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Developers: frantic to free in 6 easy steps (part 4)

2010 December 13
by John

This is part of a series of posts chronicling my team’s adventure in making release day suck less.

Note: I would highly recommend giving each of these a shot in a way that fits your team. I would also recommend trying to implement each one at a time. If you spend time focused on each step, tweaking where there’s pain and adjusting to your team’s personality you’ll find everyone owning the end result. You’ll also show them you don’t know everything and need their help figuring some of these things out, which actually helps build a stronger team.

Here’s what we did, pretty much in the order in which we added them to our process:

  1. Unit testing
  2. Code review
  3. Continuous integration
  4. Daily stand up
  5. Iterative requirements gathering
  6. Lightweight develop/test/release process

Daily stand up

As odd as it sounds, simply adding a daily, 5-minute meeting really encouraged some momentum and accountability with my group. It’s called the “stand up” because everyone stands up which helps keep the meeting short. We go around the group ad everyone shares what they got done yesterday and what they plan to work on today.

The result was that people felt more accountable to their timelines–they told us yesterday what they planned to get done, so this morning they really ought to be telling us they finished it. If not, they really ought to be telling us what derailed them, which serves as an indicator to the manager (in this case me) of things going on around our group that is preventing the team from functioning as it should.

Aside from that, it also forces each dev to look at their work and decide where to focus their effort rather than looking at the computer screen and picking the first thing that comes to mind. What you end up with is more focused effort, more communication on progress, greater team accountability, and less manager accountability. Managers tend to get a bad rap for being the one coming down on folks about timelines, and this helps shift the blame. :)

As manager, I am also ready at almost a moment’s notice to discuss with those outside my team what we’re working on and how it’s going. It was a great addition to our process.


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