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Reduce Cluttered Processes and Empower Team To Increase Effectiveness

Phil Sarin

CTO at Managed by Q

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Problem

"In 2015, when I first started working at Managed by Q, I was told by the Executive team that the engineering team had potential, but wasn't delivering. I discovered was that the team was massively unfocused, as they had very little goal clarity. The team was used to being told what to do and scared of pushing back, making decisions, and trying things that might not work. They'd adopted heavy estimation processes and lengthy sprint planning meetings to make their delivery more predictable, but they weren't making it faster owing to low goal clarity, indecision, and fear."

Actions taken

"I very quickly went to talk to the Executive team, and I pointed out that our eight person engineering team only had the capacity to work on two priorities. At the time, seven projects were in flight. I said that I was too new to the company to really understand what we could do, so I needed the Executive team's advice on what the two most important projects were. With help, we identified the important projects, and then spent time wrapping up the other ones, one-by-one. This helped, as it allowed us to then really focus on the two most important projects."

"One of the projects they were working on was a dispatching system. However, the team was putting too much process and measurement in place, which was more designed for management than for the team's benefit. We stopped estimating, stopped sprint planning meetings and sprints, and stopped exhaustively documenting our stories. I then narrowed down the scope of the project, before asking the team to ship a version of the dispatching system shipped as soon as possible to see whether it would work or not."

"I got a lot of internal pushback, with people questioning what and when we were going to deliver. My honest answer was 'I don't know'. But I also told them that I thought it was the most important project to work on and that we needed to get to the point where we were regularly shipping and regularly delivering value."

Lessons learned

"This ended up being a very successful project, and it really built confidence for the team. We started to recognize that we could build stuff, and that we shouldn't be afraid to try things, to learn and to iterate. It also built credibility between me and the team, and we were able to bond more due to the success."

"Through this experience, I learned that it was important to know how to get out of the way. The team needed space to be able to win, and by clearing the way for them they were able to successfully complete projects more easily."


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Phil Sarin

CTO at Managed by Q


Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementSprint CadencePerformance Metrics

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