Hybrid Conf: Building a kick-ass software team

Hybrid Conf: Building a kick-ass software team

Building a kick-ass software team presented by Brian Corrigan (@genexp) at HybridConf 2013. Brian discussed how you can provide a better working environment for your staff and in return get a great software team. Here's what I learned from his talk.

  • Use agile and not 200 page requirement documents.
  • Teams, some are good but only a few are great.
  • Building software is hard:
    • Inherently chaotic, the tools keep changing.
    • Requirements always change.
    • Everyone is creative.
  • You need good people, who work together, are empowered to do things and a supporting company which lets them.
  • Brand teams, give them a budget and let them name the project, buy T-shirts, go out for lunch together.
  • Build a state of shared vision.

Great people

  • Not the guy who stays late.
  • Not the genius.
  • Is the guy who does the solid 40, just do a good 40 hours of work a week.
  • Is the guy who is empathic and enthusiastic.
  • Is the guy who is self-improving and humble.

Best teams

  • Not the smartest people, get a mixed team. Skilled people learn just as much from training junior staff, learning ways different people approach things.
  • Have varied interests, outside interests shape the way we do things and past experiences build variety.
  • Have people from all disciplines.
  • Must be self-organised.
  • Set expectations. Don't think about QA, creative or developers, everyone is a product developer.
  • Align with the goals of the organisation.
  • Share as much information as possible.

Great leaders

  • Don't have backdoor meetings, embrace full collaboration.
  • Don't fake technical knowledge.
  • Take bullets for the team.
  • Ask questions.
  • Answer questions, have an open door policy.
  • Encourage the development of ideas, don't tell me, show me, take a day off and code it.


  • Let teams pick their own tools.
  • Let people define their own processes.
  • Let people report their own results.
  • Let them set their own hours
  • Let them be self-structured, do they need a leader for this project?
  • Teams must have authority, bad decisions will happen, this if fine, create a feedback system. Often providing the team with more information would have prevented the problem in the first place.
  • They are responsible for the project, it's their fault if it goes wrong.

What can the organisation do?

  • Provide a healthy pay check.
  • Offer health and retirement benefits
  • Setup profit sharing systems.
  • Offering flexible working hours.
  • Provide a nice workplace, a great office.
  • Give them the freedom to create.
  • Reduce communication overhead.
    • Set response time expectations such as only checking emails twice a day.
  • IT policies impede work, allow teams to use their own hardware, provide them with up-to-date software.
  • Act like humans and encourage time off.
Brian Corrigan presents building a kick-ass software team
Brian Corrigan presents building a kick-ass software team.