Does One Have to Standardize Management Standards?
Co-founder and CTO at Chartboost
Everyone that I have in my company is functionally oriented. We are structured so that individuals are grouped together on the same team based on similar functions. Consequently, the managers on each of those teams are unique because they are managing skill sets that are different from other groups. For example, the manager of my ad server team has engineers who tend to be quite senior and who deal with writing complex code. This is a very different managerial job then say from a manager who is in charge of a data team and thereby oversees data operational engineers. The question then arises whether to set management standards across the board for all of the distinctive managers, or to have individual managerial standards for each one.
The proper answer is it depends. I have found that with there have been both good and bad cases for each. If you feel like you don't need to worry about every engineering manager because they are running their team properly, they know how to mentor and manage, and they are doing an overall good job, then individualize the standards. However, I have found that for managers with less experience, who are placed in unfamiliar circumstances and tend to be in over their heads, then I think those are the times that having standards across different teams is helpful.
I, in fact, use a more of a hybrid solution. Each of my managers has a bit of independence how they structure and run their team and sprint planning, although there is a level of standardized practices that we have across all the teams. There are two reasons for implementing these standards:
- First, many of our projects and tasks need to be done by multiple teams. Standardization cleans up the process and helps us to be more efficient because we are all working together. If there were no semblance of standardization in place then the flow would become messy and it would be hard to coordinate. We would have to put a lot of emphasis on project management which is something we refrain from doing.
- The second reason we have developed standards for managers is because it oftentimes makes the team better. For example, if you have one manager who is a sprint planning guru, he can mentor the other managers and help them improve their own sprints. It is a great way to open the communication channel amongst all the managers and what is expected of them so that they can learn from each other.
- Whether you are standardizing or not, or using a combination of both, foster knowledge among the managers. Encourage them to share and learn from each other.
- Set a weekly engineering manager meeting. Create an environment where your managers can be open, honest, and transparent. Hold a space for everyone to talk about what's going well and what needs improving. Gather together each week to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- In companies everything is top down. It is important for you to set the stage and lead by example. The CTO sets a platform for the managers who then set the standard for their teams. If something is important and you take it seriously, others will follow. This also works conversely, if you set a bad example for something that is important you will see the negative effect. So be aware of the stage you are setting.
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