The ability to produce good tech in a high pressure environment is directly dependant on a well organised team. There are a bunch of issues squads face in their quest for success: cultural differences, different definitions of success and perceived pressure from either the product owner or their own management.

These issues can make developers feel unhappy and therefore stressed out. At valtech (where I work as Director of Web Development) we feel that happy teams do better work.

Team First
Team First

In my personal experience as a front-end developer, delivery manager and leader I have found that projects have a much higher success rate if you understand what developers need. Based on anecdotal evidence I have created a framework called “Team First” which provides a set of tips and tricks for leaders, developers and teams as a whole.

This post aims to provide a quick peek into what working Team First means. We provide a structure in which people can focus on the mastery, autonomy and the purpose in their jobs. Knowing about your own motivation helps you to be self-aware and why you might be upset about something. Team First means that we make sure everybody in the team feels autonomous and takes responsibility for everything they do. Quality is everything.

There are a bunch of rules to follow to make people and teams act responsibly. First of all we operate with a bottom-up approach. The boss is not always coding so why would he or she decide what kind of innovation developers come up with? If a junior developer designs a great solution, they will own it, present it, document it and provide support when other people use their code. If the code is client facing, they will present it directly to the client. We never micro- manage because the basis of good leadership is trust.

If we combine the above with a flat hierarchy, people try cool things first and ask for forgiveness later if something breaks. In the last two years I have not had anyone ask me for forgiveness and we have less front-end issues than ever. The teams are enthusiastic and do research in their own time even though our projects are challenging.

Next to all the above we give multi-cultural training, we use agile methodologies and we go to (and speak at) as many conferences and meet-ups as we can. Your place of work is just as important as the technology you use. Your peers and the freedom of creativity shape you as a developer.

If you are interested in working in my team or if you want to know more about Team First, reach out to me here: @timbenniks. I also do conference talks about the subject.