The Secret to Building and Keeping a Happy Development Team

时候:2011-05-31 09:52来源:知行网www.zhixing123.cn 编辑:麦田守望者

The Secret to Building and Keeping a Happy Development Team

Developers are exceptionally talented individuals who are worth the investment in keeping them happy and engaged in their work and surroundings. By following some simple techniques, and using your own strategies, you can avoid the cost and effort involved in replacement. Begin today to build and cultivate a work atmosphere that promotes empowerment, challenge, innovativeness, and a true team environment! Customers will thank you, and your team will produce more results than you can ever imagine.

We’ve all faced the challenge of attracting and retaining talented developers. This is especially daunting these days considering the buzz about offshore development and the never-ending debate over whether to “buy” or to “build” your content.

In this article, I will share the techniques I’ve used throughout the years to build and hang on to successful development teams. Don’t just take my word for it however. I’ve asked several members of our team (see Figure 1) to contribute their candid comments so that you can see things from their perspective.

Team building basics

It would be so easy to simply coast through your professional life and projects without ever aspiring to improve or to contribute. But that’s just not the way to build strong customer relationships and teams, not to mention the fact that life would sure be boring.

Think about the basics: Who benefits when you build talented, productive, engaged, and excited teams? Definitely your organization and the team members, but more importantly your customer wins too. In our case, customers are external clients — each with a unique need and a unique strategic business goal for engaging our services. If you manage development for your organization, you can also consider other functional areas of your company as being your customers.

The key to building a successful development team is to empower every member of the team.


Figure 1 Ai-Dung, Mario, and Nathan discussing project schedules and team assignments.


Understand team member needs and concerns

Perhaps the most important key to building and keeping a happy development team is to examine the personality types suitable for this position. This field is especially attractive to problem solvers, ex-instructors, creative thinkers, and good communicators. Although the task each performs may vary, team members have several key characteristics in common.

Most of all, e-Learning professionals are artists at heart. Each one brings an individual approach and touch to a project. In this context, I think of an artist as a person with a special skill set and a unique interpretation of a vision or ability to convey a message. As artists, they typically take great pride in their work and always seek to improve their product. Each person also brings his or her strengths and weaknesses to the team. Take advantage of their individuality as well as their common vision.

Mario, one of our Senior Web Developers, puts it this way: “My background is in Studio Art and I have always practiced and studied art in one form or another. I definitely think that is one of the main reasons I’ve naturally migrated to Web content design. I am motivated to do my job and grow as a developer because I truly enjoy what I do. I have been in the field of e-Learning for about four years and have enjoyed the opportunity to learn new things and develop some cool Web-based courses.”

Understand their motivation

Nathan, our Web Content Development Manager, says this about his perspective on motivation: “Aside from personal ambition and financial stability, the main motivation I have to do my job and expand my skills set is truly for the success of the company. When you enjoy what you are doing, who you work with, and the culture you work within, it is easy to be motivated to give your best day in and day out.”

The “off shore” concern for developers

We’ve all heard so much about “off shore” development that I thought it would be interesting to share how members of our development team perceive this trend.

Ai-Dung, our Manager of Content Development, shared the following comments. “Fear of job security comes to mind when discussions of offshore firms occur. From a developer’s point of view, I don’t think companies realize the time and effort it takes to manage expectations, communications, and timing. You will find yourself juggling challenges such as differences in work culture and time zones. Communication is essential along with setting and managing change in expectations, and finally, quality assurance. When you quantify the management expense, you may indeed discover that this option doesn’t yield the cost savings you envisioned.”

You can imagine that Nathan and Mario have feelings about this subject as well.

Nathan: “Offshore content development is certainly a hot debate topic throughout a variety of industries, including e-Learning. Whereas it might make more sense to explore that option financially, the potential disconnect between day-to-day communication that this could create in our industry would be devastating. Custom e-Learning requires a certain level of personal, constant, and clear communication between our clients and our team that offshore firms have yet to prove they can provide.”

Mario: “Initially, I was concerned. This field is already very competitive so I feared that offshore development might eliminate jobs for Americans (to be specific, myself). However I’m confident in my abilities and generally feel this is just a passing trend.”

Remember that developers enjoy their profession

Most content developers truly enjoy what they do — in many cases, web development started as a hobby and evolved into their chosen profession. Professional sports provide a good analogy. The vast majority of teams are made up of players who started playing their sport for recreation and fun. Once they discovered they had talent, they perfected that talent and then used their ability to their advantage by transforming their “sport” into a profession. “Drive and ambition are perhaps the most common personality traits that I continually find throughout all developers. There seems to be a constant hunger and passion to succeed, to learn more and be constantly challenged,” adds Nathan.

Mario concurs with Nathan about the developer ethic, “Developers are driven...we thrive off the late nights, the lack of sleep to meet customer deadlines, and the desire to develop or find that new program that might make our lives easier. Sure we take on more than we can handle, yet that’s part of what we like about our jobs. That is the life of a developer. We enjoy it!”

An interesting and fun exercise

In preparation for a planning session, I asked our developers to complete the Myers-Briggs Personality test. During the session, the team reviewed the various personality types and tried to guess each person’s profile. The underlying lesson however, was to identify and understand the characteristics of each personality type. This information better enabled team members to know how to work together to achieve a common goal. Interestingly, we found that our teams are primarily comprised of two distinct personality types.

Type 1 — The Introvert/Thinker personality type

For example, an introvert/thinker personality doesn’t always speak up and express an opinion. This doesn’t mean that this individual doesn’t have something valuable to offer! In fact, the introvert/thinker likes to “process” information. After gathering all of the facts, they will offer an informed and thorough solution to the project challenge. On our team, instructional designers, editors, and programmers tend to fall into this personality profile.