Does your workplace suffer from bad communication? If your answer is no, you may find you need to take a closer look. A recent study by Queens University of Charlotte found that:
- Only about 27% of employees receive any kind of training in communication.
- A similar 27% are confident in their communication role at work.
- Nearly 3 in 4 employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”.
- However, 39% of the surveyed employees believe their organization does not collaborate enough.
We all like data. But dev communication is something that’s difficult to quantify.
Unfortunately, there is not a comfortable or possibly ethical equivalent to call center reporting software that can analyze workplace communication.
When a company has poor communication, it has a lack of workflow and collaboration. The dev team has no overview of all tasks. Communication occurs via short emails that don’t have clear guidelines.
Precious time is wasted by long meetings that could have been an email.
When guidelines are not clear, team members will suffer from too many distractions by colleagues. This can be especially frustrating when one has a highly demanding task.
In the tech world, one must do everything to stay on top of a rapidly changing environment.
Chances are you have a solid management team to direct your software developers. Or you outsource your development via recruitment or job boards.
Either way, you want to make sure you are getting the best out of your software dev team.
If you are a developer yourself, you will understand that human relations do not always come so easily to the majority of your colleagues. You are full of technical knowledge and the gifts of a sharp mind.
But good communication is just as important as all of the technical knowledge each team member possesses.
These days, you are more than likely part of a group working-from-home.
Because of the lack of face to face interaction, it is even more pressing to make sure you and your team have efficient and effective forms of communication.
Great communication contributes to:
- Agility to keep up and evolve. Everyone on the team stays informed of project changes.
- Increased efficiency. Better collaboration means fewer redundancies and less time wasted. Pull requests are completed with more clarity.
- Better overall morale. When communication is open and transparent, everyone feels more involved.
Whether your workplace collaboration is taking place in an office or remotely, good communication at its most basic is not about socializing. It’s not about being able to ask how someone’s day was or what they got up to on the weekend.
It’s not about feeling forced or pretending to care about your colleagues’ personal lives.
Good communication at its core is simply about being a decent human being and working together to reach the same goal.
Good communication occurs between two parties with mutual respect as equals.
In a workplace with effective communication, team members will feel safe and secure to share their own views. Co-workers will feel respect and non-threatened regardless of job title or seniority.
And in return, by helping them, they will help you. No matter if you are on the management development side.
Even better, work output and productivity will improve and so will the entire company along with them.
You see? With great communication, everybody wins.
In doing so we will go over five easy ways to improve software dev team communication.
Active Listening in Dev Communication
Whether it is a conference call, round table, or a call, workplace collaboration stars with meetings.
These days, chances are that you will not physically be in the same place. Treat these virtual meetings as you would a job interview.
Communication is a two-way street. To be effective, the receiver of the message must themselves participate in the process.
So let’s start with the simple yet oftentimes difficult art of listening.
You may be using the best Bluetooth headsets, but if that ear on the receiving end isn’t involved, it won’t matter.
Active listening is actually trying to understand what the other person has to say. Part of this involves staying engaged with the speaker throughout the message they are trying to convey.
To do this properly, one needs to be self-aware. You must consciously be thinking “I’m listening to so and so. I want to make sure I understand them clearly.”
You can help yourself to be an active listener by doing the following:
- Maintain open-posture, face the speaker, and maintain eye-contact when possible. This type of non-verbal communication will indicate to the other person that you are paying attention to the message. This will also help you to avoid distractions from the environment.
- Show that you’re listening. Nod occasionally. Smile or use other appropriate facial expressions. Encourage the speaker to continue with short statements of affirmation like “uh-huh” or “yes”.
- Be neutral and non-judgemental. Don’t mentally start to prepare a rebuttal to the message or interrupt with a counter-argument.
- Be patient. Allow for periods of silence. Let the speaker finish each point before asking a question.
- Ask additional questions. Help yourself to understand. Be open and honest but assert your opinions respectfully. Speak to the other person the way you would like to be spoken to. When possible, ask open-ended questions to gain more clarity on what someone is conveying.
- Reflect back on what is said. Summarise the message in your own words. This is very important as both parties can reach an agreement of what has been understood.
Be Clear and Concise
Right now, it’s increasingly likely that you are working within a team remotely. While all the rules of active listening will apply to video conferencing or one-to-one video meetings, project communication cannot always be face to face.
In the modern era, communication is transforming digitally. This means email, text, webchat, and countless apps.
When speaking or writing, it is important to be clear and concise.
You are probably thinking that being clear and concise are two different things are they not? But as you will see, you cannot really have one without the other.
Accurate understanding happens when a message states exactly what it needs to and nothing more. Every extra unnecessary word increases the chance for confusion and misinterpretation.
Because management and developers will have different knowledge and areas of expertise, it is important to have clarity when communicating with one another. Different phrases or terms can mean different things to different people.
Managers should always set well-defined guidelines. Be precise and clear. When there are vague or unfinished thoughts, people tend to fill the gaps in based on their own experience.
Don’t let this happen. Developers are not meant to “imagine” or interpret things.
Of course, most developers will do their best to follow all guidelines exactly. This is why it is important not to muddy things up with unnecessary information.
Ask powerful open-ended questions
Whether speaking in a meeting or communicating via text, effective communication only happens when questions are asked.
But are you asking the right kind of questions? That is, are you asking open-ended questions? This is the same technique as you use to devise probing questions for sales, but oftentimes, the dev team will be far less familiar with the concept.
An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered yes or no, or with a static response. Think about starting a question with a why, how, when, or what.
If someone can answer yes or no to a question beginning with those queries, then they probably didn’t understand the question!
When a dev is making a pull request, it is important for the respective teammate to not ask questions like “can you make this more efficient” or “can you change this?”
Problems will be solved much more effectively when questioned using why, how, when, or what.
When giving feedback, alongside using open-ended questions, you should always start off with something positive.
“This all looks great. Tell me how we can reduce the processing load on…”
“I really like what you’ve done here. What would be a better way to…”
You get it.
As stated earlier. Part of good workplace communication is just being a decent person.
By asking open-ended questions, managers will be avoiding a command-style type of feedback. Employees will feel more involved.
Your developers will be guided to solving issues of their own free will.
No one likes being told what to do. But being asked how to do something doesn’t feel so order-like.
Besides, managers will be able to clarify guidelines by answering open-ended questions.
Involve Devs in planning
There’s no quicker path to good communication than by beginning at the beginning. Software development and business planning should start together.
When dealing with the technical aspects of a business, involving the dev team from the get-go will ensure all plans are executable.
The developers understand their trade better than anyone else in the business. Why not make sure all details are run past the dev team before embarking on the journey to shipping?
You might be surprised that a concept this simple is often overlooked. Make sure you have effective two-way communication with the development team as soon as an idea is being hatched.
This will prevent losing huge amounts of time on over-complicated plans that cannot be implemented more efficiently.
Or even worse, you can avoid the time-sink of an unviable plan that is impossible to execute on the developer side.
And developers, you know how frustrating it can be to be given the impossible. Wouldn’t you rather help nip any wild ideas in the bud in the initial planning phase?
Good planning is mandatory. Make sure you have a framework for all the actions your members will have to take. All team members, but especially the manager must make themselves available.
At the start of planning, it will help transparency by creating a list of terms. Regardless of when someone joins the project, you will want them to have access to this list. This list should remain consistent throughout the project.
Create a doc with classes, variables, API, and all other related terms. You will want to do this from the beginning of the project.
You can use a basic tool like Google Docs or other cloud document services for this.
Use software tools to improve dev communication
We have already listed four easy ways that your business can improve dev team communications.
But let’s not forget about all the tools out there that can help establish a connected workforce!
While great and effective communication will improve the success of all your collaborative projects, look to software solutions as well.
Team management software will allow you to track all changes and stages of development. All team members will have access to the plan to be able to stay on top of tasks and deadlines.
Everyone will have access to feedback and be able to ask and answer questions. Most importantly, your project will be able to ship on time.
Create groups or threads for different aspects of the project but make sure to have everyone included in the main group! You will want all involved to have accurate information and access to the whole team when necessary.
Use calendar management software to ensure managers are available for relevant team members. Schedule meetings often. Even ten or fifteen minutes can be ample for guidance, feedback, and clarification. Meetings can also be a great reminder for project deadlines.
These are just a few of the available apps that can help you and your team improve your communication. There are many more tools out there for you to use.
Join a Codemotion community and see what other developers are using.
Let’s get communicating!
You may be in a very healthy place to work with great communication. Lucky you.
Or maybe you are in a toxic work environment.
But most likely, you are somewhere in between.
Regardless, there is always room for improvement. In the fast-moving world of tech and e-commerce business, you cannot afford to let bad communication hurt your business.
Start following these simple ways to improve software dev team communications. There’s no time to lose!