A Semester in Review Part Two: A Lesson in Leadership

Imagine this: You’re starting a new project and everyone on your team is ecstatic, the air is electric and full of energy, and everyone is willing and ready to work on creating the best game you can put together. In order to organize everything, you utilize all the tools you can reasonably use. You set up a Trello board, a repository for all your code and assets, meeting schedules, group contracts, a Slack or Discord channel, with all of this setup, you are positive that everything will go smoothly.

I’m sure that at some point in time – whether working on a game or a personal project – you’ve felt these feelings before, I know I did when working on my final project for my first semester at school.

As someone who sees themselves as a Programmer and Production Manager, I was quick to set up these tools to make group collaboration seamless and methodical and communication easy and convenient. At first, it worked well, everyone was using the tools we had set up to communicate with each other, manage their own work and pick up any tasks that needed to be done with little to no interference.

Let me preface this by saying that I see myself as a leader, I’ve lead and founded clubs and groups, I was in student government during high school and I’ve been to various leadership workshops.

I have NOT, however, lead a group of game developers before. And looking back on the semester – this is a post-mortem after all – my biggest mistake as “Project / Production Manager” was underutilizing or completely forgetting about the tools that we had set up. This lead to a breakdown in group communication, a lack of organization and a halt in workflow, in other words, it did the complete opposite of what I was trying to achieve by setting them up in the first place.

For the first few days I was on top of these tools, however, while I had a plan or idea of how to use each of them individually, I did not properly plan out how to use all of them together and in collaboration with our overall project. Due to the fact that I didn’t properly plan out their prolonged usage, and as “group leader”, the use of these tools died within the group when I stopped using them myself. Once I stopped pushing the importance of tools such as Trello, things like a frequent review of the Trello board stop happening, and then we just forget about it entirely.

It seems like remembering to use what you’ve spent time setting up would be easy, you went through the hassle of getting everyone signed up and teaching them how to use everything, so how is it that you STOP using them halfway through the project? In my case, it was as simple as getting too caught up in individual issues, and not integrating their use properly throughout development. I didn’t tell my team WHY we were using them, I certainly didn’t introduce any procedures or rules on how they were to be used, and I didn’t bring things like the Trello board up often enough in our initial meetings.

So how do I plan on improving my ability to manage my own little dev team next semester? I’ll be reminding myself to check the Trello board, to talk about our code repositories and review how we communicate online frequently.

In my opinion, the biggest improvement I can make as a project manager moving into next semester is by creating a schedule for our weekly meetings, wherein we, as a group, check our Trello board, update the team on the state of the repository and utilize the tools that we have in place as effectively as possible.

Having these tools is great, but whether or not you remember to use them is what will ultimately make or break your team.

Happy Developing,

Josh