The tech industry is no stranger to taking its share of punches on Twitter, but when former Microsoft engineer Hadi Partovi described the working conditions of the Internet Explorer team in the late 90s, a serious nerve was struck:
For those of us that have been in tech for a while, Partovi’s story is incredibly familiar. However, as a new generation has started unraveling the state of our industry and looking back on the failings of the past, it’s clear that some big cultural shifts are underway.
The almost universal rebuke from tech leaders like Scott Hanselman reflects a much different landscape than even five years ago. After over a year of pandemic life, remote work has taught us the pitfalls of an endless workday. Meanwhile, we know that software development is a team effort, and team members need an equitable seat at the table — including those with commitments outside of work. Combine this with ongoing issues of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and it’s safe to say that crunch-based work environments are not the way forward.
Some of the solutions to the crunch problem are structural: leadership needs to stop expecting a linear relationship between hours worked and quality of work. But other solutions are a bit more behavioral, even philosophical, and they’re things a team can adopt on their own.
At Botany, we’ve been calling these behaviors “TeamOps”. Taking cues from the DevOps movement that preceded it, TeamOps is concerned with the operation of the team itself. Are team members communicating effectively? Is time being respected? Are people happy with their work, and are they free to concentrate and sharpen their skills? We hope to turn the answers to these questions into actual priorities and behaviors so we don’t need to settle for the brute force approach.
To imagine how you might incorporate TeamOps into your workflow, we’ve found it helpful to start with something basic. Take, for example, the ability to sync tasks across a remote team. For working parents and people with extended obligations, availability is always shifting. And for teams that have members in different time zones, working hours are often staggered and disjointed. Sometimes getting a good handle on what everyone is doing and if they’re available for code review or advice is a blocker in itself.
The solution to syncing problems is always rooted in good communication, but that can often deteriorate when things get hectic. Therefore, reinforcing good habits with tools like Botany’s ‘nudge’ system can act as a sort of safety net. For teams that organize over applications like Slack, we can automatically create a nudge for all sorts of events that need help from you or your colleagues. For example, if you open a pull request, team members can be nudged for code review:
A nudge can notify the team in three ways: in real-time, when you return from being away, or via the Slack home pane, which shows you all the nudges currently awaiting action. From the home pane, you can even see how certain nudges have gone “stale” (like an unresolved pull request).
Nudges are a simple way to reduce the overhead of setting up reminders so you can keep the flow of a team moving. Combine enough of these tools and behaviors, and you can start reclaiming time to do the things you actually want to do.
We’re not crazy enough to think that Botany’s tools will instantly “give” you TeamOps, but we do think they’ll help keep you on the right path.
Botany.io is a smart virtual coach designed to help software engineering and managers professionally grow and improve their skills. We can help you get a handle on how you’re spending your time at work and show you how it’s helping or hurting your career opportunities.