Red and blue pills to increase the bac factor of the development team
How to find weaknesses in a team?
How to prevent burnout of the person on whom everything rests?
Whom to look for in the place of a former colleague?
What to do if outsourcers temporarily connected and then took all the knowledge with them?
In this article I want to tell you what answers our team received.
Our team of eight engineers was given tasks of various kinds, and over time, each colleague began to specialize in something of his own. The constant routine did not always allow us to stop and think about the future. Each vacation foreshadowed unpredictable drawdowns in velocity. What was needed was some kind of regularity and a systematic approach.
We came up with a very strange recipe with the team:
- blue pill – find current problems that have already manifested themselves, find patterns and come to a solution. You can call it a tactical maneuver to make it easier here and now.
- red pill – look at the team from a bird’s eye view, see the risks that have not yet worked out, and develop a plan to eliminate the most dangerous of them. You can call it a strategic maneuver to avert potential disaster in the future.
We drank both, tasted and sat down.
Helps to identify burnout, adaptation problems, narrow specialization of a colleague, as well as rare technologies that need to move away. Allows you to work with obvious problems and discover hidden ones.
So, in order to systematize the problems that have already manifested, it is required to get from each team member a subjective assessment of how often he needed the help of specific colleagues in this sprint, without which he could not move on. And put the results in a table and see the amount for loading colleagues.
Let our estimates be:
- 1 – I do not contact this person at all;
- 5 – the constant help of this person is required, without him I can not move on.
Each assessment should be supplemented with areas, topics or specific tasks for which assistance was needed. For example: “use and refinement of the installer”.
After the team has filled in the table, it is necessary to sum up all the marks in the columns, supplement with the most recurring topics and fix them at the bottom of the table.
A colleague has the most points:
- loaded parakeet. Perhaps he is overwhelmed and constantly distracted by the same questions from colleagues (see recurring topics in this person’s table). The team needs to hold an architectural session, for which a colleague will prepare in advance and transfer knowledge to the whole team at once. Invest your time and energy in these “knowledge sharing” meetings and you will unload a dying person.
- Competence per million. If this is a highly specialized professional, whose skills are difficult / long to transfer to the team, sharing is indispensable. In some companies, such issues are decided by the manager. If this is your case, then the ideal option is to come to him / her with a list of skills that need to be duplicated in your team, approximate salaries for such specialists in the market, and a price tag for replacing technology. This argumentation and prepared statistics will help to quickly close the issue. Usually the following happens here: either you get a vacancy, or you sanctioned (with the allocation of labor costs for this) refuse a number of “expensive” technologies.
A colleague has the least points:
- Forever alone. Most likely, it is difficult for a person to adapt in a team. The colleague does not quite understand what is happening here, but he is also afraid to ask. An individual approach is needed here, everything is decided jointly at 1:1 meetings. There are a lot of materials on the Internet on their effective implementation.
- Lone wolf. Perhaps a colleague works super-efficiently and independently. But for some, this does not open up, and the team itself loses productivity due to a lack of synergy. Moreover, such a person, without help and transmission of knowledge, independently took on a number of areas. After he leaves, they will be completely lost to the team. Others may not even guess that there were such tasks, clients, obligations, technologies.
At a personal meeting, you need to find out why this is happening and why a person got a job working in a team if he could freelance coolly at home without experiencing discomfort from interacting with people. If a person is not interested in all this and is sad, then sometimes it is better to let him go (handing over to his colleagues to the maximum, of course). But if he is interested in trying real team play and universal support, then you need to outline a plan for inclusion in the family. Take a sheet of paper and write down in detail all the working streams of the lone wolf, and then determine which one is the most loaded. Agree to do an introduction for the team and pair-code with a colleague next week.
The ideal option is when everyone in the team gives each other average scores from time to time and does not repeat in the topics of consultations.
This should be done at least once a month. Otherwise, you will simply forget what you did more than a month ago. Over time, we began to spend only a few minutes on retro for such analysis.
But how can we dig up something that has not yet given itself away?
The pill is red
The red pill helps:
- identify star people who have most of the team’s competencies;
- determine the bass factor of the team;
- get an additional tool for risk-based work planning;
- get an additional tool for collecting requirements for a new vacancy.
Here we will be helped by an ordinary plate with engineers and competencies in which they are strong, i.e. competency matrix.
To build it, together with the team, we need to compile a list of competencies that are required to perform exactly our tasks. The level of detail in the table is determined individually for each team. It’s better to start at the top level and solve the most obvious problems (for example, competencies: BE development, FE development, testing, DevOps, analytics, architecture. Possible problems: both backenders are also the only ones who can take over architecture, analytics, and they are constantly in meetings ). Further, with each quantum, dive into the details: for example, self-shipment of the product in compliance with all standards, organization and conduct of a demo for the client, support for old purl tests from Vasya.
Next, everyone evaluates himself according to all the formulated competencies:
- empty – I cannot perform tasks that require this competency
- plus sign – I can perform tasks that require this competence, with the support of colleagues
- star – I can effectively perform tasks that require this competency on my own
After the next rally, you should spend 10 minutes synchronizing. There we will demonstrate self-esteem and make sure that no one overestimated / underestimated themselves.
Some companies try to form small teams that help to quickly and safely scale the main project team. In this case, you should highlight the “main team” and “temporary participants”, or even build separate matrices. This is exactly what is needed in order to track the departure of competencies in a number of areas from the core team. After all, everything will be lost after the transition to another project.
Finally, you should make sure that for each competency there are at least two “star” colleagues in the core team.
Looking for a star man
- You should go over the entire matrix again and find colleagues who have concentrated most of the team’s competencies. It often happens that two people cover all the competencies of the team. Technically, the bass factor is respected. But these key people have or will soon have to take on multiple roles entirely, and the team’s productivity will decrease. The bass factor will not be the lack of competencies, but the lack of time to use all these competencies.
- We know what competencies are exactly needed in the team and reasonably ask for help on critical competencies. Initially, we had a vacancy for a developer. But, once again studying our matrix, we saw that we were sagging with analytics, test diss and autotests. Judging by the roadmap, major clients will come to us by the end of the year. And this will require more PO help from us in forming a single backlog that everyone will be happy with. In the current situation, we have adjusted the vacancy towards a QA specialist with analyst skills.
You can plan work taking into account the bass factor
- A colleague is on vacation, and we immediately understand that all testing in this sprint will be carried out by 1-2 people. So, don’t load them with something else.
- In the next sprint, it is planned to write an installer from scratch. So, it is worth avoiding the simultaneous dismissal of all experts in this field.
How to start pumping the most critical competence?
- Learn from the “star” of our team. Factors: the possibility of pair programming, work cases specific to your project, good personal relationships. Cheapest and most effective, great option.
- Learn from the “star” from the connected team. Factors: the possibility of pair programming, working cases, not so long ago familiar. A good option.
- Learn from an expert from our company. Factors: knows the specifics of the company, but there is no personal acquaintance and it is more difficult to distract him from his own work. If the company is large, you will have to look for a person who is interested in this topic and is ready to transfer knowledge. We usually spent these evenings with laptops on the rooftop or in a bar across the street from work. Satisfactory choice.
- Internal and external trainings, schools, programs. Factors: Rarely is it possible to work closely individually and sort out your own work problems. Often there is only theory from books. Satisfactory choice.
- Online courses, theory from books, practice, home projects are a must and work in conjunction with the above. All this has already been discussed in the previous article.
How to determine that a person has acquired a competence?
- Let the “star” colleague appreciate the small technical tasks in which the developed competence is applied.
- It is best to use a relative difficulty rating in story points or T-shirts.
- Compare how long it takes a “student” and a “teacher” to perform approximately the same task.
- How many consultations the student needed to successfully complete the work.
- How many defects the team then discovered.
- If a colleague was able to complete the task at least half of the capabilities of the “teacher” and with a couple of tips, we consider that he has acquired competence.
Ideally, when the stars in our matrix are distributed evenly among all team members, there are 2+ people for each competency, and sprint planning is carried out taking into account our matrix and vacation schedule.
Now we control the stability of our future. An additional tool for safe work planning, team development and hiring of new engineers has appeared. It is worth updating the matrix once a quarter, because competencies do not develop so quickly.
And if you notice vulnerabilities in our tablets or do something differently, write in the comments. We are eager to develop!