How to Train Non-Developers to Think Like Developers

Software developers tend to be very productive employees. Can you teach your non-programming staff to work in the same way?
February 22, 2022
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Have you ever watched your software developers work? They’re amazingly focused and capable of getting more work done than a large portion of your staff. Why is that? Are they just born that way? Some of them, yes. For the most part, however, that type of productivity is more a part of the job than it is DNA.

One thing to consider is that programming is a very challenging job. Those you employ to do so understand the weight of the position. Your business, after all, often rests on their shoulders. If they cannot produce high-quality applications or fix the problems in the software running your various pipelines and workflows, your bottom line is immediately affected. 

Non-programming staff isn’t quite trained to constantly be meeting those levels of demand and pressure. And you shouldn’t think of this as a call to pit them against crushing deadlines and inhuman tasks. 

But there are ways you can help your staff to start thinking like programmers. When done right, you can not only enjoy a more productive workforce, those employees will be able to work more efficiently and effectively, without having to drive them away.

How is that possible? Let’s dive in and find out.

Employ Kanban

One of the most beneficial things you can do (which will bear the most fruit almost the fastest) is to make use of Kanban boards for all of your staff. Kanban should not only be considered a tool for developers but a tool for any department that could use some help organizing a wealth of tasks. Kanban makes the organization and execution of those tasks much easier to manage. 

And thanks to some well-designed software, you can make Kanban work for just about any department. Best of all, Kanban Boards can be very cheap (if not free) to use and are easy to get up to speed with.

Train To Detect Patterns

Patterns exist in everything. You’ll find patterns in nature, behavior, and even workflow. One thing nearly every software engineer knows is to always be on the lookout for patterns. Why? Because they tell a very important story. 

An employee might exhibit a specific pattern, one that is either beneficial or not. The ability to not only recognize those patterns but to detect if they’re helpful or hurtful to productivity can make a big difference in how efficient your employees can be. It’s important that you not only instill this behavior in your staff but help them to recognize the patterns in their own work, so they don’t feel as though they’re being micromanaged from every angle.

Think, Think, Think

Programmers never stop thinking. They don’t get complacent with their thought process, which means they’re always capable of working at a high level. Other employees might not work with this same level of always being “on” intellectually, which means they tend to “cruise” through the day with their thoughts drifting off of the task at hand.

You should help your staff to understand that, while they’re “on task” they should be mentally engaged with the process. Does that mean those staff members must be constantly in intellectual high gear from 9-5? No. But it does mean they should be able to remain focused on the task at hand while working on it.

Make it Work, Make it Right, Make it Fast

Software engineer Kent Beck once said, “Make it work, make it right, make it fast.” That quote is held in high regard with the development community because it makes for a very logical progression of work.

That quote can apply to just about anything. How? The goal with “Make it work, make it right, and make it fast” is simple: understand the problem and find the solutions. So instead of adding extraneous issues to a task, your employees should turn their focus on those two things: the problem and the solution. Once they can retrain their thought process to function with such laser-like and simplistic focus, they’ll be able to overcome so much more.

Never Hesitate to Ask For Help

You might think that programmers confine themselves in silos crafted of their own ego. That is not the truth. Software developers never hesitate to reach out for help and your non-programming staff should learn to do the same.

Sometimes, an issue will arise and the solution dumbfounds whoever is working to solve the problem. Instead of beating their heads against the wall, the default behavior should be to reach out. That level of collaboration will make for much easier and more efficient work. 

The problem with this will be overcoming the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not. Rather, it’s a sign of efficient working. You want your staff working smarter, not more.

Remember, Garbage In/Garbage Out

Finally, there’s an adage with computer science that goes “Garbage in, garbage out.” What that means is simple: If you input flawed data, the output you receive will also be flawed. Another way of looking at this is the old carpenter saying, “Measure twice, cut once.”

Your non-programming staff needs to understand this concept. If employees take the time to ensure what they’re inputting is correct, the outcomes should be predictable. If, on the other hand, they don’t take the time to verify the data they input into a system, it will lead to incorrect conclusions that could point to either human or software errors. Train your staff to always err on the side of correct input to avoid such a problematic feedback loop.

Conclusion

So you see, it’s not all that hard to train your non-programming employees to think like programmers. Once you’ve accomplished this, you should see productivity increase, mistakes decrease, and the overall morale of your staff dramatically improve. Again, you want your staff to work smarter, not more. Help them to understand that as you implement these changes.

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