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Developing a Strategic Plan

Joao Esteves

Director of Platform Engineering at Workhuman

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Problem

I am a huge fan of making sure that teams are aligned in the way that they work, of what they want to accomplish, and how they will get there. When you get to the director level, you have to ensure that there is alignment of teams’ work and strategic goals . The concept of vision, mission and purpose, is there to define everything in an intentional way. In my previous role, I designed something that helped the teams achieve that alignment. The problem that I was trying to solve was the teams not having enough autonomy to make effective decisions. It resulted from how they did not know where they were heading.

This is often seen as teams asking or waiting for a decision to be made. In fact, in many cases, they were not even sure if the current direction of the team was still the same as a month ago, or what they were supposed to do. It was a very symptomatic way for organizations to drip feed on their next move.

Actions taken

Every team engaged in a workshop where engineers, product owners, managers, and anyone that is working in a team environment, collectively defined their values, purpose, mission statement and the Vision goals. They finished by building a Charter Canvas that clearly articulated what each team was about. This was prominently displayed in their office areas.

In a second workshop, the teams expanded on the work done previously. Now that they knew why they existed as a team, and what they needed to accomplish, it was time to get creative and devise the strategies of how to get there. And this is imensely valuable - they knew what success looked like, so it was up to them to figure out how to get there. As a director that gives me trust that we are aligned and I trust the teams to find the best path possible. As for the teams, they are empowered with how to get things done, there are no prescriptions of solutions, and there is no micromanaging of goals.

Lessons learned

  • You need to have your vision and mission well ingrained in the team and make it crystal clear for everyone in the organization. A team that is aligned in the way that they work, of what they want to accomplish, and how they will get there, works faster, better is more likely to remain in the company for longer.
  • Don’t assume that teams know their purpose - in most cases engineers did not know how to articulate the purpose of their team, and how it impacted customers.
  • Technical debt comes as a part of unclear mission and vision. You may start building something thinking that you did the right thing, but in reality, it was not, which would lead you to a patch of technical components. As opposed to when you start building something from scratch, you do have an idea where it would lead you. It will be hard to get buy-in from teams to stop working on code, and work on abstract concepts for a day. Make sure you clarify “what’s in it for them”.
  • Post workshops, teams expressed that it was valuable time spent and they found themselves reassured by the output of the exercise. They felt valued and empowered.

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Joao Esteves

Director of Platform Engineering at Workhuman


Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementLeadership TrainingCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionTeam & Project Management

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