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4 ways to get the most from your automation development team

Jan 30, 2023 | 4 min read

When you lead an automation development team, you want to complete your projects – and keep quality high. That means giving developers room to focus on their strengths. We offers four tips to guarantee success.

As a technical leader, you wear a lot of hats. Your role covers the creation of technical solutions, managing expectations, redesigning processes, working on solution architecture, troubleshooting bugs, and scaling for the future – all while working across multiple teams, to remove business and technical roadblocks for your automation developers. 

Given everything you do, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and lean heavily on your automation development team for support. But while delegation is important, you also need to be strategic about what you hand to your team – so you continue to get the most out of your people. 

To achieve success, you need to empower your automation development team to complete projects at a high level of quality. To do this, it’s important to avoid overloading your team – minimizing distractions, so they can focus on what they’re best at.

Here are four tips to help you create the best environment for your people:   

1. Careful how you crack the WIP 

WIP (work in progress) is an important measure to track. Often leaders will delegate or assign work to their team without thinking how it could affect core work streams, or other tasks that were previously assigned.  

It can be easy to think: ‘If we are working on more things, more things will get done’ – when in fact, the opposite is much more often the case. 

So, as a leader, set WIP limits for your automation team, so they can focus on a limited number of work streams and tasks. Ensure one thing is finished before assigning another, or remove tasks from your team’s plate when things get too much.  

If you don’t do this, the result can be overload. When overload strikes, there are so many directions to go in, or things that need doing, that an individual or team gets stuck in indecision as a result of being overwhelmed. Scattered focus can also lead to confusing priorities – which leads to missed deadlines, with little to show at the end of the day.  

2. Protect against context switching 

When your team have too much work in progress, this can also lead to inefficiencies from ‘context switching’ – which you should try to protect against in its own right. 

Everyone at some point in their life has suffered from the ills of context switching. For those not familiar with the term, context switching is when you must completely shift your focus to an entirely new topic. 

A relatable form of context switching is being in back-to-back meetings. You join that second call, and it takes a minute for you to reset and gain your footing before you can start contributing. This may seem inconsequential to some – sure, it takes a moment for you to brush off the cobwebs, but it’s only a few minutes to readjust, so what’s the big deal?  

But for developers, switching in and out of development work can take more than just a few minutes. That’s because, in development, uninterrupted time is key to success.  

All developers know the situation of being ‘in the zone’ and how difficult it can be to get there. Sometimes it can take an hour just to get back to where you were before an interruption.  

If you are a non-developer, think of it like getting lost in a good book where you are just turning page after page. Now imagine trying to get to that point while being interrupted by your kids asking questions about the universe every 10 minutes. It’d be impossible. 

A good rule of thumb is that developers should have at least two hours of uninterrupted work to do any sort of productive development.  

If there are multiple development streams on a developer’s plate, I always recommend not trying to work on both at once, but focusing an entire half-day or day on one stream, before switching to another after a natural break – such as lunch, or a new day.  

3. Guard your team’s time 

As a leader, getting the most out of your team means giving them time to do their work – which means you need to work to minimize distractions. 

A scrum master, business analyst or project manager is typically the first line of defense between the business and the development team. But technical leaders also act as critical guards. 

As a leader, it’s important to understand what your developers are working on, so you can handle areas of the project that are not directly development, but can directly affect it. 

To develop this understanding, be present at your daily stand-ups, and ask probing questions. If more context is needed, take an additional 15 minutes with your developers. The goal here is to understand their issues well enough that you can handle more time-consuming meetings on your own – taking pressure off your team.  

You can then be the technical face to the business, making sure that lines of communication go through you when possible, so your team can focus on what they do best: creating value through automation.  

4. Play to the strengths and interests of your team 

To get the most out of your team, your goal is to help them spend most of their time doing what they’re best at. 

Of course, that still includes giving developers room to grow and to develop their roles. So give them a chance to “play outside” their roles now and again, for the sake of continued growth and exposure. 

To do this effectively, you need to find the right balance. A good way to find it is to work with your team to find out where their strengths and interests lie.  

For example, an automation developer might have an interest in security, so you could delegate some tasks for designing security roles for bot accounts. Or maybe a developer has interest in process re-engineering, so you let them take on a process deep dive that conflicts with your other calls.  

Strategically assigning tasks that are of interest to your team – and which ideally have clear, short-term timelines – can ensure that you can lean on your team, without items lingering in the long term. 

Overall, less is more when it comes to being productive. No matter how much we want to get everything done at once, it takes a conscious effort to ensure that we make progress on goals.  

By focusing on the task at hand and reducing distractions, you will find that your team makes quicker progress, with better results. 

Learn with the Roboyo Academy 

At Roboyo, we offer courses to help you develop the skills of your automation development team – from specific training in automation technologies to business-focused training in the Lean Six Sigma methodology.  

We can also develop bespoke courses that are tailored to your needs, to help you reach the Next Level, Now. Visit our Academy page to find out more. 

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