Make the SUM better then the PARTS

As a manager of an engineering team it can often be very difficult to know exactly what you should be focusing on.  This lack of clarity can often be your team’s undoing.  For this reason there is a simple mandate that I have found extremely helpful.  Make the sum better then the parts.

What exactly does this mean? Well let’s look at it from a simple bean counter.  If you have 5 individual beans – what is the overall value?  5 beans.  There is nothing there that creates more value beyond each bean.  The same can apply to a development team.  If you have 5 developers plugging away on their own and unrelated tasks – then their output will be equal to that of 5 developers.  Nothing special.  No competitive edge over your competition.

How then do you produce more out of 5 individual developers?  The answer is actually right in front of us.  Originally we said “Make the sum better then the parts”.  Focus on the keyword “sum”.  Treat your team as if each individual is a resource that when combined with another resource will be uplifted and improved.  Find ways to increase the individual value of a developer when added together in a team environment.

For some developers this could be in the form of more active architecture planning and reviews.  As the developers meet together to collaborate on ideas suggestions for improvements can be made to make their products and services more efficient and reliable.

In other circumstances this could be in the form of support.  Maybe a certain developer is in a crunch time during a release or upgrade and needs support from the rest of the team on their other tasks.

A core concept of Agile style development is that decision making is a group process.  As a manager never underestimate this importance as you create meetings, make decisions and introduce new processes that might actually be hurting, rather then helping, your developers.

As your team works together on their individual tasks, you will find that their collective worth is much greater then what they could produce on their own.  Adjusting your style and tactics to meet the needs of a particular group will allow you to produce a higher level outcome against the challenges placed before you.

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