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Harnessing the Collective Mind of Your Development Team

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Published on Sep 7, 2011

Developers, here's a basic programming question about your development process.
Do you clone what you did last week or are you reflective of your work and iterate? Which line of code best describes your team's development style, asked Dave Hoover (@redsquirrel) of GroupOn?
next_week = clone(last_week)
next_week = retrospect(last_week)
Hoover asked this question of his Twitter community and got some rather funny (and geeky) responses:
next_week = rand(99) / 0
next_week = newWeek();
To harness the collective mind of your development team, you need to adopt a heedful programming philosophy that requires iteration and paying attention to what you're doing as you're doing it, explained Hoover. Sit down as a team and ask how are things are going. How can you improve?
The philosophy of heedful programming, said Hoover, is based on an academic paper about how aircraft carrier staff have a collective mind of dealing with the complexities of working on an aircraft at sea.
Besides weekly or more often reflection of the development process, Hoover explains some other elements that need attention in a development environment.
n00bs need love
Be good to them and welcome them in. You can't hire senior programmers all the time. Often you need to hire young people and help them grow. It can be frustrating, but it's a critical part of the development process.
Extreme programming
If something is hard to do, then do it all the time. For example, if it's hard to onboard new people, then force yourself to rotate the teams more often than you normally would.
Stop referring to programmers as resources
It's easy to think of a team of programmers as a bank of servers. If one leaves, then you just get another one. If you do this, then you break the team. If someone ever talks about you as a resource, challenge them and ask if they're talking about inanimate objects.
More stories, less documentation
Serious documentation is a bore. Nobody wants to read that. Rather have a conversation with someone, or have them describe something in front of a white board.
Drive towards these goals to build a collective mind, said Hoover. Once you have the collective mind, you should be able to achieve the following:
• Scaling systems: handle the complexity
• Growing teams: a cohesive culture
• Growing people: Accept upbringing

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