Strategic Planning for Development Team Growth

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Rafael Timbó
By
Rafael Timbó
|
Chief Technology Officer
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Growing a development team means more than just adding personnel to an existing structure. Sustainable team growth requires strategic planning. Organizations can strategically scale development teams without missing a beat by developing a growth mindset culture and hiring the right team members at the right time.
Published on
April 26, 2024
Updated on
May 7, 2024

There is such a thing as growing too fast. Rapid expansion can lead to bottlenecks, performance issues, and unhappy customers when organizations lack the infrastructure. If this goes on too long, it can erode client trust and tank your business.

Growing organizations need their technology stacks and personnel capacities to grow in tandem with increasing customer demands. Strategic team growth is especially critical for development teams. Understanding how to scale the team and planning proactively leads to high-performing teams even when an organization is going through a rapid growth period in its lifecycle.

What Does Dev Team Growth Look Like?

Team growth involves scaling your team to handle more complex problem-solving and increase production levels. On a development team, this includes diversifying skill sets so that your team can address the changing needs of your growing customer base.

Strategic development team growth is about more than just adding more bodies to the room. Product managers must be strategic about their planning and hiring process. Hiring new team members doesn’t work unless supported by a strong tech stack and a clear onboarding process.

The best way to do this is to gather real-time, data-driven insights about how your team is performing. These insights can help you determine the right time to hire new team members and predict when training existing team members on new skills is better. Keeping an eye on recruiting trends can also help development team leaders improve time-to-hire metrics and increase their product team's retention.

The Importance of a Team Growth Mindset

Development teams are only as strong as the individuals who work for them. All the new hires won’t make up for poor decision-making skills or a lack of teamwork. Luckily, even if your team has skill gaps, there is a way to help scale their capabilities with your business. The key is to develop a growth mindset culture.

A growth mindset is a belief that people — and teams — can develop and improve their abilities over time. It’s the difference between a developer saying, “I’m not good at front-end development,” versus them saying, “I’m not good at front-end development yet.”

When you focus on implementing a team-wide growth mindset, you give your development team permission to fail. But more importantly, you empower them to learn from those failures and come back better next time.

A growth mindset is critical if you want your development team to grow with organizational growth. Equipping team members with the tools and mindset to improve over time helps combat employee burnout while reducing staffing costs. While a growth mindset won’t save you from ever having to augment your team, it will help you make more strategic decisions about when to hire new team members and how many team members to hire.

Characteristics of a Growth Mindset

Although you can create a culture supporting a growth mindset, some people will always struggle to believe in team growth. If you’re prioritizing a growth mindset for your team, there are specific characteristics you need to look for when onboarding new team members. These characteristics should be encouraged when you see them crop up within your development team.

  • Persistence: Individuals with a growth mindset know that they can accomplish whatever task they’ve set for themselves with enough time and effort. If you see a team member working through numerous iterations of the same task, this is a sign that they’ve embraced the idea of persistence. For team members who struggle with this skill, you can help them by setting clear goals, supporting them without saving them from frustration, and celebrating their successes when they make a breakthrough.
  • Strategic planning: Strategic planning involves setting goals and developing a roadmap for achieving those goals. This is characteristic of a growth mindset because it breaks arduous tasks into achievable chunks. To integrate this into your team culture, model the skill by breaking tasks into chunks and outlining clear project roadmaps as you develop new products.
  • Drive for continuous improvement: Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to seek opportunities for learning and growth, driving them to constantly strive for improvement in themselves and their work. Encourage this mindset by focusing on product optimization and other key metrics designed to help your team improve incrementally.
  • Eagerness to learn: People with a growth mindset know they can learn and are eager to do so. You can support this with initiatives that encourage team members to learn new skills. For example, you might consider mentorship programs, cross-functional training, or investing in workshops and classes that help your team address skills gaps.
  • Ability to embrace mistakes: Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to view mistakes as valuable feedback rather than indicators of failure. You can encourage this mindset within your team when you openly acknowledge your failures and explain your plan to learn from them. You can also promote this by creating a team where taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from failures feel safe.

Strategies To Consider When Growing Teams

Growing a development team isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Different teams have different needs depending on the existing team and its skill gaps, current product demand, and the speed of organizational growth. Development team leaders must evaluate their organization’s circumstances before implementing a team growth strategy.

Once you’ve evaluated current skills and organizational needs, you can decide how to grow your team. Three main team growth strategies exist: gradual growth, steep growth, and iterative growth.

Gradual Growth

Gradual growth is all about adding to your team slowly and steadily over a long period. This approach lets you get to know each new team member and set them on a steady career trajectory. Focusing on gradual growth gives you time to evaluate each team member's skills, get to know their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a strategy for improving your team’s cohesion before adding more people to the mix.

The downside to a gradual growth strategy is that it takes time. If you’re in an organization growing rapidly, a gradual growth strategy may leave your team scrambling to keep up with product demands. This can deteriorate the end-user experience. It can also leave your team feeling frustrated and overworked. Alternatively, if you’re able to grow alongside your organization at a gradual pace, this strategy can be a great way to align your team’s competencies with your organization’s needs.

Steep Growth

Steep growth involves rapidly expanding your team by hiring a lot of new team members. If your team is already struggling to meet demands, a steep growth strategy may be best. Steep growth may also be a viable strategy if your KPIs show significant market demand and you anticipate being unable to keep up soon.

The biggest challenge with a steep growth strategy is that it doesn’t leave much time to get to know new hires. Onboarding and training can quickly get muddled. And as you rapidly expand your team, it’s easy for lines of communication to deteriorate.

Steep growth also tends to mean that your team is hiring quickly. You may not have time to gather referrals for new candidates or conduct extensive interviews. So, there’s a higher chance that your new employees won’t mesh well with your existing team and culture.

Iterative Growth

Iterative growth lies somewhere between gradual growth and steep growth. It involves building a team in batches or cycles. There are periods of rapid growth and expansion. However, after these rapid growth cycles, time is set aside for consolidation and optimization. This allows the development team to adjust to changes, invest in collaboration, and develop skills before the next cycle of rapid hiring.

An iterative growth model is flexible, allowing teams to respond to changing market conditions or project requirements. They can scale up or down as needed without being locked into a predetermined growth path. By growing in manageable increments, iterative teams can reduce both gradual and steep growth risks.

However, iterative growth can be resource-intensive. Team leaders must be committed to ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment to start new hiring cycles at the right times. Rapid expansion and contraction cycles can disrupt team dynamics and workflows if managed incorrectly. Before choosing this model, project leaders must know they have the leadership, communication, and coordination skills for iterative growth.

Consequences of Stagnant Development Teams

Stagnant development teams show little to no growth over time. Rather than fostering a growth mindset, static development teams stick to what’s safe and known. Unfortunately, development teams lose out on innovation and creativity when they stick to the status quo.

Stagnant teams may fail to adapt to evolving technologies or best practices. At best, this can cause skill gaps to grow. At worst, it can cause vulnerabilities in their systems. Here are some of the top consequences of stagnant development teams:

  • Skill gap growth: While your team remains stagnant, your skill gaps do not. Emerging technologies and industry trends mean there’s always more to learn. Development teams that don’t focus on developing their skills fall behind.
  • Optimization issues: Stagnant teams may fall into the trap of premature optimization. By being scared to take risks, they may focus too much time and energy trying to optimize a product. Instead of testing their product hypotheses and improving based on real-time results, they may sink energy into trying to make their product perfect the first time around. At best, this makes the product development process inefficient. But premature optimization can also lead to wasted efforts if conversion rates, pricing, or marketing team strategies don’t align with the results.
  • Recruiting challenges: Skilled tech professionals are drawn to dynamic, forward-thinking environments. As a result, stagnant development teams may fail to attract top talent, making it even harder to innovate down the road; stagnating as a development team often becomes a compounding issue.
  • Loss of revenue: Without ongoing skill development and innovation, stagnant teams may produce lower-quality products or services. This can result in increased support costs, dissatisfied customers, and loss of repeat business.
  • High turnover rates: Software developers want to grow. On a stagnant team, where fear of change is the norm, the most qualified team members are also most likely to be frustrated. This can lead to high turnover rates. High turnover rates, in turn, are expensive and can lead to disorganization.
  • Risks and vulnerabilities: When teams resist change and fail to keep up with technological advances, their systems become outdated. Outdated systems are vulnerable to cyber threats. Hackers are most likely to target unpatched vulnerabilities. Stagnant teams may find sensitive data at risk of breaches, loss, or unauthorized access.

Establish Your Growth Trajectory With Revelo

As a development team, stagnating is one of the worst things you can do. The technological world is constantly evolving. To stay competitive, you have to evolve alongside it.

Hiring developers to keep up with growth can be a demanding task. Vetting candidates, checking references, and evaluating hard and soft skills takes time. With so much else to keep up with as you nurture a growth mindset within your team, this time is invaluable.

Revelo can help. Revelo matches business with quality, vetted developers. Each of our developers has been rigorously vetted for hard skills, soft skills, and English proficiency. We time-zone-align developers with the teams they’ll be working for. Additionally, Revelo handles onboarding, including payroll, benefits administration, taxes, and local compliance. And by offering support throughout the developer’s time with a company, Revelo secures engagement and retention.

If you want to establish your growth trajectory and eliminate stagnation,  hire top talent through Revelo today.

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