Collaborating to Inspire Change Between Teams
7 December, 2021
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.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Mugdha Myers, former Engineering Manager at Google, discusses the challenges of leading a team through the ambiguity and anxiety caused by a large-scale team restructuring.
Engineering Manager at Google
Muhammad Hamada, Engineering Manager at HelloFresh, addresses the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, how these have affected our work environments, and how we can adapt.
Engineering Manager at HelloFresh
Roland Fiala, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup, raises an interesting issue about autonomy in teams: does it hinder collaboration opportunities that lead to better problem-solving? He shares his system for promoting teamwork in engineering departments.
Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup
How not to stuck at the Intermediate Engineer level
Engineering Manager at Unit21
Ivo Minjauw, Global Product Director at OTA Insight, discusses the importance of structuring your teams when undergoing company growth.
Global Product Director at OTA Insight
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.