How many times have you heard, "We need to hire a rock star to help them out!" Or a director saying, "We're only going to hire the absolutely best people for this team! It has to succeed!" It's nice to dream you can hire someone, and they magically fix the issues on a troubled project, but this is rarely the case, because these people are hired to fix the symptoms and not the underlying problems. Sadly, this is a common first and only approach used, and once it fails (and frequently does), management often comes to the conclusion it’s not possible to fix the ongoing problems and settles into the mantra, "The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

Within an organization the differences most often found between an average team and a stellar one are largely due to approach and attitude. There is a level of competency everyone needs, but it is unreasonable to think only people who are the “1 percenters” can make a project thrive. The biggest hurdle to having a successful team often relates to company culture and the team's attitude. Small changes in everyone's approach along with focusing on fitting the organization's policies around the team's dynamics helps move a team from adequate to envied.

So the question is, “Which changes to make, and why?” Some teams need more and some need less, but there are certain ones which when applied will benefit any. People will become more productive, creative, and happy with these changes, because it places them as the most important aspect of the project. We’ll take a look at applying several approaches to improving a development team, and a case study on how they affected a team over an 18-month period.