Why Your Developers Are Not Delivering On Time

David Long

CTO, CPTO, VP of Engineering at Previously at Lexipol, Ribbon, Mutualink, Lucent, AT&T



There are many reasons why developers are not delivering on time. An emerging leader who aspires to guide their team to success has to understand what is slowing their developers down and help them to overcome the existing obstacles. Refraining from labeling them as slow and slacking, coupled with a willingness to question your own time estimates and expectations, paves a road to a workable solution. And walking down that road you will understand why they are struggling to meet deadlines and get the work done on time.

Actions taken

  • First off, try to understand what takes most of their time. The easiest way to get an answer is to ask people directly and be frank with them. You can initiate a conversation by saying, "Maybe it is me but it seems like it's taking longer to get this particular task done." Make the situation more comfortable and reassuring by adding, "Help me understand what it takes so much time to complete this."
  • Identify time-consuming elements and try to comprehend why they are time-consuming. Surprisingly, you may realize that developers are lagging behind with certain tasks while they are more often on time with projects. Understanding why this is the case leads to a workable solution.
  • Make sure that your developers are doing one thing at a time. Don't assign them anything before they complete the previous task. Avoid context switching -- it always comes at a great cost.
  • Be clear in what order things should be done and don't easily change priorities.
  • Minimize interruptions. Naturally, interruptions pop up all the time. Whether it is a peer reviewing code inspection or an ad hoc meeting about a project plan, try to minimize them to an acceptable level.
  • Before blaming the developers for not delivering on time, you should question your own estimates and re-set your own expectations.

Lessons learned

  • Worrying about what is slowing down developers down is a fairly common problem. The majority of people who have gone through project leadership have run into this.
  • Initiating a frank conversation with your developers can be tremendously enlightening. They will share their concerns and you will learn that developers are eternal optimists. They will calculate all the things that could go wrong and still come up with a delivery date. That is simply unbridled optimism. Developers don't pad numbers. Only those unfamiliar of their genuinely optimistic nature will claim the opposite.
  • Many studies concluded that people can work most efficiently when they do one thing at a time. Multitasking slows people down and lowers the overall quality of work. Developers are no exception to the rule.
  • Maybe it is not about developers but about you as a manager. Oftentimes it is about inaccurate estimates, constant interruptions, unclear priorities, etc.

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David Long

CTO, CPTO, VP of Engineering at Previously at Lexipol, Ribbon, Mutualink, Lucent, AT&T

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer Progression

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