Changing the culture of lax deadlines in my new team

Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared



"I was asked to take over a team in which nobody cared about the deadlines. The team was constituted of very good engineers who kept refining the solution without thinking on the final users, instead of pushing it to production. The product manager was so upset that she was about to quit. I was asked to make this team have more sense of purpose and of urgency."

Actions taken

"Even before I took over the team, I organized some one-on-ones to make my relationship with engineers more informal, and to make sure that they would feel at ease talking to me. When I came, I had lunches with each engineers to see where problems were. I tried to be very humble with them, and also very transparent in my expectations 'My job is to help you, to make sure that you are successful. If you don't succeed, I don't succeed.' By showing them that we were on the same boat, it was easier for me to talk about the deadlines problem. I explained that we had to keep shipping new features to keep understanding the end user's problem, and that not respecting deadlines was making us lose users. I also promised them some infrastructure releases on which they would have more time to work on and less deadlines."

Lessons learned

"I think that the best way to make the team improve a sort of culture that is established is to know it well, to get to know each member personally, and to say that you are here to help and not to judge. I also think that making some tradeoffs helped because it reassured them on the fact that they would still be able to work in depth on projects."

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Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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