Throughout my years of building software, I've always wondered what factors contributed to a well-functioning team. I've worked with some great teams and some very bad ones. When evaluating a job, one thing we often overlook is team culture. Are the people I am going to work with on daily basis pleasant to be around? Will I feel comfortable asking "dumb" questions or relying on my team members for help? An otherwise great job can be ruined by poor team dynamics. And for those working within a dysfunctional team, what are the key things your team needs to change in order to turn things around?
Google recently released a study on precisely that subject. Over the course of two years, they interviewed hundreds of employees in order to distill the core attributes of a successful team.
According to Google, the five keys are:
- Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
- Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
- Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
- Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
- Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?
According to Google's findings, the most important factor is psychological safety, and I couldn't agree more. I've seen a lot of misunderstanding and confusion occur when people were afraid of asking questions for fear that would reveal their inexperience or incompetence. But this is precisely what a good team encourages. Asking questions and sharing knowledge are part of how we grow as professionals.
Engineering managers should foster a team culture of learning and teaching, where the term "expert" is taken with a grain of salt. The field of full-stack engineering is so broad, deep, and ever-changing that it is impossible to master. Managers should create a safe atmosphere for engineers to learn, and engineers need to be proactive in asking for help and advice. We are all here to learn from each other.
Read more at: The five keys to a successful Google team