The Pyramid of Needs of an Engineering Organisation

Jeff Queisser

Cofounder and SVP Engineering at Box



"We had a time when our engineering department was on an attrition spree—we were set to lose about 35–40% of our engineers in a quarter. There were a number of other issues as well: our engineers didn't understand the strategy behind what they were building, and our promotion process was really unclear, so people had no idea how to get promoted."

Actions taken

"We used the following rubric to help us get aligned and understand where we needed to focus. Imagine a pyramid, like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom row is 'Leadership team.' It's the first layer of dependency, because if the leadership team is dysfunctional, everything else is going to be an uphill battle. The next row up is 'Org health.' This is still critical because there's no way you're going to get the results you need if you don't have the team in place or if you're not hiring the right people. The next row is 'Strategy,' then 'Tools, Systems, and Processes,' and finally at the apex of the pyramid you have 'Product/Results'—basically whatever your desired outcome is as a department or company." Using this pyramid helped me take stock of what our current status was and which areas I needed to focus on. That's not to say that I only chose one row of the pyramid and ignored the rest, but you can go through and decide which ones need your immediate attention and which ones are trending positively at the moment.

Lessons learned

"Most people will mistakenly focus only on the 'Product/Results' row. So they'll see that output is not where it needs to be and crack down on things like people leaving early or working from home. None of that stuff is actually the problem. Using this rubric helps make sure that we're aligned, focused, and not distracted by things that ultimately don't drive our business forward."

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Jeff Queisser

Cofounder and SVP Engineering at Box

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor RolesStaff Engineer

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