Principles for Leading Software Teams: Part IV

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You can’t have a business conversation these days without someone blathering on about the importance of culture (insert obligatory Drucker quote here). Don’t get me wrong, I think culture is important too, but culture has become a “suitcase word”. Everyone is talking about something different when they say culture — many of them very confused notions. My favorite examples are job postings that tout a company’s culture by enumerating perks like table tennis, foosball, and kegerators. What definition of culture does that fit? Eighties frat house? Maybe more importantly, how do you define culture? Have you ever tried to explain…


Principles for Leading Software Teams: Part III, continued

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Last time, I made the case that software organizations need to be careful that they don’t get too emotionally attached to the goals they set for themselves — both big and small. If you find that argument compelling, then you might ask, “What are some concrete steps my organization can take to be more journey-oriented?” We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but here are some applications we have put in place to encourage journey thinking.

Deliver Iteratively

When building and releasing software, if you keep your destination close — just a few days down the road — it’s much easier…


Principles for Leading Software Teams: Part III

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You would be forgiven if you read the title of this article and assumed it would be about personal improvement rather than leading software teams. It does sound a bit more like a Buddhist proverb than a leadership principle. As I’ve said before, my approach to managing a software team is a bit unorthodox. By now, hopefully you know what to expect from me, so let’s dig in on how I stumbled into this principle.

Many years back, my wife and I were building a new home. I had grand ideas for some beautiful landscaping. I spent a lot of…


The Articles

As I continue to enumerate my ideas on how to organize and manage a software team, I thought it might be useful to list the posts in one place — a table of contents of sorts. To that end, here are the posts in the order I think it makes most sense to read them:

Reference Materials

Additionally, I have had a few people say that it would…


Principles for Leading Software Teams: Part II

aaayyymm eeelectriik, via flickr without modification (CC BY 2.0)

I’m a fan of the NPR series Hidden Brain. A particular episode tells the story of a young mother who found herself terminated from her job for a careless yet forgivable mistake. The stress of being without a job understandably was creating marital friction which led to a separation. Being a single mother without a steady source of income only multiplied the stress. She was struggling to make ends meet. At a time when supplies were getting particularly low, a new credit card seemed like a godsend. After getting the new card, she promptly ran to Walmart to stock up…


Principles for Leading Software Teams: Part I

Capture Queen, via flickr without modification (CC BY 2.0)

Now that I’ve laid out what I believe to be the goals of a software organization, let’s start looking at the principles that I claim help an organization move toward those goals. In case it’s not obvious, most of what I will be sharing in these posts is not original to me. I’m a curator at heart: I gather, distill, organize, structure, and apply. Some of the principles will be obvious and feel cliche, but that shouldn’t diminish the impact they can have. Others might seem alien to the subject of organizing software teams. Regardless, once again, I invite you…


I have a lot of crazy ideas about how software engineering teams should be organized and managed. I say crazy because every time I share my thoughts with others, they tell me as much. The thing is, I have had a lot of success by applying these principles, so even if they’re crazy, maybe there’s something to them. I was recently motivated to try to enumerate these ideas in a logical structure, and as I set out to do so, it occurred to me that I could share them publicly. Selfishly, that can only serve to sharpen and improve them…

Geoff Vandegrift

I write to bring order to the chaos in my mind.

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