Robert Whiting In search of awesome

How to Team


I became a team lead in a software company about a year ago, and after things settled down a little, I realized that I didn’t know much about leading a team. I only had the experience from a few teams at his particular company, and I wanted to do the best I could.

So I started a How to Team group.

The group consisted of 5 team leads from different divisions that I knew from previous teams. Most of us had worked together as devs and now they were team leads too. They wanted to know how to be good leads, and the company doesn’t have any management training programs.

Once a week, we’d meet together and talk about one or two topics relating to our teams:

  • how we run standup

  • how do we do planning

  • how do we keep the backlog under control

  • how do we handle cross-team dependencies

The list goes on.

Each week, we’d meet, pick a topic, and each person would take some time to talk about how the team does the thing. After that, we discuss the topic and dig into why it works (or doesn’t work) in the team context.

I’m hoping to boil the different team strategies down so that all teams can pull from strategies that will work in their own context.

For example: Standup.

Standup Strategy: quick standup

I’m on a small team with few projects, so we stand in a circle and take turns answering the three questions: what did you do yesterday, what are you going to do today, and what is blocking you? It works well for our team because it’s short, we make eye contact, and we can remember who’s working on what.

Standup Strategy: full status standup

On a large team with a ton of projects, my format for standups doesn’t really work. In that case, teams can have a whiteboard to keep track of how long tasks take and which topics need to be addressed after standup with a smaller group. They can keep track of project versions and deployment statuses on the same board to keep everyone on track. It works well for a large team because there are too many moving pieces to keep track, and it provides a visual reference for finding the person working on any particular problem.

The purpose of the How to Team groups isn’t to find the “perfect” strategy, it is to find one that fits the team’s context well.

We’re into the second session for How to Team groups, so we have 4 groups shuffled with the original group members and a bunch of new people. Hopefully we can spread the best ideas around and kill the bad ones.

All ships rise.