Habits of High-Functioning Teams

June 4, 2020

I often struggle to explain what it means to be part of a high-functioning software team. Sure, there are mountains of literature, and an entire genre of LinkedIn thought leadership that professes all kinds of guidelines and heuristics about what makes teams work, but in my experience, it’s hard to internalize these ideas and follow someone else’s model if you’ve never seen what good looks like.

I’ve been very lucky to have worked directly with dozens, if not hundreds, of developers by this point in my career. I’ve been on some unhealthy teams: teams where people were fearful, and held their cards very close to their chest out of a perceived or real worry around their job security. I’ve also been on dysfunctional teams, where many days or weeks of development time was wasted while the team whiplashed between unclear priorities, or where the cost of coordination had grown so high that no one simply wanted to do it, leaving team as a collective of individuals rather than a unit. But I’ve luckily spent time on some very high-performing teams. When I’ve been on those teams, I was excited to come to work everyday, I wasn’t afraid of disagreeing publicly with those more senior than me, and I felt like my voice and my work had impact.
Habits of High-Functioning Teams

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