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Celebrating A Decade Of Innovation
Why thinkbridge is a great place to work?
8 min read

Autonomy vs. Micromanagement In Software Development

Autonomy/Micromanagement/WFH/Work From Home/Remote Work/Software/Software Development/Tech/Technology Development/PM/Project Manager
Tempted to micromange your software development teams? It's understandable. But, if a team has autonomy, the incredible occurs.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
April 12, 2024

The notion that software development is art + science is lost. Software is a critical part of our lives, yet it is treated as a commodity. Industrialized notions of surveillance and productivity measures are encouraged, despite little success. Software development is knowledge work. Predictability is hard to achieve due to the high degree of variability across the software development value chain. Until we are effectively able to replace software developers, all methods from no-code to low-code to AI will only get us so far. We must continue to rely on a few principles that satisfy human needs. In this article we will explore one such principle - ‘Autonomy’.

Why Focus On Independence and Autonomy?

It's essential to grant a level of autonomy to teams during their sprints. This practice can have a profound impact on the quality of the product. Yes, costs and deadlines should be kept in mind. Sometimes the product is worth the money and time; in other situations, maybe not. But either way, you don't want teams working under constant surveillance. That practice won't have the benefit you think it does. Incredible things can happen when you let go and cede control to the people doing the work. The question then becomes, how do you install these principles of accountability? What impact can it have?

Independent units are critical in software development. Why? They contribute to greater scalability, enhanced maintainability, and faster development cycles. Developers can break down a massive application into smaller, independent units. This helps teams change specific features without disturbing the rest of the codebase. And surprise, surprise, testing, and debugging become easier. Issues can be isolated to particular units rather than impacting the entire application. By having independent units, developers can develop and deploy them separately. Rapid iterations and faster development cycles are now possible.

They can also work on different units without affecting one another. Teams can operate independently while having complete ownership of their project. This approach enables developers to pinpoint and solve issues when they arise. It's now possible to have a more agile development process. Taking a back seat will only help here.

Decrease Overwatch, Increase Collaboration

Software development requires teamwork. Everyone is striving to complete their objectives within given timelines. With independent units, it's easier for developers to collaborate. Developers can work on different application parts without interfering with each other's work. Different teams can work on the same application without getting in each other's way. Independent units also make it easier to reuse code. Developers can reuse code from one department to another, saving time and effort. This can also reduce the risk of introducing errors in the code. It's already been tested and debugged, so they know it's safe. Reaction times are also much faster when they're autonomous. They know precisely what they need. Their autonomy means they can chase down whatever resources they require.

Break It Down

Independent units allow for a more straightforward implementation of new features. Developers can add new features to specific units. They don't need to change the entire application. It becomes easier to add new features without disrupting the whole application.

It’s become quite obvious that autonomous teams are a crucial aspect of modern software development. The developers work at a higher level of efficiency. They're able to collaborate in nuanced ways. They can easily maintain codebases. This approach allows development teams to create high-quality software in less time. Not only that, but the software will have fewer errors and bugs. It's a win-win situation.

Far-Reaching Effects

Oversight is necessary, but it doesn't need to be suffocating. It's possible to ensure deadlines and quality expectations are met without tyrannical rule. When a team is independent, it can create its structure, processes, and habits. Team members become more comfortable in the environment. They've acclimated to each other. This is what makes a nuanced approach so important. Everyone gets what they need, and formulaic intentions are thrown out the window. It's here that true creativity and innovation can occur.

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