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How To Build a High-Performance Software Engineering Team

How To Build a High-Performance Software Engineering Team

“Teamwork makes the dreamwork”, people say. And they’re obviously right. Whatever you do, it’s better to have a helping hand(or hands) next to you, and it’s especially necessary when you’re climbing to the top of the world.  

But where to find those handy people? An even bigger question is what you should do to shape them into a cohesive unit and build high-performance team. If you find the answers to these questions, you’re most likely to triumph: a strong team is always better at delivering results, more independent and, just as importantly, happier. In contrast, the one, which was built improperly, tends to cause more damage than success for your business. 

Thank the stars, the keys to both of the issues we raised can be found right in this article. We will take a closer look at how to build a high-performance software engineering team through the experience of business giants, assist you in finding the best approach, and show you the way to get your dream team fast. And before we get the ball rolling, let’s figure out what we mean when we talk about good teamwork.

Software development team structure, and everything else you need to keep in mind

Humans are attracted to complicated things, but as soon as they realize all the difficulties, the simplification process starts. Everyone wants to find a single way, a single answer, or a single definition to a term. But surprise, the world is multifaceted, and if we talk about the meaning of a “high-performance team”, there is more than one thing you have to know. A strong crew, as any other complex structure, consists of a few main aspects, and that’s what we’d like to discuss below. 


Of course, people are the base element of how to build a high-performing team. And those you hire should form a complete viable organism. So the point is not what kind of employees you have, but how they complement each other and work together. Ideally, you must have a responsible person to each of the processes your company does. If you need an engineer and a spaceman to launch a rocket, but you take only one of them and expect this poor guy to pull it off somehow, it’s not rocket science, that there is no chance. 

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Clear goals 

In the 1968 article “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation” American psychologist Edwin Locke wrote that in 90% specific aims led to better results, compared to vague ones like “doing your best”. Moreover, a common and clear goal makes a team feel greater unity, and improves the relationships and trust among the members. When you make your employees feel that every individual objective is a milestone on the way to a successful project, they tend to help their co-workers rather than competing against each other.

Well-defined workflow 

Discipline is a “must-have” for creating high performance teams. Even if a leader prefers giving employees freedom in decision-making and working process setting-up, there should be clearly established values and a defined set of rules. These regulations are not aimed at restricting staff, but guiding and helping teams with organizing work. If a team doesn’t have the way, the team won’t move. 

Open and transparent communication 

If every team had transparency in relationships, we might have been living in a different world now. A lot of brilliant minds don’t share their best ideas because they don’t feel like they can. It may cause social-isolation, loss of interest in work, and a lot of lost opportunities. Employees in a high performance team with open and transparent communication find common ground a lot quicker, show greater engagement in achieving the company’s goals, get more inspiration and generate better solutions.

A Leader with a capital “L”

A cherry on top(technically the bottom) of requirements for building a strong crew is the person who manages all the above mentioned processes. A leader is not a team yet, but it’s still a person who forms it. So the effectiveness of the workers depends on the way they are being managed and the relationships they have with those who manage them. With the right leadership style a company minimizes possibilities of errors in working and achieves more than expected. 

Now when you know all the components of a high-performance team, you’re probably itching to learn how to build one. And we’d like to start with exploring the experience of the companies, which managed to create teams the world looks up to.

And that’s how big players do it!

It’s a common thing to learn from others. Especially when it’s a global enterprise with billions of admirers and trillions of dollars of net worth. So many high-performance teams there are, so many approaches to build them exists, so we’d like to show you how some big players win a challenge of crafting a high-performance team. 

Okay, Google! How do you create a software development team?

The world-famous company did get deep on this question. They have undertaken a wide range of studies during their so-called Project Aristotle in 2012 to find out what really makes good teamwork. Google examined hundreds of teams that consisted of people with different personalities, backgrounds and IQs, but nothing of that really affected the team collaboration. So, researchers disproved the myth that the best crew is the one with greatest talents on board. The level of a team performance doesn’t depend on “who”, but rather depends on “how”. 

Google detected five characteristics, which have an impact on a group’s effectiveness: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact. So, let’s briefly go over them.

Psychological safety 

This one happens to be the most important from the list according to Google’s research. Here “safety” means freedom to express oneself and the feeling of being accepted. When workers know that they can speak up, and their word matters, they feel far more comfortable at their workplace, and, as a result, they are far more productive. To ensure everyone’s psychological safety a leader can hold periodic anonymous surveys or open discussions about how staff feels, and what the company can do to provide them with a better working environment. 


Humans can afford to be dependent only on those they trust. And since teamwork consists of interdependent processes, team members have to know that they can rely on each other. To achieve this level of trust it’s recommended to openly discuss essential values inside of a team, and encourage employees to follow them.   

Structure and clarity

Google found out that the clearer expectations are presented, the better performance is delivered. It sounds like something obvious, but still a team has to define the concept of the result and workflow in overall terms. Every employee needs to have a clear picture of what they are required to do, how the communication framework goes in the company and what area of responsibility each worker occupies.


The other thing we have to pay attention to is how meaningful to the employees the work they do. So, it’s crucial to understand if a person fits the given position. Here Google talks not only about qualification, but also about “calling”. Employees always work better doing what they like.


What is the best motivation for people to do their best? It’s a feeling of being important and appreciated. A leader needs to take care of the ways to show every single team member how valuable their work is. It can be delivered by customers reviews, team leads, and just the members of a crew. 

So, here’s Google’s answer: as long as you can guarantee this five to the team, your people will make the grade. 

Thus spoke Zuckerberg 

The co-founder of Facebook and his team have their own vision of how to organize hiring and working processes in order to get the best results. We can mention three main aspects that helped this company fly high: people, culture, and structure


Facebook really cares about who they hire, but they do it differently than most companies are used to. To get on a board, an applicant shouldn’t be highly-skilled, with thousands of years of experience and at least three diplomas. What Facebook really focuses on is a person’s attitude and personality. The company believes that passion is not something that people can be taught, as opposed to professional skills. So, applicants with less experience, but more fire in their eyes, have better chances of getting the job. Moreover, Facebook really likes to hire people from other fields because such employees can bring a fresh view and more interesting and unusual ideas to get better results. 


As Facebook cares about workers’ personalities, it also cares about their comfort at the workplace. First of all, a team can see it thanks to all the perks a company has, like free food and dry cleaning, which is actually a standard practice in software development companies. Such benefits make employees loyal to their firms and improve their performance. But Facebook went ahead with it: at their office, anyone can be whoever they want to be. Mark Zuckerberg and his team claim that employees work best if they long for the job. Facebook encourages its workers to choose the best place for themselves, and also to build teams around the projects they like. So, people are fed and happy, what else do they need to perform well?


Facebook has a flat team structure, which means they don’t have any middle-management. So, any worker can talk directly to the CEO, discuss any idea, and make a suggestion without long and complicated processes. It simplifies the workflow, and makes all employees equal. Such approach improves trust and overall mental comfort within a team. 

So, the lesson we can learn from Facebook experience is that by taking best from the people you hire, and providing them with all necessary conditions to glow, you have no chance to fail in building a high-performance team.  

Lift up the stone, and you will find GitLab there

Guys from Gitlab don’t depend on time and space – they have an all-remote approach to working. For them “all-remote” means two things: “all” as the employees are equal, and “remote”… Yeah, that’s easy.  So, their people don’t have to move somewhere, to leave their homes and families, and can work in the place where they feel the greatest comfort, and perform most productively. But not only this feature helps GitLab in building a strong crew. The company uses The Drexler-Sibbet Team Performance Model, which they recommend for each and every entrepreneur, who wants to craft a dream team. This approach has seven stages, and, of course, we will go through all of them. 

Why are we here?

This is a question leaders have to ask themselves first. And furthermore, they have to provide their teams with an answer. All team members need a clear explanation of what the team expectations are, how each of them fits into the crew and company’s values, and what is the purpose of everyone there. This information has to be documented and shared with staff. As for new employees, it would be nice to assign a buddy or a mentor to each of them in order to help with the onboarding. 

Who are you? 

At this stage we focus on a single team player and the way they want to work. So, we consider everyone’s workflow style and differences, and build trust and respect for each other as personalities within a team. You can do this by encouraging your employees to share their knowledge and experience, as well as promoting the concept of peer mentoring if any of them wants to learn new skills. Establish a communication protocol to prevent conflicts and disrespectful attitudes.  

What are we doing?

Both a common goal, which shows a company’s direction, and day-to-day objectives, so-called milestones, are really important. In addition to that, a leader has to discuss every worker’s value for that specific goal and how exactly their work can help to attain it.

How will we do it? 

To get an answer to this question, we have to set specific roles for the employees. Team members need to understand each other’s responsibilities, goals they pursue, and how much control and influence they have.

Who does what, when, where?  

Every little thing about workflow should necessarily be discussed. Clear performance measurements, progress tracking, and the way teammates cooperate and communicate help your company get the best performance. When everything and everyone is in place, with a clear understanding of what and how to do it, the possibility of making a mistake is minimal. So take care of a well-defined work system. By the way, GitLab, in turn, operates as a non-matrix organization. That means every worker has only one manager they report to. Such simple structure of delegating processes helps their staff spend less time on organizational aspects, which is why they deliver better and faster results.


Yes, you did it. Your team hit the target. High-performance has been delivered right to your office’s door. What is next? Analysis. Ask your employees about the things they’ve learned, what they would do differently, and what other results they would like to achieve. Deep review makes a team never repeat mistakes, and as a result, your company reaches greater heights. 

Why continue? 

The last stage is giving an employee a reason to move on. Here, a leader has to hold a meeting where every team member shares ideas to improve the company’s performance. After you discuss them all, ask your employees if they need a change. Maybe there is a new skill they want to learn, or a position one of them would like to be promoted to. Write your staff thank-you notes in your group chat. 

These seven stages give you a non-stop cyclical model of how to make your team achieve more than expected. So, be clear, make a hit, repeat.

Act in Netflix’s best interest 

The heading above is the only guideline Netflix’s manual has. The culture of this company is based on three aspects: high-freedom, high-responsibility, less process. Netflix doesn’t want a person to ask five hundred times for permission to do something. They just want the one to act. But how do they manage to make people act? How didn’t they end up with chaos, having such level of freedom within a team? We can point out two main tricks. 

Corporate values 

Just like Facebook, Netflix doesn’t put much focus on applicants’ technical skills, but they have the list of required standards: 

  • Judgment, as an ability to analyze information, make decisions wisely, and have critical thinking.
  • Communication, when a person can  adapt to different communication styles, listen, speak, and give candid and helpful feedback.
  • Curiosity, which makes a person hungry for developing skills, learning new and seeking alternate perspectives.
  • Courage, to provide an employee with guts to take a risk and act(in Netflix’s best interest, of course).
  • Passion, to be over-productive and inspire others with your results.
  • Selflessness, so an employee thinks about the company first while making a decision.
  • Innovation, as an ability to change and to find new better solutions.
  • Inclusion, so everyone can feel safe and equal.
  • Integrity, in order to treat everyone with respect, and be open to constructive critics.
  • Impact, as being reliable, focusing on results over process and making your teammates better.

 So, Netflix finds people, who share all above-mentioned values, and make them perform best. Why? Because the set of required features they created for a perfect candidate make the person suitable for this system. And if the person fits the system, the person beats the system. 

Perks and all that jazz 

To inspire people for creativity and work while giving them complete freedom you have to create conditions, so that employees would really want to work. And Netflix’s done it. The company believes that if you treat your workers right, they won’t let you down. And if you show your trust to people, they will feel important, and as a result, won’t be afraid of responsibility, will take action and do their best. There are some of the benefits Netflix provides their employees with: 

  • The whole team has access to all documents and projects, so everyone can affect any process
  • There is no spending control, so a person has to “use good judgment” and act right 
  • Take a vacation anytime for as long as you need. It’s also okay to take a day off in the middle of the week, or have an evening off. It makes people rest, when they really need it, and come back to work with fresh minds and ideas. 
  • No policy for parental leave. 
  • Every year employees choose the way they want to get their compensation: in salary or stock.
  • People are free to leave anytime, any day or minute. They don’t have to tell in advance or stay for some time in order to get their money.  

And still people choose to stay. So, with the right approach, even a complete freedom and the absence of rules can help you build a high-performance team. For Netflix it was enough to have just one regulation, and eventually everyone there acts in the company’s best  interest. 

But how on Earth to get a high-performance team?

Industry giants we’ve talked about have a lot to learn from. But every business is unique and every one needs to come up with their personal approach. To help you find yours, we will add some other practices you can use to build your own high-performance team.

How does KPI help to set the goal and guarantee its achievement?  

One of the most effective ways to build a high-performance team is by setting KPIs.  KPI, which is a key performance indicator, reflects how well the company achieves its objectives. So, let’s say it’s a milestone your employees have to go through. KPIs help your employees to focus on the right things and systemize the workflow. You can write a KPI for your team in five simple steps

  • Set a strategic goal you want to achieve with a key performance indicator
  • Analyze your previous result to ensure that you set achievable objectives
  • Think about both short-term and long-term goals 
  • Discuss your objectives with a team, so everyone could provide some corrections to the information you have and be aware of your desired result and KPIs after. 
  • Regularly check your progress and the effectiveness of KPIs. It’s not something you can set and forget. 


  The main rule of this approach is to have your KPIs SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. So you have to ask yourself five(here we go again) questions: 

  • Is your goal specific and clear?
  • Is it possible to measure the progress of achieving your goal?
  • Can you actually attain it?
  • Is the goal relevant to your company? 
  • What time can you allow for reaching your target?

So, five answers, five steps and voila, you set the KPIs. 

What other methods of managing workflow are available?

The way you set for your company’s working process is totally up to you and your team. Some prefer the Waterfall model – a traditional form of management, which progresses linearly, with every stage starting after the previous one is done. Others may be more productive following an Agile methodology, which is focused more on developing the project in small chunks called “sprints”, and an ability to change and listen to end-users, rather than finishing the project within the deadline. Each of the models has its pros. So, we’ll take a closer look at them. 

Waterfall model advantages

This one has a strict order of project development stages that looks like this: requirements analysis, design, development, testing and maintenance. Such approach provides a few benefits:

  • The objective and requirements are well-defined and constant.
  • All needed information is documented and accessible throughout the project, so even a new employee can easily start working. 
  • With a detailed plan there are less unexpected challenges. 
  • There is no problem with measuring progress, since you have start and finish points.
  • A strict reporting model is good to provide a client with transparency and control.
  • Release data and all expenses are agreed before you start development. 

Agile model advantages 

If you’re not a big fan of having boundaries and appreciate freedom and flexibility in working process, Agile model is just what you’re looking for. It has following pros: 

  • Stakeholders are more satisfied with the result, since they’re engaged in all processes and can share their ideas and give feedback;
  • The quality of the solution is higher due to constant focus on its improvement; 
  • Flexibility allows your team to adapt to changes and effectively deal with customer’s feedback;
  • The progress tracking is easier, since Agile teams work with “sprints” – short iterations to develop and deploy a certain feature 
  • Constant developers’ engagement decrease the chance of failures 
  • Agile improves communication within a team due to day-to-day collaboration on a project 

Every model is good for a certain company and a certain goal. Some teams practice both of them depending on a project, so you can find your way to use the benefits of Agile and Waterfall models. 

How to lead a software development team? 

There are different leadership styles, and each of them may lead you to fruitful results. So, we’ll share with you the basics of most common leadership styles, so that you can understand which one will work best with you. 

Transactional leadership style 

The simplest way we can describe it is as a “give and take” style. What does it mean? Here leaders set a clear understanding of what employees should do to get a better outcome, and what consequences they may have, in case they fail. So, we manage people in a carrot-and-stick way. This one suits large companies with routine jobs and motivated personnel, who need just a little direction. 

Transformational leadership style

Leaders with this style claim that everything and everyone has to strive for improvement. And they’re ready to give any tool and provide their teams with any conditions, just to make them perform better. Such approach would work perfectly for companies that need some innovation and want to be at the technological frontier.

Servant leadership style 

Staff first, then all the rest. If you’re a servant-leader, you will care about your employees a lot. Asking them if everything is okay, if they don’t have any questions or problems, or if they need something else for their comfort is just how this style works. We’d recommend using a servant leadership style with diverse teams, when everyone requires a personalized approach. 

Democratic leadership style 

As you may have guessed, democratic means “everyone’s opinion is valuable”. So, the adopters of this style always encourage their people to give ideas and to collaborate on a decision. This approach works well with any team, except for the ones with strict rules. 

Autocratic leadership style 

In contrast to the previous one, an autocratic style describes a leader, who always has the final word. This boss won’t ask for a suggestion or a piece of advice, they will just decide. This leadership style is good, when a fast decision-making process is crucial for a company. 

Laissez-Faire leadership style 

Or a delegative one. Here employees get the goal and directions, and then freedom. No-one will check on them during their work, so they have to control their workflow by themselves. It’s a great way to “manage” a team of highly-skilled professionals. 

Bureaucratic leadership style

Bureaucratic leaders need everything to be done “by the book”. They are extremely organized, and prefer everything to have a strict system and to be documented. It’s a perfect choice for big companies with large teams. 

Coaching leadership style 

These leaders teach and support their teams every step they take. This style takes a lot of time for a leader, but it also promotes a healthy work environment. Such way is nice for employees who need and want to be trained.

Leadership style is not what you are born with, it’s what you choose. And when you choose the most effective one according to your team needs, it will help you lead your company to success.

How to deal with team communication?

As we’ve already said, open communication helps your team members understand each other better, and then better collaborate. Leaders all around the world try to find the best ways to “glue” their team and make employees interact with each other a little more than just colleagues. So, we’ll share with you a few tips, which might lead you to your communication strategy.

  • Show interest in your workers’ lives: ask them about their weekends, how the cooking classes are going on, or how the movie was at the cinema yesterday.
  • Learn how each member prefers to communicate.
  • Adapt an open-door policy to your overall culture: stay open for a conversation, but still draw up the rules. 
  • Always ask your employees for feedback and make them feel valuable. 
  • Respect their differences and prevent any sort of discrimination
  • Celebrate team achievements, employees’ birthdays and important holidays for your staff
  • Choose the correct toolkit: there are a lot of platforms to keep in touch and collaborate within a team, like Slack, Basecamp, ClickUp and so on, so you have to choose the most convenient ones for your workers. 
  • Organize regular outdoor activities: not only it’s fun, but also improves staff communication. 
  • Hold frequent video meetings with remote workers

Try all of these tips and don’t stop here. Study your team and see, which methods work best, and which ones you can add to this list more.

How to organize a software development team? 

The list is not short, but it’s better to learn all(or at least some) possible ways to structure your software development team, since every process and every team has different requirements, opportunities and the best way to be structured. So, let’s go. 

Hierarchical structure

The basic one, which is represented as a pyramid with workers arranged in order from the highest to the lowest position. The structure provides well-defined boundaries between employees from different levels. It’s the best option for businesses that need to have a clear career growth form, and a straightforward reporting system. 

Functional structure

Here teams are organized based on employees’ abilities and expertise. This method helps the groups with self-identification (“we’re a sales team”, “we’re a marketing team” and such) and improvement within their departments. 

Matrix structure 

Matrix teams combine different divisional approaches, and the main feature  they have is that members get a few responsible managers they must report to. It’s intended to find an adjustment between authority and the decision-making process. 

Process-based structure

Instead of departments, a process-based organization highlights various internal processes, which help in achieving the company’s goals(Sprint Planning, Control & Management, Analysis & Implementation and so on).  It’s structured by hierarchy, much as other organizations, and leaders are assigned to those processes. Most companies that prioritize procedures above individual projects favor this sort of team structure. It improves productivity and company growth. 

Flat structure

A flat structure has only a few layers of management. The main benefit of this structure is that every employee can talk directly to the executives. This also helps with decision-making processes, since there are fewer levels to report to, so there’s a fair share of responsibility between all workers. 

Cross-functional structure 

A cross-functional software development team consists of employees from different departments, who are grouped to work on one project. Having a bunch of creative minds on board from different fields helps to achieve the common goal faster, and get greater results.

So, any structure can make your team perform high: all you need is to define, which one fits you the most. 

Building high-performing teams hassle-free  

It’s been quite a journey. We’ve discussed the definition of a high performance team and all the needed characteristics to build a high-performance software development team, benefits of a high performing team, and what practices can be used in general. And actually, what we’ve really got is an unlimited list of ways, so try not to lose your focus. The more opportunities we receive for building high performance team model, the harder is the choice, so the question is: is there another, less stressful way to build a high-performance team. 

We say YES! You can get such a team by delegating the work to professionals. It will cut your costs and the time you spend on hiring the right talent, and prevent any possible failures. 

Bridge offers you to find and recruit the best engineers for your project needs, as well as set up a remote working space for them. You can use our platform to create your job openings and manage the talent pipeline. 

So, now you’re just a step away from your dream team. Want to learn more? Contact us and will get back to you as soon as possible.

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