How to help software teams flourish- Part 1: Better teamwork

Not all industries are made equal. Some are meant to function as smaller but crucial links in a global business ecosystem. Others could be epoch-making in their impact on society.

The software industry definitely falls in the latter category. It is hard to imagine any other industry that has changed so many lives over the last few decades.

Aside from the obvious fact that software is more intangible than a product of material engineering, a crucial aspect which differentiates the industry from others is the type of collaboration it calls for.

 In material engineering, once you start creating, say, part of a machine there is hardly any scope for improvisation. You follow a set process until the creation is complete.

Not so with a piece of software code. Though the word ‘development’ is used in relation to the creation of code, you always have the Delete and Backspace key at your disposal. If a better strategy strikes you amidst development, you can try that almost immediately. If a code is found working but inefficiently, it’s possible to fix it by changing a few lines.

Being open to feedback

But for such things to happen, you need continual feedback between the team members. Perhaps, someone has an idea which could be relevant to everyone in the team. It is important for them to put that idea out there asap. Perhaps, it could help someone improve the code they are writing on the go, or aid someone stuck in an intellectual dryland devoid of progressive ideas.


Keep your mind open to feedback 


Either way, this would only work if the team members are receptive of feedback, not thinking of it as an infringement into their space.  

The team needs to be in good spiritual and emotional rapport for this. If team members don’t transcend their personal inhibitions, it wouldn’t be possible. In Temenos Vision Lab(TVL) a key step is Personal Mythology. With the aid of storytelling, you get to explore your memories, leading to introspection and eventually a clearer articulation of personhood.   

You  now know your personal space couldn’t be breached by a mere professional feedback.

This in turn makes team members more receptive to feedback. The Clean Slate session in TVL, which helps clear the mind of unwanted prejudices and strengthen your core values also help in this regard. The Personal Vision session then guides an individual towards the vision that’s as native to him as his heart beat- intrinsically one’s own but which has been obscured by layers of  social conditioning and inhibitions and fears.

This session not just helps you discover that vision but also act on it.

But that’s not to say only the individual matters. Developing a software is almost always a group effort. For that matter, the team sharing a common vision is of utmost importance. The Compelling Shared Vision is a TVL session which helps teams discovered their shared vision.

More avenues for meaningful discussions

This shared vision, in fact, is crucial for meaningful stand ups.

Typically, stand ups are sessions in which team members share their status regarding their tasks. But they could be even more meaningful if they are more participative in nature- if discussions are also part of it. Such discussions should pertain to  the vision towards which the team is moving.

Without that shared vision, these discussions could well be futile exercises.


Meaningful discussions promote common growth


Shared responsibility for the team’s success

We have now seen ideas of personal vision and compelling shared vision in TVL. There is one area in which both these elements become important- and that’s in instilling accountability in team members.

For someone to feel accountable for their task, two things are needed- 1) An understanding of what one is called to do, and 2)A sense of responsibility towards the other team members

For the first of these, a personal vision- pertaining to the role one plays within the team- is required. For the second, understanding that you are ultimately serving a compelling shared vision is called for. If these two are in place, accountability naturally follows.  

This is common for all industries and not just in the software business. However, being the team-based process it is, accountability becomes extremely significant in software development. A team member may create just 5 percent of the entire code. But if that doesn’t work, the repercussions could be harsh. For example, if the product involves e-commerce and the code  to secure the financial transactions fails, the software is a failure even if everything else in it works well.


A team is the community you are responsible towards 


Bridging the ‘My team/Your team’ divide

Software development and allied teams are notoriously resistant in collaborating with other departments. This is not due to  personality traits. Rather, it is brought about by differences in attitudes to problem solving that jobs entail.

This creates a mental divide which could be hard to bridge. There is also the notion there is no need for tech teams to be open to ideas from other departments. But that couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  

For instance, the marketing team may have crucial insights about what the end users want. Their feedback could be incorporated in the software design, so the end product is even better than before.


When the team wins, you win 


This is yet another scenario in which a compelling shared vision is of pivotal importance. This time, the shared vision is to be sought not for a team but on an organizational level. This helps a team see the importance of collaborating with other teams- so the shared vision could be achieved.

A mode of work that demands a peculiar type of collaboration, deep-seated prejudices common to all humans, a work culture particularly resistant to inter-department communication…the challenges in managing a software team might look insurmountable. But with Temenos Vision Lab, developed by incorporating psychological insights with business management principles, you have the key to open a new phase of collaborations in your team.


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