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Creating an Engineering Vision

Alignment
Mission / Vision / Charter
Goal Setting
Productivity

25 October, 2021

Mustafa Furniturewala
Mustafa Furniturewala

VP Of Engineering at Coursera

Mustafa Furniturewala, VP of Engineering, uncovers how he created a succinct engineering vision with their company's values in mind.

Problem

We wanted to create a vision that serves as a North-Star decision-making framework that teams could use day-to-day. This framework was something that would be optimized for longer-done tasks and team-wide efforts. The problem occurred when we started to grapple with an overload of ideas, mainly relating to product priorities and values. We wanted to align our team within a few critical areas, allowing us to increase productivity. However, the lack of cohesiveness was stopping us from getting where we wanted to be.

Actions taken

When we started this project, we had an initial goal in mind: to create an engineering vision process. The creation of this process was something I have been iterating on for four years, and we sought to find the finalization.

The first step we took before anything was to understand our company vision. One of engineering's primary purposes is to enable this company vision and provide leverage to this concept. We looked at our unique company mission and focused our entire engineering vision around both the mission and values.

The next step was performing a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats specific to a company. In our case, we sought to understand each point in the SWOT analysis concerning our company. Once we acknowledged each point of our SWOT analysis, we looked to understand our industry strengths and how this would benefit our vision. We researched specific trends, such as containerization, to find something that would enable our vision. We held interviews with different companies, asking what they were doing concerning quality. We aimed to learn from each other and benefit from different approaches to the same problem. When we came to conclusions, we would make a note of them and spend resources wondering how these solutions pertained to our company.

We took all of our research and created a list of relevant topics for us. We wrote 1-pagers of theses about these specific topics and constructed engineering hypotheses. These were later used to formulate objectives and goals in our engineering vision. From our objectives, we developed cohesive OKRs. These OKRs were similar to a list of goals but included the question of measuring our success. The OKRs that we created had smaller steps that were listed in more detail, making them preferable. We found ourselves looking for the end result that would allow us to create a succinct engineering vision to solve our scattered efforts. Once we created OKRs, objectives, and theses, we shared the conclusions that we were looking for with our engineering team.

Lessons learned

  • After finalizing our engineering vision, we quickly realized that we had overlooked an important step: capacity planning. Capacity planning ensures that projects stay on schedule while maximizing your team's time. We strategized a one-year plan that would prepare us to achieve our company vision. Remember to balance your timeliness along with your efforts to achieve maximum productivity.
  • When creating an engineering vision, the most crucial step is aligning your engineering vision with the organization's mission statement and values. Usually, this should be one of the first few steps taken in the process and will benefit you later when your plans come together.
  • It is essential for you to draw a line between the overall vision and your one-year OKRs. It is essential to understand the time frame you are working with the OKRs; without it, these goals can take an undetermined amount of time. Cohesiveness is vital when creating an engineering vision.

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