It Takes Focus to Make a Turnaround
VP Engineering at Next Insurance
"I joined a new company, and they told me in advance that I was going to be doing a turnaround. The unit that I would be managing was not running well."
Key Quote: "There were maybe three or four product managers, and all of them wanted to do a lot of stuff."
Very quickly I realized that there were a couple of issues. The first: no focus. There were maybe three or four product managers, and all of them wanted to do a lot of stuff. They had the engineers working on a lot of things, but none of them were really connecting together. After 9 months of hard work with no release, not even a demo, there was a lost sense of faith in the team’s ability to deliver.
My proposal: instead of releasing five items at once, let’s do two, making sure that both ship. Let’s focus everybody on these couple of tasks and put a few of the other team efforts on hold for the time being. Then, everybody will be focused on the same area. The team will gain confidence and build a sense of trust with one another through the shared projects.
Three weeks after I had joined, we had released our first project. We continued in this way, releasing something new every three weeks. The team started to feel empowered and the leadership below me realized that it was within their power to focus their energy and to not overwhelm themselves with too many smaller things. Conversation between product and our engineers began to flourish.
Even at this ramped-up pace, I still felt as though the cycle was too slow. In some areas, I felt that we could release multiple times a day. I am always pushing for that next level. There is always more that can be done.
- Asking ourselves what could really be done in a feasible amount of time helped us to phase out tasks that were not as urgent. This gave us more time to devote to what really needed to be done.
- You need to be able to execute with the right amount of vigor and discipline.
- Start small, build that confidence within the team, make sure everybody is aligned, and set an achievable goal together. From there, you can continue to accelerate.
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