Clearing the way
Bottlenecks? We do not have any of those. I personally approve every feature, change and deployment for my engineering teams. This way, I can make sure everyone is doing exactly what I have trained them to do. Sound familiar? Hopefully, it does NOT! It may or may not be obvious that this is a poor way to run and grow an engineering team, or any team for that matter. This is also a fast and inevitable way to lose great talent and keep low performers that are not being pushed to their full potential. Robbing them of the opportunity to learn, self-manage and become resilient. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small or large team, the importance is providing the process and technologies that enable scalability and real open thinking that will build a true center of excellence.
Trust and confidence
If you have trained them properly and given them the opportunity to grow and experiment, there should not be a reason to limit and confine the team. How is trust and confidence earned? It’s not by telling your team exactly what to do. Yes, you may have substantial years and experience, but your teams are not programable robots. One way of thinking may not always lead to the best results or solutions and will not be scalable. The ideal way to gain trust and confidence of your team is to allow them to be creative and experiment. Many of our solutions to problems have come from open dialog which encouraged different thought processes. Allowing a Jr Developer’s input to be as relevant as a Sr Engineer’s, triggers new ideas. These new ideas lead us to the many ‘ah-ha’ moments we strive for when solving simple and complex problems. With simple guidelines like making sure everyone gets an opportunity to speak with out interruptions, solving for specific problems, documenting thoughts and ideas for issues that are outside the problem statement for later review; keeps the team on track and the session moving and productive.
Learn by failing
Hopefully we are all aware of the new norm which is the philosophy where failing is encouraged and expected. Learning from your mistakes is the single most effective exercise in self-awareness and self-improving realization you can have. I must admit, in my long professional career, this was not something that was encouraged early on. Failing was “failing”. Failing a was sign of being inept and unable to complete your job. Projects did not have space for failure at any level. It is more than likely that what was delivered was based on the same old process that was in place long before you arrived, with very little or no expectations for innovation. No leadership in trying new ways to improve or completely change processes. That was Then! Now, no matter how lean the team and how tight the deadlines are, we are constantly questioning our methods, technology, patterns and architecture. As a leader the team can always depend on my guidance to provide a working way of solving a problem. This is always simply a ‘Guide’, based on my many years of experience in technology and problem solving. This is, by no means always results in what we all agree on implementing. By allowing my team to continually learn by failing and experimenting not only challenges me and my understandings, but challenges everyone on the team to always try and find a better solution.
Self-management and productivity
I remember the point in my career when I was required to manage more than just the engineering team. I knew that I had to adjust my methods a bit with each team. Let’s face it, in managing multiple types of teams there is no cookie cutter solution. I realized quickly that success would not come solely by my hands but by the hands of the many in my team. By this, I mean to fully and truly allow the teams to self-manage. Because teams are trained to self-manage they fully understand and accept accountability and responsibility. The outcome and expectations are clearly defined by the team as a group. Planning sessions are no longer being dictated by one. Work is broken down and defined by the team, all estimations are proposed and excepted as a group. Giving the team the freedom to self-manage has led to substantial productivity growth. The productivity growth mainly comes from the team’s awareness that they now control the distribution of work and process improvement. I am always pleasantly surprised by what my teams can deliver without the burden of being micromanaged.
Hope you enjoyed and can take away some learnings that I have had over my long career in leading teams. Many, if not all my success has been through trial and error. Tackling big problems is the gift that keeps leaders constantly learning and improving how we mentor and build our teams into stronger, resilient, and cohesive groups. Thank you and until next time…
Tommy is the Chief Technology Officer at Suuchi Inc. He is a highly collaborative technology professional with more than fifteen years’ experience creating strategic alliances with organization leaders to align technology infrastructure with company goals.