Technical staff in startups or companies with young development shops have to be scrappy. When there are only a few people responsible for the success of a product, their flexibility and reactiveness are essential to just that.
If five developers work on one product, the processes that sustain it may depend on the challenge of the day or who happens to be in the office. Their process improvement ideas may amount to devoting one person one day to resolving a lingering bug, and another person the next — each with their own approach. Even teams of 20 that are responsible for two products are known to hand off tasks as capacity and expertise allows. While far from ideal, this approach is at least feasible when everyone is within shouting distance of one another.
But can a small, reactive team with intersecting roles scale its responsibilities and staff while maintaining the same (read lacking) processes indefinitely?
How Chaos Rules Without Process Improvement Ideas
When 100 developers oversee more than five products, it may be time to rethink how missing processes may hurt the business’s prospects. Just as having more cooks in the kitchen is a great idea in theory, adding more developers to handle more products hurts the business and its clients more than it helps.
More hands means more dishes out the door and onto diners’ plates. But when additional people lack defined roles, any progress they make can derail when the dinner rush comes in. A meal is burnt, an order lost.
Similarly, a growing company may have the resources to do great work. But without defined responsibilities or processes, your staff’s efforts may only result in spinning wheels at best and upset clients at worst. The tireless few who once put out the fires in the early days now can do more harm than good when their workflow disrupts other’s. Developing blind isn’t scalable or sustainable.
Teams That Don’t Scale Processes With the Business Don’t Work
When technical teams grow, but their processes don’t, lack of trust and sense of ownership gnaw at everyone. Those used to the close collaboration of smaller teams with fewer responsibilities will grow regret the lack of visibility into the work their lesser-known colleagues do. When the value added isn’t readily apparent, distrust grows.
There may be a sense of a lack of ownership in the development of the business’s products, but also a false perception of ownership of all of its products and processes — a risk teams face without good processes that scale with their teams.
Follow These 7 Process Improvement Ideas to Scale Quickly
When teams are left with an excess of resources but a lack of direction, these process improvement steps can help them build a vision that guides people to divide and conquer their roles, building software in collaborative teams.
- Get leadership buy in – In order to identify and establish the process improvement steps that bring a team from chaotic to Agile, those in the roles at the top of the pyramid must not only launch the initiative, but actively participate in how their process improvement ideas are implemented
- Establish goals – Do designers need to work two weeks ahead of developers to maintain a proper release cadence? Should development leads schedule more frequent check ins to determine where blocks occur?
- Definition – Clearly define roles to maximize clarity for everyone. Who is the Scrum master? What about the product owner, development lead, business analyst, or product manager? Not to mention developers, designers, or QAs? Assigning roles immediately outlines ownership and responsibilities.
- Process and plan – With roles assigned and understood, planning for how they will work can begin. Within Agile, this includes identifying a cadence of ceremonies for team members that include sprint planning, sprint review, backlog grooming, sprint retrospectives, and daily standups. If someone realizes that an assigned task falls outside of their role, there should be a process for assigning it to someone else, or at least for handling tasks that have yet to be accounted for.
- Write it down – Documentation is key when brainstorming and executing process improvement ideas. Knowing the dos, don’ts, and general expectations, but also where they exist as a source of truth, providing teams a common goal when working to adopt new habits.
- Take it seriously – Be strict. As long as a team’s process improvement ideas feel like unfamiliar territory, hold people accountable to adopting them in order to give a new approach to software development a fair shot at success. .
- Iterate — Leadership and teams should reexamine the process improvement ideas discussed at kickoff and determine whether the process improvement steps they followed have had the desired outcome. Making it a habit to discuss new process improvement ideas can help teams shift their workflows to respond to business demands more effectively.
What Does It Take for Teams to Embrace Process Improvement Ideas?
Old habits die hard. But perseverance and compelling leadership have the ability to transform teams from reactive yet aimless to fast and intentional. Even more important is having a willingness to change — without it, habits persist and the software suffers as a result.
There are teams where the process in place is a distinct lack of one. They might be at a loss as to how to navigate a demanding technological landscape that has evolved from shifting business realities.
Shifting team perspective and shedding light onto other the work of other product teams may be crucial at this juncture. Whether strategic recommendations or staffing Agile process experts on site, a partner with experience aligning teams to respond to business needs rapidly can help teams that are at a loss when it comes to identifying and adhering to effective process improvement ideas.