Saving a Team from Certain Burnout

Svetlana Polonsky

Head of Quality Engineering at Quicken



"One of the problems that I noticed when I started in my current role is that one of my teams was working 10-12 hour days, and usually six days a week. As a person with a family, I value a good work-life balance and found that you must apply these same principles to your team members. I want them to enjoy coming to the office and not be overworked. Therefore, I knew I had to find the root cause of this problem to ensure that the team didn't burn out."

Actions taken

"The first issue that I found was that deliverables to the team were delayed. Not only were they delayed but the team accepted this fact as a given. For example, during a sprint the product team would deliver something on a Wednesday instead of the expected Monday, delaying the work for the team by two days and thus forcing the team to work through the weekend to catch up. Consequently, I made sure that the development teams followed strict guidelines and the necessary scrum process so as to deliver on time."

"Another thing that I discovered was that the team was working on very small details even though it was expected that those details would change. Thus, I changed their approach to concentrate on high-level end-user scenarios rather than small details and rare cases. Product, developers, and QA would get together and go through all the user scenarios and establish which were of the highest priority. The result was a product that was satisfying for 95% of the customers rather than delivering on a product that only worked in one particular area. Additionally, we now have more time to test two or three layers, whereas before the team was merely trying to keep up."

Lessons learned

  • "Initially, both of the changes that I made resulted in friction with product management. However, they very soon witnessed increased productivity and turned their opinions around once they saw the results."
  • "By adjusting a few key aspects I was able to shift the amount of work the team had and subsequently modify the time spent at the office. The attitude of the team changed and people actually now want to come into work. They feel like they are not being pushed too hard and they are willing to apply more to time to deliver something of high quality."

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Svetlana Polonsky

Head of Quality Engineering at Quicken

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementSprint CadencePerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthAgile, Scrum & KanbanTeam & Project Management

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