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How to Improve Software Development Productivity as an Agile Team?
Published:Feb 21, 2023

How to Improve Software Development Productivity as an Agile Team? (A Guide for Rebels)

As a software development team leader, you know how difficult it can be to keep your team productive and motivated. 

But all too often, micromanagement and top-down control can stifle creativity and lead to burnout. 

Here’s the real secret, though: as a team lead, you don’t have to choose between efficiency and autonomy. There are ways to improve your team’s productivity without sacrificing their independence. 

In fact, the two things actually go hand-in-hand. With the right approach, you can create an environment where everyone is empowered and engaged, leading to better results in less time. Here’s how you can do it:

The Problem With Micromanagement in Agile Teams

Micromanagement is the act of closely monitoring and controlling every detail of a project or task as a project manager, which can stifle creativity and lead to an environment where team members are not allowed to take initiative or make decisions on their own. 

That can ultimately lead to an atmosphere of distrust and frustration. It can also cause team members to be less engaged and lack motivation. 

Here are the top ways micromanagement can hurt your agile team:

  • It Can Stifle Creativity: Micromanaging can stifle creativity and innovation as it limits the team’s ability to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions to problems.
  • It Can Lead to Low Morale: When team members feel like their every move is being watched, it can lead to low morale, which in turn can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement.
  • It Can Reduce Autonomy: Micromanaging can reduce autonomy by taking away the team’s ability to make decisions on their own. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness among team members and may decrease productivity.
  • It Can Lead to Time Wasting: Micromanaging often leads to time-wasting activities such as overly detailed status reports or unnecessary check-ins with superiors, which takes away from valuable time that could be spent on more productive tasks.
  • It Can Increase Risk of Errors: When teams are micromanaged, they often feel rushed or pressured into making decisions quickly without considering all possible outcomes, which increases the risk of errors being made or important details being overlooked.
How to give autonomy to software developers? 5 tips: 

Provide clear goals and expectations
Encourage collaboration
Offer flexibility
Foster a learning environment
Offer support

How to Give Autonomy to Software Developers? A Guide for Agile PMs

But how do you give autonomy to software developers without letting your team descend into complete chaos? Relinquishing control can be hard, but you’ve already taken your first steps. 

Here are a few tips to help you be a much better team lead and increase productivity across the board for your agile team:

  • Provide Clear Goals and Expectations: When providing autonomy to software developers, it is important to set clear goals and expectations. Make sure they understand the scope of their work, what success looks like, and any deadlines that need to be met.
  • Encourage Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between software developers so that they can learn from one another and come up with innovative ideas. Provide opportunities for them to work together on projects, discuss their work with each other, and share their experiences with the team.
  • Offer Flexibility: Allow software developers to have some flexibility in how they approach tasks and problems so that they can use their creativity to come up with solutions. Give them freedom to experiment and explore different approaches without being constrained by rigid processes or red tape.
  • Foster a Learning Environment: Create an environment where software developers can learn new skills, technologies, and best practices to stay up-to-date on industry trends. Encourage them to attend seminars or conferences related to their field, participate in online forums or blogs, or read technical books and articles related to their job role.
  • Offer Support: Make sure you are available for support when needed so that software developers don’t feel isolated or overwhelmed by the task at hand. Have a reasonable amount of check-ins with them so you can provide guidance or answer questions as needed.

How to Foster an Environment of Shared Responsibility for Agile Software Development Teams

As a DevOps product manager, you need to create an environment of shared responsibility where every member feels part of a collective effort. Here’s a list of best practices to do just that:

  • Clarify Roles and Responsibilities: Make sure that everyone on the team understands their individual roles and responsibilities in the development process. This should include a clear understanding of how each team member contributes to the overall success of the project and how they can work together as a cohesive unit.
  • Establish a Team Charter: Develop a team charter that outlines goals, values, communication protocols, decision-making processes, and other key elements of successful collaboration. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations and desired outcomes, which will in turn improve productivity.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable speaking up about their ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of repercussions or criticism. Empowering people to speak openly will help foster an environment of transparency and help identify bottlenecks early on.
  • Foster Trust: Cultivate an atmosphere of trust between team members by providing regular feedback and recognition for their efforts as well as allowing them to make mistakes without fear of punishment.
  • Celebrate Successes Together: Celebrate successes together as a group instead of singling out individuals for praise or recognition. This will help create a sense of ownership over accomplishments and reinforce the idea that everyone is responsible for success within the team. 
  • Hold Everyone Accountable: Ensure that everyone on the team is held accountable for their actions and contributions by setting expectations around workflows and deadlines assigned to them individually or collectively.
A graph indicating the right balance between mental health and team accountability.

Ensuring Proper Mental Wellbeing in an Agile Workplace: A PM’s Empathy Handbook

A leader’s job is much more involved than tracking a few one-dimensional performance metrics and using them to assess your team’s efficiency. Not only are you in charge of looking after their interests as a team, but also their mental health as individual humans. 

Here are a few tips to do just that:

  • Create an environment where employees feel safe to speak up, ask questions, and express their concerns. Promote an atmosphere of collaboration and respect.
  • Offer support services such as employee assistance programs and online counseling to help employees deal with stress, anxiety, and other issues.
  • Help employees connect with the company’s mission and values by providing meaningful work and opportunities for growth.
  • Make sure that employees take regular breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout and fatigue. Encourage them to step away from their desks for lunch or a quick walk around the block if possible.
  • Allow employees to choose when they start and end their workday if it fits within the project timeline, as this can help reduce stress levels and improve productivity. 
  • Encourage employees to practice healthy habits such as eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and taking time for themselves each day to relax or pursue hobbies they enjoy outside of work.

The True Role of Performance Analytics in Agile Development

There’s a right and wrong way to use analytics tools and performance metrics for teams in an agile workplace. While it’s true that you should measure developer productivity and use productivity tools to track performance, you shouldn’t use the data you acquire as a means to evaluate and scrutinize.

In fact, a much more reasonable approach is to use data to empower yourself to make better decisions for your team as a product manager. Here’s how:

  • Estimate the amount of work that can be completed in a given sprint. Use new technologies and analytics tools to track the number of tasks being completed each day and compare it to the estimated amount of work for that sprint. This will allow you to adjust your estimation for future sprints accordingly.
  • Track lead time and throughput metrics over time, such as average cycle time or throughput rate. Then use this data to inform your estimates for future sprints. This will help you get an understanding of how much work can realistically be completed in a given timeframe without micromanaging individual tasks or employees.
  • Use performance analytics to identify bottlenecks or areas of improvement in your agile process, but don’t use it as a tool for micromanagement. Instead, use the data to inform decisions about how to improve processes and increase efficiency without getting too involved with individual tasks or employees. 
  • Monitor team velocity over time and use it as an indicator for how much work can be accomplished in a given timeframe. However, don’t use it as a measure of individual productivity or performance. Instead, focus on the bigger picture and make adjustments based on collective team performance rather than individual performance metrics.

7pace: The Developer-Friendly Time Management Platform for Contrarian PMs

7pace is a time management platform that helps you improve software development productivity while focusing on the right practices for project management. It’s not for micromanagement or busywork. Rather, it’s a tool designed to enable product managers to inform their own decisions on budget and timeline.

So, how does it work?

7pace integrates directly with your developer environment in Azure DevOps or GitHub, offering in-depth performance analytics for each individual project, iteration, and story point. It enables you to identify patterns that can be used to make better projections on team deadlines and project costs. Plus, it’s always being updated with new features to offer better intelligence and detailed insights.

Want to see it in action? Get started with a free trial for 7pace today!

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