Managing a team of engineers who are not technically aligned

Michael Marano

Technical Director, Office of the CTO at Google



"When I started at Kabam as an engineering manager, I inherited a team which were not reliably shipping quality software. I collaborated with another engineering manager and his team to ship features for the same project. While the engineering manager and I fully believed in the benefits of test-driven development, my team was very reluctant about this approach. Because of these discrepancies, the development process was an operational nightmare."

Actions taken

"We decided to pause product development and rebuild the application using Business Driven Development. We changed the technology stack from PHP to Ruby on Rails and changed the process we used to release software. In a way, we imposed this decision on my team, which is not usually my preferred management style."

"The difficult part of this transition was getting my engineers to contribute in a constructive manner to this method, even though they didn't believe in it. We used a prototype, developed by one of the other manager's engineers, to prove to the rest of the team that it was more efficient to use the test-driven method." "Making this significant change caused us to ship very few new features for 3 months, but allowed us to ship our software much more reliably and faster after the change. We no longer had weekly releases rolled back frequently, but moved to a process of shipping when features were ready, often multiple times per week."

Lessons learned

"Working with people who are not aligned technically is very uncomfortable, and as a manager, you sometimes have to make hard decisions to make your project move forwards. Sometimes it is better to be criticized but to lead your team to success than to be loved but to lead your team nowhere." "In these types of cases, I would suggest spending time with reluctant team members, to explain the reasons for your decisions as transparently as possible. If they are still not convinced, you should pay attention and try to prevent them from becoming a toxic influence on other team members."

Be notified about next articles from Michael Marano

Michael Marano

Technical Director, Office of the CTO at Google

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementTechnical SkillsSoftware DevelopmentCareer GrowthLeadership RolesTeam & Project Management

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up