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Tech Lead Checklist to Kick your Team into Gear

Posted by Andy Singleton on August 4, 2010 15:06:00 PM

developer iconWe recommend that a distributed team have a driver that we call a "Technical Lead".  The Tech Lead manages the ticket list, answers questions about engineering, and works with the developers to get stuff done.  This person needs to be both a developer, and a manager.  It is not an easy job to do, or to recruit for.

However, it's not a hard job to learn - if you get the right guidance.  We believe that a technical lead can build and manage a very productive distributed team by following a checklist containing a small number of daily, weekly, and bi-weekly tasks.  Here they are:

DAILY

  • Require written standup reports each day.  Read ALL standup reports. If someone did not write a standup report, contact them by chat or email, and escalate if they do not respond.
  • Attend a daily chat. Ask for comments and issues. Make it short. Move long discussions offline.
  • Resolve any needs or roadblocks posted in StandUp by a team member in the scrum chat.
  • Look at the detailed activity report for each developer.
  • Move any request, agreement to a ticket/message/wiki. Do not rely on chat agreements because they can’t be tracked.
  • Let team members select their own tasks. Balance load. Do not let team members work on many tickets concurrently. A team member should select one or two tickets to work on and finish. The rest are available for others to select.
  • If someone has been working for several days on one ticket, without committing, ask him to split it into smaller tasks.

WEEKLY

  • Review all tickets for the current milestone. Add or move depending on schedule and capacity.
  • Ask specific developers to take the planning and task breakdown for complex tickets, features, stories.  To distribute the load, you should also be getting mockups and stories/scenarios from a non-developer product owner.
  • Write and post a message about what the team did last week and what the team will do next week – a sort of scrum of scrums report

BI-WEEKLY TEAM BUILDING

  • Look at new developer applications and say who you are interested in.  Someone else should handle the details of finding new candidates and then getting them started.
  • Do “onboarding”. Make sure each new developer has the information he needs, a development environment, and a simple task. Help the new developers to update the setup documentation. Send them contact information and an outline of the daily requirements (standup, chat, commits).
  • Evaluate trial developers near the end of the trial period. Look at all of their work, and evaluate productivity and quality. Write a little review. Say whether you want to continue working with them.

I realize that some scrum masters will say that this is too much micro-management, that we should set weekly goals and let the the team work out its own schedule.  I love you guys, I really love you.  We should get together for a big, warm, group hug.  But, we should do it AFTER we use these tactics to build a highly productive team that feels great because they are doing kickass coding.

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About the author

Andy SingletonWorking on Continuous Agile and Accelerating Innovation, Assembla CEO and startup founder

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