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Collaborating to Inspire Change Between Teams

Alignment
Conflict Solving
Collaboration
Impact
Stakeholders
Juniors
Agile / Scrum

7 December, 2021

Bobby Asher
Bobby Asher

Sr Engineering Manager at Meta (Facebook, Oculus, & Family of Apps)

Bobby Asher, Director of Engineering at Bloomberg, describes how he sparked change in his organization, focusing on collaboration between teams.

Inhibiting Collaboration Due to a Focus on Business

The company I work at focuses on building enterprise products. Our customers seem to be large organizations who want to purchase products directly from my company. Often, the requirements coming in from product stakeholders tend to be mixed between specific customers’ needs or generally applicable expectations. In general, the product organization as a whole is more outward-facing, where they work directly with sales and customers.

On the other hand, product interaction with the engineering department tended to be much less. I found that these teams were much more focused on the business aspect than the product itself. It became a problem for my team and inhibited our ability to prioritize things, iterate, and receive feedback. Simply put, the face time between product and engineering was missing because the product team was suffering from limited bandwidth.

Promoting and Creating Successful Collaboration

Choosing my Best Option:

I knew that there were multiple paths I could take concerning my problem. The path I chose was to escalate this problem to make it more visible. Being a senior leader, I had to show a significant amount of influence to uplift this problem. Once I brought this to my leadership team, I knew that we could find a solution that benefited all parties involved.

Using an Iterative Approach:

I used my network of product managers that I worked with and tried to mitigate this problem. First, I explained my challenge and asked if we could try a new approach. My idea was to use the engineering budget to hire an agile coach rather than another engineer on my team. I asked these managers to engage with one of my teams as a product owner on the product side. Using this method as a trial approach would test and see if our problems went away and collaboration was increased.

However, before bringing my proposal to the entire product team, I shared it with my product stakeholder to receive their buy-in. I knew that if we collaborated successfully, not only would it lessen my team’s challenges but also increase the capabilities of the entire company. Once the product stakeholder acknowledged the challenges of prioritization, alignment, and receiving feedback, we worked towards a solution.

Putting in Place the Experiment:

Together with my product stakeholder, we began an experiment that involved one of our teams and bootstrapped the agile process. From there, we shared our retrospective learnings with other teams and other product leaders, slowly increasing curiosity around the technique that we were using.

The agile coach brought a wealth of knowledge to the table. Hiring more junior product managers would influence our product and uplift many conversations regarding the process. The seniors were struggling to move away from their day-to-day outward-facing duties and engage with the product. Hiring junior product managers allowed the seniors to push their boundaries and mentor juniors with their expansive skill sets.

The Importance of Collaboration

  • It was essential for me to influence my team to work with empathy. While the product team was creating challenges, it wasn’t our place to confront them with hostility. We all had the same goal: to create the best product; we were all just taking different approaches. Ensuring my team spoke with empathy and collaboration was the most influential conversation I had during this process.
  • I found it vital to persevere when things weren’t well. Being a self-starter was less important than influencing a team. Sparking change was my goal, and the best way to ensure it was successful was to collaborate.

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