Leading a Software Development Team

Richard Whitehead  
Total pages
May 2001
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Leading a Software Development Team
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Practical advice on leading a software development team, aimed at software engineers who have become project leaders.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Shari Lawrence Pfleeger



1 I’ve just been made team leader of a new project. Where do I start?

2 I’m taking over the leadership of an existing project. Where do I start?

3 I am the most experienced engineer on the team. If I let others do the design and coding, they will not do it as well as I would. How can I do the important design and coding, if I am expected to write documents and plans all the time?

4 When should I review other people’s work, and how?

5 When should I call a meeting and how should I chair it?

6 I have to interview a job applicant. How do I go about it?

7 How do I make a presentation?

8 How do I earn the respect of my team?


9 How do I draw up a project plan? What use is it?

10 I’ve been told when I must deliver my project, but the time-scale doesn’t seem realistic to me. What should I do?

11 How can I stop my project from coming in late?

12 My team is working closely with another team, but the quality of their output is poor. What can I do?

13 My last project never seems to go away, I’m constantly doing fixes and changes to it. What can I do?

14 How can I get a good job done when our procedures are so bad?


15 What is meant by ‘teambuilding’? Is there something I’m supposed to be doing to build a better team?

16 Sometimes I think I’m being a soft touch and letting people walk all over me. Other times I think people resent me for interfering. How do I know when I’m getting the style right?

17 One of my team members is an expert in an important aspect of the project that I know little about. I feel like a fool trying to lead on this issue. What can I do?

18 I can’t get my team to do any design or documentation, they just want to code. What can I do?

19 When should I let someone do a thing their own way, and when should I make them do it my way?

20 How many hours should I and my team be working?

21 I want to praise people when they do well, but it sounds so condescending. How should I reward good work?

22 I’ve got someone on my team who’s a real problem. What should I do?

23 I think one of my people is going to leave. How can I prevent them from going?

24 One of my team is spending too much time chatting and web browsing. What should I do?



25 What is meant by ‘requirements capture’? How do I go about it?

26 The customer keeps asking for changes and improvements. Can I really say ‘no’?


27 I’m very stressed at the moment, and so are some of my team. What can I do about it?

28 My team seems to spend too much time arguing. What can I do?


29 I want to tackle the project in a particular way. How can I make sure that my management will let me?

30 My boss is useless. How can I put up with this?

31 I feel I’m not getting the support I need from management. What can I do about it?


32 I constantly have to make decisions on the project, often with little time for consideration. How can I be confident that I’m getting the decisions right?

33 I have to take a decision, and it involves taking a significant risk. How can I decide whether to take the risk?


34 Is ‘analysis’ really necessary, or can I go straight into design?

35 How do I decide on the best architecture and design for my project?

36 We have adopted an object-oriented approach, but everyone on the team seems to have a different idea about how best to use it. How should an object-oriented approach be used?

37 Several of my team members want to adopt a new technology on the project. Should we use the new technology or do it ‘the old way’?



 Richard Whitehead has lead a number of software development teams over recent years, and has a wide and varied experience in industries as diverse as diamond prospecting, medicine, communications, transport and digital mapping. He has worked for companies of many sizes and cultures from a high-tech start-up to a multi-billion dollar multinational.

Reader Review(s)

 "Fear not. This book will help you become an effective and respected team leader... the view from the trenches will help guide you in making your own decisions in the context of your own organization and its values... With Whitehead as your mentor, you can anticipate and diffuse problems. Soon you will be as effective as a team leader as you were as a developer"  - Shari Lawrence Pfleeger  "This is a book for the real world. Suppose you are the team leader of a software project. You thought you did all the right things at every stage. Yet the project came in three months late and the application crashed continuously when it went live. What could you have done to prevent this? This book gives the answers. Structured round common questions which should occur to every new team leader "How do I earn the respect of my team?", "How do I draw up a project plan?", it discusses the activities which you need to master"  Donald Matthews, Project Team Leader, AIT 

This is a book on how to cope with the dizzy heights of leadership without getting vertigo or offending everyone in sight.

Computing, August 2001