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Managing Stressful Situations and Consequential Randomization Caused by External Teams

Anand Mariappan

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Problem

"If there is no planning, anyone from an outside team can come request anything of you at any given time. You can become randomized very quickly with this type of team set up. The long term result in this scenario for engineers is a detrimental decrease in their motivation."

Actions taken

The following set of principles are important to start relaying to your team so that everyone on the team can plan ahead and make similar decisions to those which you would make.

  • Manage and help people align in their career. Make sure the folks on your team understand that they are not random resources, but people with passions, and how that is going to be fulfilled by working on your team while still in alignment with company goals.

  • Get in on all the across team planning so you can plan ahead. Establish relationships with your existing product and let them know what your team can achieve in terms of velocity and the type of work that can be done in a reasonable time frame. I would also suggest asking for an early heads up on changes they are making or future requests they will be coming to you with. Likewise, together you can come up with an elected timeline for these projects.

  • Clearly define what your tradeoff is in terms of why you are dropping things and picking up others. Identify if anyone is making an addition, then, understand how they would make it and what their guiding principles are. You need to make a trade off every single day based on the metrics that your company is going after. You should be able to evaluate this in a quantifiable, objective way and not a subjective way.

  • Allocate dedicated time or a percentage of your workforce to specific needs by defining elected resources on an engineer basis. The way we do it at Reddit is with our group of 200 engineers it is divided into 80% in support, 90% in core product, 20% working as administrators, and 10% dealing with our moonshot or crazy ideas.

Lessons learned

  • As a manager, you need to provide your team with the least amount of randomization. It is not about what is easy to get done today, but what is the right calling for the team to be working on and build up that type of mentality for the team.

  • Having a concept of how fast your team can deliver is very important. Make sure your partner team understands the output your team can provide and the favorable end result can be that they will tell you about requests and deadlines in advance.

  • The goal for you as a manager is not to slow down, but become more predictable. By asking to be made aware of changes that the other teams are working on you can start predicting things and planning your workload to account for things earlier than a day to day basis. You will still have day to day execution, but it can be a bit more planned out, allowing you to update your team as they come to you with questions.

  • "The way I think about a manager role in a company is to align your people's passions, interests, and career goals towards the company goals so that it is a win-win for everyone. The company feels like they are winning because the team is delivering a lot of value and the team feels like they are learning something and heading in the right direction."


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Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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