Encouraging open communication and collaboration among team members is essential to creating a culture of transparency and trust. However, achieving this can be a challenge, especially in large software engineering departments where teams are spread across different locations and time zones.
Let’s discuss how to build trust on a team and common problems that employees in a software engineering department face with regard to fostering open communication and collaboration. Many of these challenges can be solved following an Agile methodology.
Trust Within the Team
A common problem seen is a lack of trust between team members. A “lack of trust” refers to not knowing exactly what to expect from a co-worker. You might think that two different software engineers will deliver similar tasks written the same way. But due to personal differences, experience, and interpretations, this is never the case. Each developer is creating his or her product differently, and most likely not exactly what the original requestor had anticipated. Hence, a “lack of trust” ensues amongst team members. Over time, this environment can become dysfunctional.
This lack of trust can be due to a variety of reasons, such as poor communication, a lack of transparency, or a lack of collaboration. When team members do not trust each other, it can be difficult for them to work together effectively, which can lead to missed deadlines, poor quality work, and low morale.
Sometimes one person may require mentoring, but other times the team needs altering.
I recommend that software engineering teams adopt routines that are part of an Agile methodology. Agile is a project management methodology that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement. It’s designed to break down silos and encourage cross-functional teams to work together towards a common goal. Ultimately, a culture of transparency and trust is created, where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and collaborate towards a common goal.
Communication Within the Team
Another common problem faced by software engineering teams is a lack of communication. In many cases, team members may be working on different parts of a project and may not be aware of what their colleagues are working on. This lack of communication can lead to duplication of effort, missed deadlines, and poor-quality work.
That’s why my teams always have daily stand-up meetings. Attendance and participation are required by all team members and these are typically held at the beginning of the workday.
Daily stand-up meetings are short, 15-minute meetings where team members share what they worked on the previous day, what they plan to work on that day, and any obstacles they are facing. These meetings help team members stay aligned and aware of what their colleagues are working on, which can help to avoid duplication of effort and missed deadlines. They may seem repetitive at times, but they are absolutely critical to keeping a project on track.
Retrospectives are regular meetings where team members reflect on their performance and identify areas for improvement. I hold these after each “sprint”, or code release. Retrospectives can be used to identify communication gaps, and to brainstorm solutions to improve communication and collaboration within the team.
The objective of retrospective meetings is to improve on something in each following sprint, regardless of how small. By regularly reflecting on their performance and looking for ways to improve, software engineering teams can create a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration. Having these be part of a natural cycle helps fosters free speech and transparency overall.
This constant communication and collaboration brings a group together and helps build trust within the team.
More Meetings = Less Bugs
I used to think that more meetings were a waste of time. We needed software developers focused on “developing”. We were already stretched too thin and requiring everyone to attend a morning meeting would only further delay our progress.
What I failed to see at the time was that a good portion of our backlog were bug fixes and rewriting code from a previous sprint. Less communication was actually causing bugs to get through and a product that
By improving communication, we actually ended up having less bugs get into our products. Over time, we eliminated the large amount of bug work in our backlog, and could concentrate the majority of our time on product enhancements and billable work.
Encouraging open communication and collaboration among team members to foster a culture of transparency and trust is essential for software engineering teams.
This presents it’s challenges, especially in large software engineering departments. Utilizing Agile methodologies can help transform software engineering teams where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and help focus on a common goal. Agile practices such as daily stand-ups and retrospectives can help to overcome common problems such as a lack of communication, trust, and collaboration.
However, adopting Agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Teams must experiment with different Agile practices and find the ones that work best for their unique needs.
I encourage software engineering teams to experiment with Agile methodologies and to seek out training and guidance from experienced Agile coaches. With help, teams can overcome common problems and create a more collaborative and productive work environment. In addition, I am always happy to chat with software engineering teams about their challenges and offer guidance on how to overcome them. Together, we can create a more collaborative and productive software engineering environment.