The SA Spurs Formula for Software Development Teamsmanship
Just saying that word “Teamsmanship” seems uncanny, doesn’t it? It is so new that most spell-checking software underscores it alerting you that this word is incorrect. What does it mean? Teamsmanship? Briefly stated, it is the practice of working as a team. Now, you are probably thinking, “Isn’t that what teams do?” I am guilty of making that assumption. However, I feel that maybe the perception of what a team is and how it interacts internally has been skewed a little. What I mean is, the word “team” is many times reduced to define only a group of people instead of the individuals with specific talents that work together to create the team.
Look at sports today. There are so many teams out there. I mention sports because it is one of the simplest examples to reference. I have been an avid sports fan for decades. I have seen some great teams play and win championships. I have also seen teams lose. When you think of a sports team, for the most part, you think of whoever the star is, right? Someone who represents that team. That aspect has always bothered me as a fan. But occasionally, you find an organization that you cannot just mention the star as a standalone force. I liken this to a team I have watched over the last decade, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs have won many championships and have only missed the playoffs four times since they joined the NBA. What draws my attention to them is how they play. In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, we were going back and forth about draft picks, potential, and hopes. When the prattle turned to key players, we started by mentioning the greats like Tim Duncan and David Robinson. However, with the Spurs, we also had to bring into the mix Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and La Marcus Aldridge. It is nearly impossible to explain the performance of one player without complimenting the play of another on the Spurs. This led our conversation to daisy chain into eventually mentioning the entire team. They complement one another. This is something special and unique to consider.
The Importance of Teamsmanship in a Software Development Environment
As a software consultant, I’ve always wanted the Spurs’ teamsmanship approach in my development teams. How do you translate the coaching and execution of a successful sports team to a software team? Oh, how I have spent many sleepless nights pondering this topic. In my career, I have been a part of many teams working for different clients solving their business problems as best we could. I’ve had the luxury of experiencing poorly functioning and efficacious line-ups. So, what does it take to build a team that will be productive, efficient, and successful? This seems to be challenging to accomplish in the world of consulting given all the variables at play in any given engagement. There are resources, time, requirements, and compensation to negotiate. Often the dynamic makes it difficult to gather the perfect team.
Creating a championship caliber team starts with the company. The company must want to hire an individual and be willing to groom them to be successful. An organization must learn about the employee, so they can place them in a position where they will thrive. Ensuring this will foster a symbiotic relationship between the employer and employee. The rewards for such a circumstance are beneficial for all. I believe there are four core traits that apply to teamsmanship in a software development team: communication, drive, adaptiveness, and supportiveness.
The Essential Traits of a Quality Solutions Team
- Communication– Internally, a team must foster a trusting environment. Every member of the team must feel like they have a voice and that their input is important and weighed equally. There is no room for the individual who believes, “My ideas are better than yours.” This is also important especially when a team member needs to be motivated or replaced when they are struggling or not producing. Externally, the team must provide a vision to the stakeholders. This means explaining the proposed solution, reporting progress, identifying risks and coordinating resources for the team. Effective conversations ensure the successfulness of a team’s ability to execute.
- Drive– The entire team should be focused on the goal to deliver the best possible solution to the client. If just one person is not honed-in on this, then the project is at risk. Individuals who are motivated bring energy and fuel the group whereas those who aren’t only considering their success instead of contributing to the team.
- Adaptiveness– Flexibility within a team maximizes its orchestration. Circumstances arise that will test a team, such as assessing a new member’s skills and seamlessly integrating them into the group or even losing someone and filling that gap with another team member to maintain velocity. Whether it is a change in scope or a shift in the headcount, being able to adjust accordingly to change is paramount.
- Supportiveness– Camaraderie is necessary. There must be a sense of support for each member of the team. It is crucial that no one person stands out. This reinforces the value of everyone and empowers them to flourish.
Just like recruiting the right players is key to forming a championship squad, hiring the right consultants is the foundation for building a successful team. Acquiring the right talent that is both technically sound and has developed soft skills will promote the four basic qualities that govern a prosperous team.