High Performance Teams

The coders worked in teams of six to ten people and looking at the success of the end products, the competition raised the question: What constitutes a ‘high performance software development team’?

1. The right individuals

The level of ability (or potential ability) and experience of members is crucial, and an individual’s selection will depend on the nature of the project. Attitude, however, trumps ability every time. In coding, there are two types of individual: those who find problems and those who find solutions. Choose members who have a bias for finding solutions – they will bring energy to a team that is normally drained by problem finders. A positive mindset and can-do attitude go a long way.

A team leader will emerge naturally, especially where there are varying degrees of experience in the team. Whether explicitly identifying an individual as team lead or letting natural selection play its course, leaders who display the characteristics of servant-leaders (those who look to enable the full potential of those in their team, rather than taking an autocratic, command-and-control style) are better suited to leading high-performance teams.

2. The right combination

Collaboration is king in high-performance teams but finding the right combination of individuals is significantly more challenging. Team dynamics come into play and the myriad of behavioural habits and thinking preferences, and combination thereof, can be difficult to assess up front.

Identify the combination of individuals that will communicate effectively. Assemble a cross-functional team that has all the skills necessary to get the job done, eliminating external dependencies wherever possible. Once collaboration and skill sets are addressed, shift the focus to providing the right environment (location, tooling and so on) and trust the team to do the job.

3. Setting the stage

Having a well-defined purpose is a strong motivator. Individuals who understand the big picture and who buy into the objectives of what the project is trying to achieve, will naturally aim to maximise the value of their contribution.

Success often comes only after a number of failures. If you are looking for innovation from your team, tolerate failure. Create a ‘safe’ environment in which the team can experiment with ideas, new technologies and approaches. Encourage the team to explore uncharted territory and stretch the boundaries of what is possible.

4. Involvement

As the project sponsor, product owner or any other direct stakeholder having a vested interest in the success of the project, become involved. Show an interest in the successes and failures of the team and be a champion for the project and team across other business units. High-performance teams are proud of their work and recognition for their efforts will directly impact their level of motivation.

A high-performance team is a crucial element in delivering a successful product and once you know what constitutes a winning team, it could be the start of something game-changing.

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