Home > Agile, Business, Leadership, planning > Don’t forget to harvest the passion of the developers

Don’t forget to harvest the passion of the developers

Most of the software developers I’ve worked with want to solve the problems of the users. Many are real professionals with the attitude of a craftsman. Many are innovative about different solutions. And most of them love to write code.

If you take a developer who wants to solve problems, is a craftsman, innovative and loves to write code you are sure to hear loads of good ideas of what he could do, if he only was given the opportunity.

Many times, his suggestions are not highest on the priority list from the business people. And then you run into the situations when his stuff is never done. Yes, I know that there are other stakeholders who’s ideas never becomes a reality too, but this guy stands there with his hands deep into the code every day, thinking about those things he could do, given that he get the opportunity.

So, you should leave some room for that in your plan. For example, if you’re using scrum or another iteration based method, let the guys pick one thing if they are successful in a sprint.

If you’re doing kanban, you can be a little bit more spontaneous. The other day, one of the developers came up with a great idea. I could see the passion in his eyes. He really wanted to do it. And I could hear that he’d given the thought a lot of thinking (this proved to be correctly later). Since we’re in a situation where the next stuff on the list cannot be completed due to lacking resources of a specific competence, I was considering what we should do next. So, why not? So, I said to him to go ahead. Given that the stuff in progress is done, this will be next.

I think we’ll get so much more code/function/quality out of this than we would have if the stuff had been done with someone who didn’t think this was his stuff, someone who wasn’t thrilled about the idea. And this joy about his work will probably continue after his work with this is done. Just because now it’s done.

But besides from sometimes prioritizing the stuff the developers have passion for, one can also help developers becoming more passionate about all the other stuff. And that is best done (I think) by including them in discussions, requirements and story writing.

  1. 2009/06/18 at 2:06 pm

    (Prefix note: I think your intentions are good, but you might have left out some context. I say that because I normally agree with your posts and know that if my response to this is negative, there might be a gap between what you intended for me to hear and what I heard.)

    Once I saw a developer pursue a great idea they had… his face beamed as he demo’d a radio button widget that worked like a checkbox and thought we could use it in a lot of places. I wanted to smack him really hard (I was the usability person at the time). Not only was it a bad idea, but he spent time on building it away from the priorities of the team.

    As important as it is to focus on a team’s morale and motivation, developer’s are hired to be craftsman and create the system to implement requested business value. That is their job. It is great to be on a self-managed team where everyone blends their roles and they can propose ideas for the business to consider. It’s even more rewarding for a developer if that idea is selected to be added to the list for work.

    I guess your statement of “So, you should leave some room for that in your plan.” went too far for me. It sounded like you said “Plan to waste x% of the businesses time on allowing the developers to build cool stuff to keep them happy.”

    But it shouldn’t be an expectation of the developer, or a creation of the team coach/leader. The Product Owner or customer should direct what is valuable. Don’t “create room” for the developers to do this, teach them that the bar for their ideas is high and challenge them to create ideas that meet that criteria. If they uncover an idea that adds more value than existing items on the backlog, then the PO/customer should immediately rank it high for the team to work on.

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