How To Increase Development Productivity

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Like it or not – people work better if you motivate them, and work badly if you don’t.

On top of that, many developers are self-motivated until they spend more time in the company, and becoming lazy by nature.

Understanding professionalism seems obvious, but after a while, people becoming more personal about their work, getting used to the place, habits and falling into many unproductivity traps.

Imagine playing Mario at the same level and map, over and over again for years. What was challenging and amusing at the beginning becomes more and more boring after a while.

And when people get bored, they are looking around to do whatever they can, except work.

Where is it coming from? What are the reasons and how to avoid burnout before the spark becomes the flame?

This post will show you a few tips on how to increase productivity in your team.

Faster doesn’t mean productive.

Measuring productivity

To keep control, we like to divide the project into small chunks to make some sort of to-do list to execute it point by point.

But as long as it is a good way to measure and execute the project, it is not a perfect way to track productivity.

Development needs thinking, and you cannot just measure “thinking time”, so as long as you can push and make someone do the work in a specific timeframe, it doesn’t mean this work been done well, or best possible. Faster doesn’t mean productive.

This is why you mostly need team leaders. They need to make sure that the team is going smoothly through blocks, spend time on what matters and can overcome even the biggest obstacles.

The task here may be not to measure, but to track productivity.

Make a plan to make sure that the problem is not you.

What’s the goal and the need?

Cliche, but should be loudly repeated as often and as long as people in the company will understand the true value of it.

Can you clearly tell what you are trying to achieve and what needs to be done to get there?

Planning is hard, so don’t think it’s just a matter of a few short sentences on a piece of paper.

Have a look on how to make OKRs – a tactic formed in Intel and used by most successful IT companies in the world.

Lack of a clear plan is a lack of specific demands from the team and especially from yourself.

One of the reasons for developers burnout is the lack of effective management. And the plan is the core of effective management.

Make a plan to make sure that the problem is not you.

Counting the time

If you don’t count the time of your tasks, there is a probability that around 50% of them takes longer than you think, which makes half of your work unprofitable.

Get yourself software to help you track timing on specific tasks.

If you don’t have one, you can prepare the survey and ask developers to estimate or measure the exact time they spend on a specific task.

If you are afraid that developers will feel uncomfortable with being tracked, make the survey anonymous.

Standup meetings

One of the best ways to track productivity is having a daily “standup meeting”.

Every day, before the work starts, everyone is presenting in short what they did yesterday and what they are about to do today. Encourage them also to mention the obstacles they have on the way to complete the task.

Still, it’s people who make the job done.

1 on 1 meeting

Good idea is also having frequent face to face meetings with everyone from your team.

It can be also used to set up the individual expectations, which may appear more useful than expecting the same from everyone.

We cannot always track the progress of our work ourselves. We need a constant feedback to know that we are heading in the right direction, where is the place for improvement and obviously, how to be better.

But don’t just give away the answers. Work with people together so they can find them out themselves. Ask questions and try to spark their initiative.

I know you are busy, but you should be mainly busy with your people. Shown attention comes back with many rewards.

Still, it’s people who make the job done.

Communication

Another underestimated cliche and factor of effective management.

If you cannot be in one room with your people, get yourself a chat platform.

E-mailing is considered highly professional, and sometimes people need to just pass the message without a need of creating an email, and waiting for reply.

By using Slack for example, you can categorise your conversations. You just simply create a special chat for a one matter and you can always find related stuff in this chat, without a need of scrolling thru your inbox.

Let them do the job

Meetings are for people who have no idea what to do.

When given good instructions, developer knows exactly what to do and hate being bothered.

Shrink the meetings to an absolute minimum, as meetings are not the core of developers work.

Distractions

We love distractors. They make us feel less guilty for work that just cannot get done.

Thinking is a hard and challenging thing for the mind, so he is just looking around for anything out there to redirect the attention to something less difficult.

This is why it’s so easy to look at the phone during the work, and so hard to focus in place with radio.

People think music help them work, but the anatomy of mind proves the opposite.

It’s like a processor, it can only concentrate on one thing at a time to think it through correctly. But don’t believe me. Just try to catch twenty tennis balls at once.

Quiet environment increases concentration. And that’s been proven. If your place is noisy, invest in headphones that can help developers cut out from this noise.

Consider using a pomodoro technique.

There are six steps in the original technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

Focus on the future

We tend to think about the past a lot, since what we should really think of is future.

Mistakes are there to be fixed and to be learned from.

If you have 1:1 meeting with a developer, try not to take out all the mistakes he made last year, but only the ones that can affect the future plan and should be improved in order to get the job done with a better result.

Keep him focused on the job, not on his cons. We all make mistakes.

Further readings

If you search for more on how to work with developers, check our post “Taking Care of New Developers – 10 Tips to Become a Better Boss.”

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