4 driving forces behind every great tech team

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4 driving forces behind every great tech team
The best tech teams I have worked with have all been made up of great communicators.
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

There’s a science to building truly great teams. Set up your teams to scale from good to great.

When it comes to building a business, the first rule of thumb is to start with a great team. This holds true whether in a scrappy start-up environment or an established scale-up —  you’ll frequently find that greater heights are reached when teams work together rather than in silos. 

Your people are essential to the success of any venture. But while we often look at what it means to be a great tech leader, we neglect to think about it from a team’s perspective. It requires time and significant resources to build a tech team. At SafetyCulture, we recognise that great tech teams don’t just happen: they're made. We’ll be breaking down the framework of truly great teams this year’s Made Extraordinary Summit.

I’ve had considerable experience scaling tech teams over the course of my career.  The more I see, the more the same patterns arise. I think successful tech teams — whether software engineers, product managers or marketers —do bring diverse approaches to the table. Communication and work styles all differ, but you do see similarities emerge when it comes to common traits in truly great tech teams. 

These are four driving forces I’ve seen that help take tech teams from good to great.

1. Searching for simplicity

In almost every business solution, simplicity wins. This can be the simplicity of product design, of code structure, of issue prevention, or bug fixes. Systems with simpler designs will be easier to maintain and fix when things go wrong. In an environment that is growing more complex - simplicity wins.

For the most part, this is common knowledge. No one sets out to make things deliberately complex. But teams who recognise complexity happens when you’re not looking often take the time to detangle ideas and simplify even further. It becomes a crucial part of their workflow. Simplification is a tricky task - so once you identify these people, celebrate it, empower them to share their approach and make it a team mentality.

2. Seeking out feedback 

A lot has been said about giving and receiving feedback, so you would guess there is nothing left to it. But, there is one more piece of the puzzle - it’s what great tech teams are doing with feedback. 

They don’t wait to be given feedback, they actively seek it out. They look for experts that can communicate well and are eager to share their knowledge. Like iterating through versions of a product design, they know that the more often they ask for feedback, the better they will get. They also act on the feedback, even the stuff that hurts a little. It’s instinctual to shy away from painful feedback but great tech teams are disciplined about doing something constructive with it instead and get the most from it. Often it helps them on their journey to become an expert in an area.

3. Striking a balance between process and speed

When companies scale quickly, it is tempting to solve more and more problems with processes. But we need to resist processes becoming a catch-all solution. It is easy to accumulate too much process - as it can slow things down, stop people from using their better judgment and sometimes squeeze creativity out of the environment. 

And this is where great people come in. Those who demonstrate an affinity for their work don’t need as much process as others. They focus on getting to the desired outcome and use common sense to get there. 

Am I against process? No - quite the opposite. In fact, in our line of work we’re often building tools for effective processes. Process has its place. Great tech teams recognise some process is good, and too much is bad - and know how to find this balance.

4. Communicating fluidly 

The best tech teams I have worked with have all been made up of great communicators. Whether written or verbal - they can get their point across fluidly. Our craft is about evolving and innovating, so the more easily we can make ideas flow - the better we become. 

These soft skills are especially needed in tech, where one of the biggest barriers can be information flow between the technical and non-technical teams. Different departments can default to different languages — both literally and figuratively — so clear communication helps to bridge that gap. The thing to remember is that great communication is the conduit for ideas and feedback, which allows your people to better operate as a unit.

With everything included in your remit, from connecting with customers and developing new software to serving as the company’s tech crew, it’s crucial that tech teams build a foundation of communication and collaboration. 

James Simpson is Chief Technology Officer, SafetyCulture.

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