The NHL season starts in October and ends 82 games later in April. Well, the regular season, that is. Hockey fans consider it an extended pre-season because when playoffs start, it’s like watching a different sport. To win the coveted Stanley Cup, a team must battle through four grueling best-of-seven series, and when it’s all over, it’s not about a bad call by the referee or a fluke fumble or broken tackle. It’s not even about a hot goal-tender or superstar forward. It’s about the whole team digging deep and banding together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
If that wasn’t true, you could simply put all the best players on one team and watch them dominate. Russia tried it in the 2010 Winter Olympics and only walked away with the bronze medal. A successful team has an identity that transcends individuals. If you watch hockey, you’ll hear teams described as up-tempo, finesse, defensive or gritty and hard-hitting. One isn’t better than another, it really depends on what your core strengths are and then getting buy-in from everyone on the team.
Developers are opinionated and not always team players; the cliché herding cats comes to mind. So how do you get developers to buy in? Try out this exercise. Get your team in front of a whiteboard and come up with a list of words that describe positive software quality factors. Here’s a start:
Have each team member to pick their top 5 and write them on the board. Compare the lists and allow the team to negotiate with each other to come up with a common top 3. Why is a shared list important? Writing software is about trade-offs. We make dozens of decisions per day while writing code and sharing a set of values is essential to consistent forward progress in a team environment.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there – Yogi Berra
Consider this list:
Compare that with:
Imagine you are sitting at the keyboard working on a feature. Can you see how the first list could influence completely different decisions than the second list? It’s not about right or wrong, it’s just about being explicit about how you make decisions and trusting the rest of your team to make similar choices.