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Leading a Software Development Team: A developer's guide to successfully leading people & projects

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Leading a Software Development Team: A developer's guide to successfully leading people & projects


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  • Copyright 2001
  • Dimensions: 234X187
  • Pages: 368
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-67526-9
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-67526-9

This book aims to provide help and advice for IT professionals in this situation by offering solutions to the most commonly encountered problems, such as getting a project out on time, coping with the demands of leading a team, implementing new methodologies or technologies. It is written by a team leader for other team leaders with a focus on practical advice rather than management theory or process issues. It would be targeted at experienced software engineers, developers and architects who have been promoted to the role of team leader.

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapters

Software Development Dilemma #1: My Team Seems to Spend Too Much Time Arguing. What Can I Do?

Software Development Dilemma #2: My Boss Is Useless. How Can I Put Up with This?

Software Development Dilemma #3: I Have to Interview a Job Applicant. How Do I Go About It?

Table of Contents

Foreword by Shari Lawrence Pfleeger



1 I've just been made team leader of a new project. Where do I start?

2 I'm taking over the leadership of an existing project. Where do I start?

3 I am the most experienced engineer on the team. If I let others do the design and coding, they will not do it as well as I would. How can I do the important design and coding, if I am expected to write documents and plans all the time?

4 When should I review other people's work, and how?

5 When should I call a meeting and how should I chair it?

6 I have to interview a job applicant. How do I go about it?

7 How do I make a presentation?

8 How do I earn the respect of my team?


9 How do I draw up a project plan? What use is it?

10 I've been told when I must deliver my project, but the time-scale doesn't seem realistic to me. What should I do?

11 How can I stop my project from coming in late?

12 My team is working closely with another team, but the quality of their output is poor. What can I do?

13 My last project never seems to go away, I'm constantly doing fixes and changes to it. What can I do?

14 How can I get a good job done when our procedures are so bad?


15 What is meant by teambuilding'? Is there something I'm supposed to be doing to build a better team?

16 Sometimes I think I'm being a soft touch and letting people walk all over me. Other times I think people resent me for interfering. How do I know when I'm getting the style right?

17 One of my team members is an expert in an important aspect of the project that I know little about. I feel like a fool trying to lead on this issue. What can I do?

18 I can't get my team to do any design or documentation, they just want to code. What can I do?

19 When should I let someone do a thing their own way, and when should I make them do it my way?

20 How many hours should I and my team be working?

21 I want to praise people when they do well, but it sounds so condescending. How should I reward good work?

22 I've got someone on my team who's a real problem. What should I do?

23 I think one of my people is going to leave. How can I prevent them from going?

24 One of my team is spending too much time chatting and web browsing. What should I do?


25 What is meant by requirements capture'? How do I go about it?

26 The customer keeps asking for changes and improvements. Can I really say no'?


27 I'm very stressed at the moment, and so are some of my team. What can I do about it?

28 My team seems to spend too much time arguing. What can I do?


29 I want to tackle the project in a particular way. How can I make sure that my management will let me?

30 My boss is useless. How can I put up with this?

31 I feel I'm not getting the support I need from management. What can I do about it?


32 I constantly have to make decisions on the project, often with little time for consideration. How can I be confident that I'm getting the decisions right?

33 I have to take a decision, and it involves taking a significant risk. How can I decide whether to take the risk?


34 Is analysis' really necessary, or can I go straight into design?

35 How do I decide on the best architecture and design for my project?

36 We have adopted an object-oriented approach, but everyone on the team seems to have a different idea about how best to use it. How should an object-oriented approach be used?

37 Several of my team members want to adopt a new technology on the project. Should we use the new technology or do it the old way'?



Why This Book Was Written

As software engineering matures as a profession, the position of team leader — the person responsible for the technical direction of the project and the work of the other engineers on the team — is becoming increasingly recognized as crucial to the success of a software development project. This book provides the help needed by team leaders to enable them to rise to the responsibility of leading a project. It is a practical book, containing tried and tested advice and techniques to help leaders overcome common problems, lead other people, make good decisions, and get projects out on time.

Who This Book Is For

This book is for anyone whose work involves both of the following:

  • making detailed decisions concerning the architecture, design or coding of software products, or performing hands-on software development;
  • leading, managing or mentoring other people who are developing software.
This book is especially relevant for someone who finds themselves leading a software development team for the first time, or who feels that their skills with people are not as good as their skills with technology, and wants some help and direction.

This book is most relevant for someone leading a medium-sized team, say 4 to 8 people. It should also prove useful, to a lesser extent, to the leader of a single-person project, or to a leader of a larger team or of a team of teams. This is a practical book for practising engineers. It is not intended to teach management theory, nor to contain the very latest thinking in every field. It promotes those practices that have been shown to work in the real world.

About Being a Software Team Leader

A really good software team leader needs to be totally competent with technology, and also very good at getting the best out of other people. It’s a unique position, combining detailed hands-on software knowledge and skill, and yet requiring the leader to be able to step back from the details and see the broader picture.

The way that a team is led has a critical impact on the success of a software project. The team leader makes a vital contribution to the quality of the software, the appropriateness of the technical decisions made, and the quality of team-spirit and motivation that the team members enjoy.

Becoming a team leader forces you to have a different perspective on software development. As a developer, you know that you will be judged mostly by the quality of the designs and the code that you produce. But as a leader, you will be judged in two different ways:

  • By your bosses, you will be judged on how quickly and cheaply your project is completed and by how satisfied the customers or end-users are.
  • By your team, you will be judged on the soundness of your judgement and on the way you work with people.
This book aims to help you be better at these things and so to earn more respect both from your bosses and from other team members.

Leading a software development team can be stressful, and it can be risky. It might not be as stressful or as risky as, say, managing a football team; but it does share some of the same stresses and pressures of trying to satisfy many people who are hungry for success, with there being no prospect of getting a second chance if things go wrong.

Not surprisingly, it’s a job that not many people can do well. The difficulty of the task makes it all the more rewarding when you know you are doing it well. Once you have led a successful project, you will want to keep doing it and you will want to keep getting better at it. I hope that you find this book useful in helping you to achieve and to build on success.

How This Book is Organized

The book is organized around real-world problems faced by leaders in their everyday work, such as ‘how do I draw up a project plan?’ and ‘how do I earn the respect of my team?’. Many real problems have both people aspects and technical aspects, and the book approaches these together, as different dimensions of a given situation, rather than as completely separate issues.

However, as can be seen from the contents page, the sections have been collected into groupings according to the major aspect of each, so you can start reading about a particular aspect of the job if you feel the need to do so.

The individual sections are quite self-contained, and include references to other relevant sections and to the bibliography where relevant, so they can be read in any order.

About Job Titles Such As ‘Team Leader’ and ‘Project Manager’ in this Book

The software industry does not have a universally recognized set of job titles; they tend to vary from one organization to another. In this book, I have used the following job titles:

  • Developer: Someone who does the hands-on job of making software. Making detailed technical decisions, designing, coding, testing, documenting. May be responsible for their own area of development but not for the project as a whole.
  • Team leader: Someone who makes technical decisions concerning the architecture, design or code of a software project. Responsible for the technical success of the project as a whole, and for directing and reviewing the work of other team members. Critically responsible for the quality of the software produced. Has extensive and current development experience. May do hands-on development. On a small project, may act as Project Manager as well.
  • Project manager: A person who is responsible for planning, budgeting, liaising with management and negotiating with customers. May have technical training, but does not do development. In a larger project, or a multidisciplinary project, would direct the work of several Team Leaders. Critically responsible for the delivery of the project on time and within budget.
  • Software manager: The line manager for the developers. Responsible for hiring and firing, training and developing staff, also for procedures and working practices. Sets the strategic technical direction for the organization. Part of the management team.

If your work (or part of your work) includes the role of Team Leader as defined above, this book is for you. It doesn’t matter whether you have been given responsibility ‘officially’, or you just find yourself leading other technical people because that seems the best way to organize things. It doesn’t matter what your job title is.

The boundary between these jobs is not very distinct. Most team leaders do some development, and every team leader has to do some planning and other ‘project management’ activities. In this book I haven’t distinguished between tasks on the basis of who should do them. I’ve just tried to give the best help with a task that I can, for those people who need it.

Contacting the Author

If you wish to comment on any aspect of this book, you can do so by visiting my website, http://www.richardwhitehead.com.


I would like to thank Robert Sander, Oemer Karacan and Donald Matthews, the reviewers of this book, for all their hard work and words of wisdom. Thanks to Mark Birdseye for giving me a copy of ‘Why the Neanderthals Became Extinct’.

I am very grateful for the helpfulness and encouragement shown to me by everyone at the publishers, Pearson Education, who have kept me going and helped me to get it right.

Thanks also to my friend David Krause for his detailed reviewing, helpful criticism and late-night e-mails.

I must also thank my sons, Thomas and James, for tolerating all the times that Daddy spent ‘scribbling’ when he should have been playing.

Last but not least, I thank my wife Susan, without whose love and support I would never have completed this book.



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