do not leave developers waiting for answers whenever possible. If there is a delay in finding a resolution, be sure the developer has another task they can work on in the meantime.
    • Give developers a time limit, for example, 30 minutes to solve the issue themselves and then ask for help if they cannot find the resolution. This strategy keeps the developer moving forward, and they do not have to stay stuck for long.
  2. Incomplete requirements cause the developer to stop and determine the details of the task.
    • Incomplete requirements create questions and ambiguity for developers and cause them to stop while they get their questions answered. The resolution is to spend more time upfront to ensure requirements are complete so developers can dig in and start coding right away.
    • Incomplete requirements are a risk for issues down the road as developers might make their own assumptions about the requirements that could cause rework for the team later.
  3. Assigning tasks to developers who do not have the proper skills slows down forward progress.
    • Tasks assigned to developers without the right skills to complete the tasks slow them down as they are spinning their wheels to figure out how to achieve them.  Be knowledgeable of the skillset of each of your developers so the correct assignments can be made.  
    • Continuously mentor and train your developers new skills, so you have the option to assign tasks to several developers.  Cross-training team members also enables you to be able to give tasks to anyone on the team.  

5 Strategies to Keeps Developers Busy and Moving in a Forward Motion

Developers need guidance and management to keep moving forward on their tasks. Five vital aspects should be addressed to ensure your team’s forward motion to keep them busy.

  1. Make developers accountable for their tasks.
    • Developers need to know their assigned tasks and be able to report their status. Consider using project tracking tools such as Azure Dev Ops, Jira, Trello, or a spreadsheet so the developers can see and report on the tasks assigned to them.
    • Daily scrum or team status meetings give developers an opportunity to communicate status on their tasks and raise concerns or blockers to keep them moving forward.
  2. Ensure managers stay ahead of the team to keep them busy.
    • Managers need to have tasks readily available for the team, so a developer is not waiting for work. Have tasks and requirements defined and ready so if a developer gets done early or hits a blocker, they can grab the next task in the queue and start working on it.
    • Meet with your customer frequently to define requirements for upcoming tasks. This way, you are not waiting until the last minute to finalize requirements for developer tasks.
  3. Acknowledge developers to motivate them.
    • Recognize your developers for the great work they have done on a task or the extra effort they have taken. A developer, being acknowledged for their contributions, builds pride in their job and ensures they feel appreciated.
  4. Create processes for your developer activities.
    • Develop a set process for the team for development, testing, and deployments. Having an established process for these activities removes any ambiguity and ensures a smooth flow to keep the team busy in forward motion.
    • Create coding standards for your team to ensure all developers follow the same conventions to make the code easier to read and maintain so that coding is completed quicker.
  5. Use open communication to keep the team busy in a positive direction.
    • Communicate to developers what tasks they are assigned to, the priority of work, the process if they run into blockers, and how to report the status of their work.
    • Give developers the opportunity to talk freely about what works for the team and make any suggestions for improvements. This open communication helps build a cohesive team that succeeds and grows together.
    • Keep the team engaged with each other for open and transparent communication. Good communication is critical to keeping the team moving forward.

Keeping your development team busy is essential to deliver quality products to customers in a timely manner continuously. Putting these five strategies into action with a team will do just that. Step back and look at your team of developers and evaluate what slows your team down and what keeps your team busy and moving forward. Have open discussions with your team and ask for feedback on what keeps them actively working and what kinds of barriers they face.  This open collaboration with your developers will allow you to make adjustments and keep your developers rolling down the track in a forward motion.