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Building a Team Vision

Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Motivation
Personal growth
Sharing the vision

16 April, 2019

Iman Rahmatizadeh, senior engineering manager at Quantcast, discusses his experience of building a vision with an unmotivated team that allowed for both personal and company growth.

Problem

I was asked to see what was happening with an unmotivated team of engineers, bring them up to speed, and make things right. What I did was look through their backgrounds and talk to them a bit about their experiences. From that, I found out that they had been asked, as part of their vision, to maintain the current state, avoid causing any problems, and not to break anything. This was the agenda for the team and therefore what everyone thought they had to do. The team had completely lost the vision about what would get them excited and moving forward towards something.

Actions taken

  • I did a lot of research before meetings to see which direction we could go. I watched a lot of videos pertaining to leadership courses on how to set a vision.
  • The fundamental thing I did with them is that I told them, "Even though this is what the company said they wanted, we are not going to be maintainers. Instead, we are going to build a great system because we want to enjoy our lives as engineers and build great things that we can be proud of".
  • Following that piece of advice, I initiated a group discussion around what they thought we should build and whether or not they thought it was good for the organization.
  • We talked about how we can align the new team vision with the company vision. I then went and discussed that with the rest of the engineering leaders and let them know that it would probably break, but that it's something you have to live with if you want motivated engineers.

Lessons learned

  • In eight months, the team turned around a legacy system that was causing a lot of operational issues into a very healthy system where they knew all of the details. This, in turn, eliminated further operational issues, fewer breaks, and boosted the determination of the engineers tenfold.
  • You can't have a team of engineers who just maintain things and expect them to be motivated.
  • The team eventually was able to find motivation where at the beginning they were hesitant to stray from the company vision, fearing that things would break. You should not dread making changes or improvements because of small breaks that can happen along the way.
  • As a manager, your engineers need to get important things from you. You have to come prepared, but also let them discuss and explore broad topics while making sure you funnel them in the right direction.
  • A vision should be motivating and you should grow in pursuit of that. It should also come from both bottom up and top down. As it comes from both ways the manager has to make sure those parts meet together in the right position or the sweet spot between personal and company growth.
  • Organizational growth comes with people growth and they should be closely aligned.
  • Giving people a vision and direction to work towards does wonders for people and their overall morale.

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