Getting Stuff Done on a Software Team

Dan Goslen
5 min readOct 3
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

It’s a Friday in the office. The end of another Sprint iteration.

And everything is a bit chaotic.

Multiple devs still have outstanding work awaiting approvals so they can merge them into main. Many of them have merge conflicts. We've also got a high-priority bug fix that we still need to start on, which is supposed to be done by the end of the day (the PM promised it would be).

On top of that, no one seems to remember if we hit our Spring Goals — or even what they were! Everyone had focused on working on our individual stories instead of completing our goals.

For far too many devs, this situation is painfully relatable.

For all the promises of Agile software development and tools to facilitate better work streams, many dev teams find it difficult to actually get stuff done. Teams are pulled in various directions internally, find themselves working alone more than intended, and constantly being asked to report on items they never committed to.

But getting stuff done on your software team doesn’t have to be so frustrating and chaotic. And it starts with a simple shift:

Focus on getting things done rather than starting new things.

Getting Stuff Done

One of my favorite books on software team delivery is from Daniel Vacanti. His book When Will It Be Done? helped me understand the way we attempt to estimate when features or fixes in our software will be complete is tragically wrong.

For many teams, the focus needs to move away from estimates and closer to tracking how long it takes individual items to complete. This, along with probabilistic forecasting, it much better than the burndown charts and average velocity tools used today.

There are many great takeaways from the book, but the one that has stuck with me for the past several years is this:

The single most important thing you can do to improve single item forecasts is be proactive about how long it takes for them to complete

In other words, if we want to get better at accomplishing our goals, we need to be more proactive about getting things done rather than starting new things. Starting a lot…

Dan Goslen

Team Driven Developer | Jesus follower | husband | software engineer