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Six Lessons in Transparency from a Developer

When it comes to the daily grind, it’s all too easy for executives to get caught up in business as usual — deal with this issue, sign off on that project. Sadly, open communication is often the biggest casualty in the daily business battle. Here’s why you should keep communication — and transparency — at the forefront.

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Communication creates team players.
Educate your workforce by sharing your key business knowledge. You might be surprised at the impact that this can have. Your employees will have a better understanding of how the business operates, and they’ll know how their roles improve the bottom line. This knowledge empowers a contributor to become less of a cog in the machine and more of a team player. Talk to your employees so that you can share your vision with them — and they can share key knowledge about their areas with you. Open channels of communication to announce vital information, including “state of the company” updates, and hold open brainstorming sessions to ensure that everyone’s input is heard and that everyone has their eyes on the same prize.

Help make tasks matter. Developers are often guilty of tossing out technical jargon that nobody else understands. Keep in mind that your developers may feel the same way about complex business topics. When communicating new tasks, explain the business reason for doing so in terms that your team can understand. You’ll convey the “what” of a technical issue, but also give the task meaning by explaining the “why” and “how.” You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if people don’t understand you, all of this knowledge is lost. Consider your client’s or teammate’s background and find ways to speak where he’s at — if he’s in marketing, for example, show how the issue that you’re talking about could play out in a marketing campaign.

Open discussion can improve your bottom line. Without regular discussion, you risk wasting time and energy on features that ultimately miss the mark. A short and regular feedback cycle between developers and project stakeholders helps to ensure that everyone is aligned on the same target. Schedule regular demos of in-progress software — and get them on every stakeholder’s calendar — to ensure that essentials aren’t forgotten. Keep the meetings limited to a fixed amount of time so that attendees have to focus on the task at hand.

Transparency bridges communication gaps. I’ve seen firsthand how quickly efficiency drops when communication between project stakeholders and developers suffers. Build a culture where developers are safe to question project features. They’ll gain a better understanding of the problem at hand and occasionally suggest a solution that drastically cuts the development time. Working with stakeholders to understand the ramifications of their decisions — especially when it comes to cost, time, and complexity — will bridge the gap and help everyone to make better decisions in the future. Get a 360-degree view of decisions by making sure that all stakeholders take part in the process. If a choice makes it through each layer, it’s likely to be a solid one.

Open communication breeds efficiency. As the last point mentioned, getting buy-in from stakeholders is vital. But if you don’t call on them until the end of the process, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Help your projects be on time and within budget by making sure that all the key stakeholders are involved early. By stepping in too late in the game, you could unknowingly call for changes to decisions that were set in stone months earlier. Changing them after the fact can derail progress and kill your budget. The project budget should be evaluated early and often. Ensuring that progress is in line with a budget or timeline will prevent unpleasant surprises down the road.

Developers may not be often hailed as communications experts, but the truth is that great executives know that good communication is vital for a good product. While it may be hard to find time for good communication and transparency, trust me: If you make the effort, you’ll realize invaluable savings in time, money, and headaches down the road.

34ee9bb twoPeter Baumgartner is the founder of Lincoln Loop, a full-service tech company specializing in Web and mobile development for companies of all sizes, from start-ups to publicly traded corporations. Peter is an expert in Django-based Web development and a thought leader in entrepreneurship and tech. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter or Google+. Share your thoughts with Pete pete@lincolnloop.com.

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