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When an individual’s aspiration to jump on new technologies can jeopardize your team’s dynamics

Sacha Arnoud

Senior Director of Engineering at Lyft

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Problem

"I had an engineer in my team who wanted to work on the newest 'hot topic'. Things change quite quickly in tech and it's quite common to have people who are very interested in learning about, and trying out, new things."

This engineer's arguments made sense, so I let him nurture ideas around the new technology within the team. After a while, I could sense some discomfort from other team members.

Consequence

"Letting this individual work on something other than what the rest of the team was doing had created tension. I was asked why the engineer got to work on fun stuff, while everyone else had to do all the hard work."

And they were right. Working on that new topic was for another end goal and had resulted in a misalignment in the team. I needed to make an explicit decision - either kill the new technology-focused project or move it to a different team. I decided to move the individual to another team, which was more research-focused.

Lessons learned

"Teams work for a 'what', not a 'how', as their mission. When trying to accommodate people's desires within the team, you must make sure that their new position or role fits within the 'what' of your team."

One concrete way to identify this is to ask yourself whether the person's work impacts on the main metrics of the team. If it doesn't, then you may end up jeopardizing your team's dynamics. I would suggest moving these people, creating new entities, or declining to let them work on their suggested initiative.


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Sacha Arnoud

Senior Director of Engineering at Lyft


Leadership & StrategyLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementTeam & Project ManagementCareer GrowthCareer Progression

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