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"If You're Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late" – Reid Hoffman
Keep coming back daily to see progress and new ideas.
Our goal is to make this a comprehensive guide for sub-20 product teams who are working to learn before building and ship strong software early and often.
We help build software and software teams
Most startups are frustrated after the vendor finishes a project without documentation and product training. The startup hates that vendors are more concerned with crossing the finish line instead focused on the company's future success.
At Sodium Halogen, we are a team of teachers at heart. We help build teams with our customers by working alongside them. We can't help but share how we work and the practices we use to create custom software.
We leave your team enabled to maintain and extend your software. You know your team can thrive at a rapid pace with what we built together.
We've seen our clients learn and launch faster with these practices.
"In the first 2 weeks of working side-by-side with an SH developer, I learned five times more than in any two-week period of my education—and I had fun doing it." – Jordan Deck a Junior Software Engineer - S61
"I feel like we got a month of work done in 4 days." – Mary Wyatt a Product Leader for Envie – Southern Bancorp Bank/TeamWALT
We buck the trend of either building the software yourself or outsourcing the entire project. We build the software together with your team and share our collaborative process along the way.
No botched app handoffs and your team walks away with the experience to ideate and maintain both the software and the culture that we built together.
What is team building?
Team building means being intentional and focused on how you work together, who you serve, and the skills you'll hone.
Potential problems: Who are you serving? What skills do you need to hone?
Serving many customers with many different problems will dilute our authority and outcomes. Less impactful and less focused.
“Successful people think in decades, not days.” - Alex Hormozi
We’re wanting to build for the future together, not just get us through this project.
Our definition of team building:
Collaboratively building authority and capacity to deliver massive outcomes for our customers.
We aim to train your team on how we build software by working with them. Because we've worked side-by-side with your team, they will know how to grow the software further at the end of the project.
👩👨Who is this team building guide for?
If you're creating for everyone, you are creating for no one. So, let's get specific.
You're a team lead of a software team rushed to produce product releases every two weeks.
🔭 Problems to Solve
working on an island: "What is everyone working on?" -> WOL + disseminate
working on an island: "Are we spreading important information?" -> WOL + disseminate + 1Password + remote, but not alone
distracted: "Is everyone tackling high-impact work?" -> high-impact first + permission to focus
blockers: "Is anyone stuck?" -> WOL + 5on2
inconsistent: "Are we delivering consistent results?" -> review each other's work + how-we-work
relevant: "Are we improving?" -> review each other's work + realizing potential
waiting, wondering, worrying: "Are we settings good expectations and delivering on them?" -> 3Ws + standup + weekly updates + 5on2 + asana updated + squeaky wheel
behind: "Is the team drowning in work?" ->
behind: "Is the team empty?" ->
lost and blind: "Is the team clear of where we're going?" -> yearly goals
process-less: "Are we solving the right problem the right way?" -> personas + understanding why + 2x2 + what are we trying to accomplish
hiring: "Everyone is hiring. It's a crazy market. We can't find people to work?" ->
full-capacity: "Our team is filled to the brim with work?" -> hire a contractor/vendor + train an intern
Onboarding - interviews that simulate parts of your culture (pairing + brain sharing + breaking down the work)
Collaborative - smells and sounds like Team Effort (embrace the WE, and lead with questions) ++ don’t compete + no ego + everyone wins + we’re playing basketball, not golf ++ build together (making decisions together all along the way + everyone on the project can sit in the driver's seat) ++ WOL/transparency + bus-co
Ownership thinking - high-impact work focused + casting the vision and clear expectations through repetition (how we work/pair/dev/design/PM/PD) ++ ownership thinking + growing owners/leaders in your organization (expectation, capacity, check-in), quarterly checkups (highs and lows temp reading, self-analysis, goal setting, actions to reach goal) ++ have a plan the whole team knows + who is working on what now and later?++ Good workplaces are built on transparency (Conway's law mentioned by Atlassian), communication, and accountability
Outcomes - challenge the outcome, not the person (ask the hard questions you can answer with further research together). You don’t have to know all the answers. You can teach others how to ask better questions
Scaling - make decisions and create processes anyone can follow – be ready to hire 100 every day
Fun - create breaks, so your team is ready 100 percent, 70 percent of the time…and not the opposite (beer30, don't launch on Friday, every other Friday off, 2-week-sprints and one week reflect)
Tools - tools for pairing/team building (pop.com, google docs, asana, slack/rocket)
Is Your Company Ready For Collaborative Team Building? Here's How To Know. How Would You Like To...: a blog outlining how to best team-build with the right partners and tools.
How We Build Software Together: a blog about the practices, tools, and strategies we use to build software collaboratively.
Five Reasons Why You Should Build Software with Us: A blog explaining our philosophy of building software collaboratively.
How To Collaboratively Build Software?
How to Get a Custom Software Development Team Built on Collaborative Practices: A blog about agile software development practices.
Why You Should Collaborate With a Software Team: A blog post sharing our perspective on building software together.
Why Teams Should Build Software Together: a blog explaining the most impactful practices of software teams.
Why Build Together?
The Benefits of Hiring a Software Agency: Why working with technology agency when building software is beneficial: A blog that describes why hiring an agency is great.
How to save time, money, and resources with an efficient software development team: A blog about how working with an efficient team will save you time and money.
What exactly should I look for when hiring?
❓Question to answer
Where do you train?
Do you train juniors?
It can be difficult to find people to work or it's challenging to find good people. While this may be true, we believe there is power in optimism. Keep your focus on the bright side, and you will find the light.
Let's dive into seven actionable tips that help you bring on great people to your team.
Meet people in different circles and work alongside others at events or charities. The emphasis is that you must go.
Tap your network on the shoulder
Get the word out that you are looking to grow your team. Great people keep great company.
No, not posting on social, but sending an email or DM to friends and colleagues. Here is a template you can run with.
Email template Subject: "🤝 Growing our team"
Message: 👋 ***Jenny, We're wanting to bring on a new ***ROLE by ***June this year. Who better to ask, but our resident expert, ***Jenny. Is there anyone in your circle you could recommend? We're up for suggestions too.
Also, set a reminder to reach back out in a week if you don't get a reply. We're huge fans of the snooze feature in Gmail.
Offer referral bonus
Reward those that offer up great people to join your team.
Reach out to the hired and thriving
The best are hired and rarely look for work. Make connections with those that love what they do.
Reach out to the ones reaching out
Many platforms support a way for users to note if they are available for work.
Have a teacher's heart
When you are willing to train up the next generation, all you have left to do is to look for the eager ones ready to work.
We're always hiring
When the right people show up, we're more than willing to figure out how to make it work. But we don't publicly announce or advertise that we're hiring. We lean into our network and connect with like-minded people across the internet.
It can mean the world when your dog or kids come running up to you when you walk in. The greeting means you are wanted and desired. For your team and the people you work with, dial up your greeting.
A simple "Hello, friend" or question, "How was your weekend?" Questions are powerful.
Those in your home are welcomed, served, and relished. Your team gets as much time, if not more, than your family and friends. So, dial your greeting when your team walks in, comes online, or hopes in a 1-on-1 meeting.
There is no expectation of what you know or how work was done in the past. Working together starts at a zero-entry pool. We'll ease in at a comfortable pace without worrying about getting in over your head.
Let's alleviate any pressure, so it's painless to soak in new information and follow the workflow while pairing.
Putting in the extra effort to bring some life to the party. Quick tips:
🤡 Don't take yourself seriously.
🤺 Aim for being interesting and living a little. You'll thank yourself later.
Bring the energy!
The highest level of energy in the room is the lid. We're not throwing a rave while we work (don't temp us 😆), but we're enjoying the incredible team we have around us.
"What if...?" is powerful. Don't resist the urge to explore other possibilities.
The osmosis effect breeds stronger autonomous work from all who share.
Build in practices and processes that encourage osmosis to happen. A 5on2 (LINK) or morning standups are great for disseminating information.
When you train with someone more robust and faster, their knowledge and energy are shared. Working alongside someone you can learn from is the iconic action of sitting on the shoulders of giants. Learning from others by working with them (osmosis + brain sharing)
A great culture
When the team is thriving together, workflows and ideas are shared. This natural collaboration is like gas to a wildfire for the osmosis effect on a team.
Osmosis in action: pairing
Pair-programming, used in an agile development team, is a practice used to help slow-working teams move faster than ever before. Bugs, rewrites, and distractions are the most significant that slow down development progress. Pair-programming helps teams fix/prevent bugs, improve architecture, and prevent distractions. Pairing also brings accountability.
Pairing, not just for engineering, is two people coming together to work on the same task simultaneously. There are two roles in pairing: Navigator and Driver. A Driver will have the keyboard and mouse to do the work. The Navigator helps keep the pairing focused and provides a second pair of eyes on the work being done. The two team members will switch roles with a rhythm of time or completed tasks.
Here are a few tips to keep the pair engaged and in sync. We recommend:
Switch every 10-15 mins.
Take breaks together.
Dial up the collaborative tone of the pairing by asking questions. (ex. "What if we...?" "Have we tried...?)
Navigator can take notes of the process so others can catch up or follow the same steps
The Driver can help the Navigator by giving a flow of thinking commentary while the work is happening.
Osmosis in action: standups
Every weekday, our team joins for a morning standup at 9AM CT. About 10-15 minutes. Our format is standard among many agile-thinking teams. We go around the room, all mentioning: what we did yesterday, what we will do today, and if there is anything in our way.
A trick to speed our standups that you should try, have everyone type out their standups at the end of every day. Typing these up eliminates the frequent, "Gosh. Ummm. What did I work on yesterday?"
Here is one from Adam:
These standups keep us all in the loop. We can help each other if we're stuck. A culture add is, that we can banter a bit before and after standup too.
Osmosis in action: 5on2
If you've ever spent two or more hours stuck on a task, then found out someone on the team had the answer. Next time, try a 5on2.
How to 5on2
Spend 5 minutes talking about any 2 hours tasks you have coming. Talk about your approach and other options to consider.
If you have a two-hour (or more) task today, have a 5on2 before you start.
- uniformity + share information freely (ask questions, offer ideas, compare options, research together, take out-loud notes of what you tried and what worked and didn't work, work out load)***
- not competing***
Things to avoid?
- unhealthy osmosis***
Fear disrupts collaboration
There is nothing that will shut down a team more than
Remember to optimize for kindness.
Working Remote Well
We've been a distributed team basically since day one in 2001. An advantage we have is our work and the clients we serve can all be done apart and over the internet. Here is a list of things we've learned along the way.
We can't build a team if everyone is on an island.
We want our team's work hours to overlap. This overlap in time is vital to connect and get questions answered.
"thou (time) shalt overlap" - Jason Fried
Though we've worked with overseas teams, we find that we're ships in the night if our work doesn't overlap for at least 2 hours.
The morning standups must be fast and effective. 15 mins top, plus some banter, is worth the extra time spent on your culture.
(See Osmosis: Standups)
Speed comes from eliminating distractions and removing obstacles. You can give your team permission to focus by introducing a few collaborative team-building practices.
Let's first recap what time-boxing is; the practice of setting a limit to the amount of time you dedicate to a task.
Feature Boxing is cutting your budget in half and deciding what the must-haves are for your first release. Once your first release is out, you'll have another half of the budget to select the nice-to-haves.
Feature Boxing helps you release sooner, not letting the nice-to-haves get in the way. The sooner you launch, the sooner you learn.
2x2– The Eisenhower Matrix
The 2x2 is a matrix of urgent/impact or impact/effort. Use the 2x2 to make decisions on what is the most important. Take these steps.
On stickies, brainstorm what we should do next. (ex: features, tasks, ideas, marketing efforts)
Draw your matrix. We recommend starting with impact/effort.
Put your stickies in your matrix based on the impact and effort each has.
In the High-Impact and Low-Effort quadrant, decide on the top three to tackle.
IMAGE OF 2X2***
Be disciplined to balance creativity and efficiency.
Too often, the tools we use to get in the way of progress. An app won't start or won't work on another team member's computer. What once helped us is now hurting us.
The shiny new tools are enticing. We encourage time to try new tools but resist adding them too early to the entire team's core suite of tools.
- stack rank
- limit assigned tasks
- user testing
- test before we develop
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