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The power of saying no

Clive Henrick

Director, Strategic Planning and Operations at Electronic Arts

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Problem

"A product manager came to my engineering team, and was very excited to launch a new product. He took a lead developer in a room to explain the project to him more, and their meeting was lasting hours. The problem was that my engineer was working on another project which needed to move forward."

Actions taken

"I interrupted the meeting, and said to the product manager that he should talk to me before taking my engineer's time. I listened carefully to the idea of the product team, its requirements, and which resources they would need, but I stood firm on the fact that my engineers wouldn't work on this before the other project was finished, as we were mid-sprint and the product manager's project was not critical. While it caused a ripple in our working relationship with the product team for a short while, it also created a common framework for further work. If the product team wanted something done in a sprint, they knew that the engineering team would be 100% dedicated to reaching that goal."

Lessons learned

"A classic mistake for teams is never saying no. These teams are always interrupted and are unfocused, never managing to lead a project to the end. Your job as a manager is to protect your team and allow them to write fantastic code, so you need to do everything to protect your engineers from being interrupted. If there is a new request, you not only have the right to say no, but you have to, unless it is something that is an emergency (e.g. a security break-in, or server down). It is not always easy to resist pressure from the product team, but if you don't prioritize this will have a negative impact, both on your team and on the product team."


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Clive Henrick

Director, Strategic Planning and Operations at Electronic Arts


CommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingEngineering ManagementSprint CadenceLeadership RolesAgile, Scrum & KanbanRoles & TitlesLeadership & StrategyTeam & Project Management

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