The Growth Mindset in Modern Product Engineering

Vikash Chhaganlal

Head of Engineering at Xero


Influence The Outcome

The demand placed on people today has immensely increased, with a focus of delivering value faster, more frequently and better quality to customers that want action from their provider. People and the organisations they work in need to be agile, and the agility required to pivot and change direction quickly can often create tension when “this is being done to you and not with you” and far too often this results in a drama triangle.

It takes a lot of courage to step outside of the “bubble” for a moment and look at the optics objectively around us, while the world moves on at a rapid pace. Some of the questions faced in these situations are:

  • Do I have a say or do I not have a say?

  • Is it okay to speak up or shall I stay silent?

  • Are we looking at evidence through a collection of data / information or opinions through other experiences?

Not everything is in our control, and let’s be fair, it doesn’t need to be! The components that are in our control, call for a higher degree of personal ownership.

“Ownership” means taking accountability for the quality and success of the outcome of your work end-to-end. Successful work environments pride themselves in building a culture of accountability, where you are empowered to make decisions and are encouraged to take ownership. This takes an emotional and mental commitment—it takes engagement and time. Thinking like an owner with an ownership mentality comes from within a culture that promotes trust, communication, objectivity, and gives everyone a stake in the outcome.

TRUST = Winning Hearts and Minds with Information in Hand (owning the narrative with the data available)

Trust is the secret ingredient in a recipe for healthy relationships (internally and externally facing). Humans have a natural tendency to cultivate engagement if, they believe they can trust the leadership of the organisation they work for and, they understand how their contributions (regardless of size) can impact and contribute to the success of the company. An environment of trust has no surprises, no blame culture, and is supportive when things go wrong – we are in this together! Growing trust is a journey, built on fact based conversations with transparent data and not someone’s opinion driven by fast decisions – also known as the HiPPO Effect!

Communication is vital and so is understanding your audience and the method to use for communication. Most organisations drown themselves with emails and heaps of meetings to reach an agreement but not an outcome. When thinking like an owner everyone is more likely on the same page, more engaged and focused on the same goal. The conversations that drive direction and outcomes are a result of measurable key results.

What We See - Compounding Problems:

  1. Heighten demand on cost contentment (focusing on cost out as a lever), instead of creating value.

  2. Complex work is batched in project-mode-of-operation with no effective prioritisation method.

  3. Slow at responding and taking action to valuable feedback.

  4. Wasting creative power and capability of highly skilled people.

What We Want - Principles That Matter:

  1. Collaborate to set measurable outcomes at the highest level.
  2. Teams work to design and test hypotheses.
  3. Create fast feedback loops (evidence based and data led).
  4. Work in small batches (break down problem to its smallest form).
  5. Create culture of experimentation (continuous improvement and learning).

Question > Communicate > Growth Mindset > Take Ownership!

“Ownership” matters because of it ensures the lateral growth and development. You not only have to think for yourself but also for the team, stakeholders, organisation, and its customers. Ownership and accountability makes you “match ready” as a proactive leader who can propel and drive decisions.

You are empowered, trusted and encouraged to question, no matter how significant or insignificant to understand the “end-to-end outcome”

Learn to communicate effectively and encourage everyone to do so. Change the narrative based on your audience. In case you are talking to your peers, you are allowed to be more technical in your conversation.

Practice > Practice > Practice = Continuous Learning and Improvement!

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Vikash Chhaganlal

Head of Engineering at Xero

CommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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