How to Harness the Power of 10x Developers for 100x Productivity

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
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Experienced business leaders know there are lots of ways to measure productivity. A call center, for example, can be measured in relatively straightforward metrics like the number of calls taken and the time it takes to resolve each customer issue.

You expect to get a certain level of consistent production from your call center, whether it’s located in Bangalore or Dallas. After all, even your best reps have a limit to how fast they can get through a call. It’s hard to imagine one rep answering calls and resolving issues twice as fast as another.

Software development is different. Productivity in software development isn’t a simple measurement of lines of code written or tasks completed. The best developers often write the least amount of code. That’s because each line of code that’s not written won’t contain any bugs, and bad code can have exponential consequences for your product.

On one end of the spectrum, you have the net-negative developer who quickly spits out lots of defective code, setting landmines that may not go off for months or years into the future. They could be making poor architectural decisions that will limit how you can expand your product as you grow. If they make enough mistakes, they could even cause your entire environment to collapse.

On the other end of the spectrum is what some believe is the mythical 10x developer. This is the programmer who thoroughly understands your business and user goals and knows how to achieve both. They choose the right tools and architecture for the situation and proactively solve problems as they arise, sometimes without even going back to design.

We don’t believe the 10x developer is a myth because we have a team full of them, and we’ve worked closely with some of them on our clients’ teams. We’ve seen firsthand how they can transform a faulty product into a well-oiled machine. We know the immediate impact they can have on an entire product team’s productivity.

But you can’t just go out and find a handful of 10x developers overnight, and even the best of them can’t single-handedly compensate for a net-negative developer sucking the life out of your product.

Here are a few things we’ve learned about the art of harnessing the power of 10x developers, building 10x teams, and achieving 100x productivity.

10x Teams Need Strong Management

Many businesses fall into the trap of believing they can trust their code to offshore developers and save money in the process. After all, the thinking goes, why pay developers three times the amount to write the same lines of code?

One of the best ways to grow a 10x team is to closely control and monitor the development process. Negative-producing developers are often not intentionally spitting out bad code. They’re usually just lacking the resources and guidance they need to be better programmers.

When you ship your code overseas you lose control over the development of your programmers as well as the development of your product. Time zone challenges, language barriers, differences in quality standards, and a lack of innovation and creativity can limit what you get from your development team.

It is possible to grow new 10x developers in supportive environments where they have what they need to test themselves and improve over time. It’s much easier to root out bad habits and correct mistakes when you have clear oversight and control of what is being produced. Plus, your existing 10x developers will be that much more effective when they don’t have to spend time dealing with mistakes and errors written by others.

10x Teams Are Full of Product Developers

What makes 10x developers more effective and productive than average developers is they make great decisions. They know how to take the right trade-offs for each situation because they have a sense of the big picture, from the size and abilities of the organization to the market and user base. They spend more time and effort solving real user problems and are less distracted by frills that won’t move the needle.

We like to call them Product Developers. They’re full-stack developers with a strong UX design sense. This allows them to handle unexpected requirements without going back to design. They know the real metrics that matter, the ultimate goals of the product, and how to achieve them. They know how to develop the product, not just the code.

The way 10x teams create 100x productivity is not by writing 10x as much code. It’s by thinking and acting like Product Managers to produce solutions with one-tenth of the effort. Whether each individual on the team is a 1x, 2x, or 5x developer, they’re able to solve core problems effectively and efficiently with new approaches as needed. Combined, they become a 10x team that can get you 90 percent of the way to a solution with about 10 percent of the effort.

10x Teams are Diverse

For every hundred developers, you might find one 10x developer. But within every 10x team, you’ll find a group of developers with a diverse range of skills, experiences, and backgrounds.

It’s hard to gauge somebody’s skill level before they’re on your team. There’s no precise measurement of their abilities based on past projects or work. But you can evaluate their experiences and how their background fits with your existing team.

A young developer might have specific skills in a specialty area that’s foreign to your more experienced developer. The goal is not to always aim for 10x developers, but to remove (or help improve) negative productivity developers and invest in people who show the greatest potential.

What separates a 10x developer from the rest is often experience and intuition. Where better to get both of those than by working on tough problems with diverse teams? Investing in your own team and growing them into 10x developers will create greater ROI for your product and your business.

Our 10x Developers Will Help Sow the Seeds for Your 10x Team

It’s not really possible to build or hire a 10x development team overnight. Developers come with all different backgrounds and experiences and their skills need to be blended together strategically to get the most out of the team as a whole. That takes time.

But our Drawbackwards team of 10x developers can help get you off the ground. We can accelerate your growth through mentorship and by helping your team learn how to find the shortest and easiest solution to your core problems. We know the best tools and architecture out there and which ones work best for specific problems.

If you’re seeing symptoms of your product not meeting expectations, or you know you need improvement but you don’t know where to start, our 10x developers will help you identify the gaps you’re not seeing in your code. We’ll dig in and help you understand the situation and advise you on the best way to fix it. We’ve seen a lot of product problems and scenarios and we can be your guide as you venture on the path to building a 10x team and achieving 100x productivity.

Get in touch and let’s talk about how we can reduce your development efforts and multiply your results.