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Software Engineering

The Ultimate Guide to Focus-Driven Development Teams (Free eBook)

At ZenHub, we get to work with people that are changing the world — and some who are working on taking us to entirely new ones.

To share what we’re learning, we’ve written a new eBook “Focused Teams”. The lessons presented in the book come from the combined learning of hundreds of thousands of amazing people. It’s a collection of things that we’re currently doing, things we’ve helped our customers do, and the things our customers have taught us to do.
Each lesson in this book is born out of practice, not theory. We’re not necessarily doing all of the things in this book all the time, but everything in this book is worth doing.

Who is this book for?

This book is for people who work together and want to improve how they do it. So if you’re at all interested in helping your team to see the big picture, getting things done, and getting in control of their success, this book is for you.

To help you get started, here’s an excerpt from Focused Teams that addresses ‘Late Projects’:

Can you add more people to a team to help meet a deadline?

Adding people to a late project makes it later. This is called Brooks’s law and it was defined in the 1970s!

Here’s an example of one of our customers encountering Brooks’s law: A project wasn’t going to make the deadline that had been set far in advance. We talked about what could be done, reducing the scope, changing the date, or some combination of the two. An offer was made to the Dev Manager to add another small team to the project. Even though they knew about Brooks’ law, they decided to take the additional people since they didn’t know if there would be another chance to grow the team in the near future.

The new people came on board and the whole team slowed down. Velocity went down day after day, sprint after sprint. Lead time increased 21% from one quarter to the next. The number of messages in the team’s Slack channel went up at nearly the same rate their velocity slowed down, with nearly double the messages they had when they were a new five-person team.

As new people got comfortable, the number of messages returned to a normal state, but their velocity didn’t recover at the same rate. It was like a traffic accident had been cleared but cars still slowed down at the same spot. It took about a quarter for the team to start speeding up.

Point being: Brooks’s law is real. Adding people to a late project makes it later. In this case, it forced our customer to cut scope too—more than they would have had to if you hadn’t changed the team size, to begin with. If you’re going to grow teams, be careful about how you do it.

We encountered a similar situation when a key team member was injured and was going to be out for an extended period of time. After ensuring that the team member had all of the support they needed, we began delaying lower priority work (i.e., cutting scope) since we knew that adding people to the project would only slow existing people down.

We learn from our customers every day. They proved that Brooks’ law is real, so we don’t need to test it ourselves.

Software teams need a process in place to keep them on track, focused, and pushing towards their objectives.

Grab the free ebook

If you want to improve your team’s results, try out "Focused teams" and ZenHub. Download our free ebook, available here for free in Mobi, ePub, and PDF form, and if you still aren’t using our productivity-enhancing tool, don’t wait any longer — you can start your own free ZenHub trial today.

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