A business is 1.9 times more likely to show above-median financial performance in case you have a top team working to achieve a common goal. In this post, we've collected 5 best practices that have proven their worth in helping every leader and manager build a high-performance team for software development that will contribute to fast sustainable business growth.
What is a high-performance team?
A high-performance team refers to a group of people who not only collaborate but also provide consistently superior results.
High-performance teams meet goals with little management oversight. They are able to make decisions and feel strongly accountable for results.
"Investors in start-ups often value the quality of the team and the interaction of the founding members more than the idea itself."
McKinsey & Company
Characteristics of High-Performance Teams
The global and most impactful HR society SHRM declares that in order to create effective software development teams, managers and business leaders should develop the following characteristics within their teams. Let's outline the core ones:
- Clearly defined and measurable objectives;
- Determined operating rules;
- A performant and respected leader;
- Transparent communication;
- The diversity of expertise.
5 best practices to follow for building a high-performance development team
Alex Kom, Head of Sales at Belitsoft with 14+ years of expertise, comments:
"An experienced vendor knows how to build a solid team and to eliminate common bottlenecks. Such knowledge comes from years of expertise. Let’s take Belitsoft. For 17+ years in software development, we’ve been building and managing dedicated teams for businesses from startups to global corporations. Based on our vast knowledge and expertise, we can suggest 5 best practices that help develop the above-mentioned characteristics in a team."
Best practice #1: Set clear and measurable software development team goals.
Team members work better when their goals are clear. So each member must understand what and why they are doing it.
You can measure software development team goals using 3 different methods:
Method 1. Setting SMART goals.
According to a S.M.A.R.T. way to define management goals, the objectives should be:
Narrow down your goal to target a specific area.
Define what indicators will prove your progress.
Specify who will accomplish a goal and in which timeframe.
Align your goal with available resources.
Determine a realistic deadline for reaching a goal.
Example: Follow test-driven development (TDD), achieving ~85% code coverage writing 300+ unit tests with JUnit in 1 month.
Just for information, Apple uses SMART goals in its marketing plan.
Method 2. Objectives and Key Results (OKR)
OKR is a collaborative methodology for setting goals hierarchically:
Level 1. Company objectives.
Level 2. Team objectives.
Level 3. Individual objectives
OKR improves communication between departments and decentralizes decision-making, favoring the creativity and proactiveness of employees.
The successful companies that use OKR are Google, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Uber, and Adobe.
OKRs are written with an Objective and 3 to 5 supporting Key Results.
Method 3. Agile Metrics: 4 KPI for a software development team
Agile metrics help team leaders keep performance in check by measuring different aspects of project development. The goal of applying agile metrics is continuous improvement.
Based on his rich experience, the certified team coach Joel Bancroft-Connors defines 4 metrics to track for creating the best software development teams:
- Cycle Time. It reflects Productivity - getting more done having the same time or resources
- Escaped Defect Rate. It's related to Quality - creating a product free of defects or issues.
- Planned-to-Done Ratio. It's meant to guarantee Predictability - aligning plans and deliveries.
- Happiness Metric. It relates to Stability - maintaining the same pace indefinitely.
Best practice #2: Determine operating rules for your team.
Operating rules are business rules, guidelines, policies, norms, and regulations within a company.
Each team member has to actually discuss and agree to follow operating rules.
Here is a quick checklist to make sure you have determined the operating rules for your team:
Does Your Team Have?
- Clear roles and responsibilities within a team;
- Well-defined workflow and principles of working together;
- Documented procedures for how to handle issues and conflicts;
- Clear expectations between developers and project stakeholders;
- Focus on a result and an agreed-upon “definition of done” for each step;
- Regular performance assessment;
- Shared recognition of team successes.
The goal here is to keep on working on each aspect till you get all positive answers.
Best practice #3: Become or choose a performant and respected leader for a team.
A respected and performant leader is the one who has the ability to
- keep the goals relevant and meaningful;
- ensure that software development team members constantly enhance their skills;
- manage relationships to remove obstacles that might hinder group performance;
- and do the real work required.
How to Lead a Software Development Team to Get Superior Results?
- Educate and Mentor. A study by Degreed shows that 69% of employees first turn to their bosses to learn and ask something. By mentoring and educating, companies boost leadership, constant development in their teams, and create a shared value for the organization.
- Engage. Build a strong team spirit where everyone can share their thoughts and concerns. Authorize key team members to drive initiatives. Invite them to join strategic planning meetings.
- Empower. Encourage your team members to act on their own. Outline the boundaries within which your team can make decisions on their own.
- Innovate. Promote innovation and continuous excellence for building a high-performance team for software development. Take in fresh ideas by arranging regular discussions to spot improvement areas and dedicate time for reviews after every iteration.
Examples of Global Enterprises Leadership Styles
We've gathered examples of how world-known companies build the leadership culture and team management in software development.
- Google. Managers concentrate on sharing leadership, inspiring teams to succeed, and clearing roadblocks. Their priority is to stop being managers in its traditional sense.
- Netflix. Its leaders don't make all the big decisions and control every high-stakes situation. Instead, they tend to lay out the context, so that employees feel empowered and informed to make the judgment call themselves.
- GitLab. Employees get a lot of freedom for the tasks they work on. They call themselves a remote-first company with the workflows built and ready for remote work.
- Facebook. The company has a famous little red book. The major principles described in it are the importance of releasing fast, failing fast, and learning fast.
- Buffer. They prioritize transparency in everything. Revenues, employee salaries, diversity stats, and code are published publicly.
Best practice #4: Create small teams with transparent communication.
In order to keep every team member on the same page, communication is necessary. Any goals and plans are worthless unless every involved person understands them well enough to act.
The challenge is:
The more team members you have to manage, the more you need to communicate to coordinate them.
An acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert Josh Kaufman in his bestselling book “The Personal MBA” states:
“If you lead a team of 8+ people, at least 80% of your job will boil down to communicating”.
The solution is:
If you want your team to perform at its best, make it as small and autonomous as possible.
“Studies of effective teamwork usually recommend working in groups of three to eight people. Once group size expands above eight, each additional team member requires more investment in communication than they add in productive capacity”. Josh Kaufman
How to Set Up Effective Communication in a Software Development Team?
To improve the efficiency of communication within your team, put into practice:
- Face-to-face interactions via daily standups;
- Pair programming using software development team tools;
- Retrospectives (when a team assesses past results and processes to improve the future ones);
- Collaborative communication in person or using online whiteboarding tools;
- A continuous cycle of feedback;
- Group chats and calls;
- Files sharing;
- Video recording and archiving.
Best practice #5: A well-thought HR strategy to bring a diversity of expertise in a team.
When the abilities of one team member complement the abilities of another, the teamwork becomes more effective.
Here are some ideas for building a successful software development team that will allow bringing the diversity of expertise into your team. They boil down to creating different types of software development teams that will perform well, such as:
- Creating a cross-functional software development team. A cross-functional team comprises people who have different functional expertise and are able to use it for achieving a common goal. Bringing people together from different disciplines can improve problem-solving and lead to more thorough decision-making.
- Hiring people with T-Shaped skills.T-shaped people have both depth and breadth in their skills. The earliest reference to this approach was in the 90s when it was used by HRs in McKinsey & Company for recruiting and developing partners and consultants. The term “T-shaped skills” is now common in agile software development with distributed teams and refers to the need for cross-skilled developers and testers in an agile team. Used by Procter & Gamble, Nike, Apple, to mention a few.
- Balancing Generalists and Specialists. Generalists are engineers who master a wide range of areas, skills, and technologies. Specialists are experts in a narrow field. They are best at their roles and can be responsible for a certain part of the project. Balancing generalists and specialists, you maintain a balance in the expertise needed for successful project completion
How to Hire the Right People for Your Software Development Team?
When you hire a skilled developer who works effectively individually, it doesn't mean he'll work effectively in your team. Why? The perfect answer once gave the legend Michael Jordan:
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
When recruiting a software developer in your team, pay close attention to the following traits that are essential in building a world-class software development team:
- They are team players. Try spotting people who gladly share their experience of achieving a goal with a team. People who are able to handle controversial opinions, and recognize the individual input of their peers.
- They're proactive. These candidates want to join your company because of an interesting and challenging project. They feel motivated so they’ll ask questions, suggest their vision, spark the thinking process in other team members.
- They take responsibility. It's challenging to guess if a person is responsible. But you can figure it out by asking how they plan their day, prioritize tasks, make reports, deal with unplanned issues, etc.
- They can go out of their comfort zone. An ideal candidate is a self-learner who enjoys picking up new skills. They're eager to embrace new tasks that require going out of their comfort zone.
Where to find the right candidate?
Here you have two options:
1. Find each software developer individually (freelance or in-house).
2. Find a ready-to-start team at outsourcing companies.
At Belitsoft, we have experts who know how to build a software development team that can deliver you world-class software in time and at a good rate. We'll select the best team for you from our 380+ pool of specialists to help your business scale up and bring higher revenue. Just talk with the expert!
Hire a High-Performance Software Development Team Ready to Start Right Away
Whether you need to develop world-class software, modernize or customize the existing product, a go-to option is to hire a dedicated software development team. Working with outsourced dedicated developers will help you get a job done quickly, decrease development costs, and get a perfect product.
For that, we will:
- bring you professionals that are ready to work autonomously or together with your in-house team;
- help retain the key specialists within your project thanks to applying our best practices.
- timely deliver you a product that will satisfy you and your customers.
Other benefits you get by partnering with the Belitsoft software development team:
- Hire as many remote developers as you need (you can recruit over 100 specialists with us).
- Be in full control of your project without the need to spend hours on team management.
- Pay a fixed monthly cost for each dedicated developer, with no hidden expenses.
- Scale your team up or down quickly when you need to.
- Reduce the time to integrate new employees into your team to 2 weeks (instead of 3 months).
- Stay informed on the progress that your team is making. We provide a project manager to make sure things don't get lost in emails, phone calls, and text messages.
- Speak directly with your programmers. No middlemen, no miscommunication.
Talk with our business development manager to start working on your tasks with all the above-mentioned benefits.
Real Business Cases of Building High-Performance Software Development Teams for Our Clients
Case Study #1. How We Saved up to 50% Building an LMS for a Microsoft Partner
Using our IT team augmentation services, the team behind SharePoint LMS (at that time still a startup), received 36 IT specialists to build an LMS from scratch while decreasing their expenses to up to 50%.
Case Study #2. How We Helped High-Tech Enterprise Save up to 40%
We hired and managed 100 people (70 QA engineers and 30 software developers) for a large enterprise company from Israel to customize the company's applications.
We saved 40% of the client's budget. About 85% of the team has been working on this project for over 2 years.
Case Study #3. How a Dedicated Team Helped Create an App with 7M Users
Get the right talents as quickly as you need them to create your world-class software. Request a free consultation now!
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