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Growing a Team and Implementing a Psychologically Safe Culture

Goal Setting
Handling Promotion
Conflict Solving
Fairness
Agile / Scrum

7 January, 2022

Saarthak Vats
Saarthak Vats

VP Engineering at noon

Saarthak Vats, VP of Engineering at noon, shares how he began setting realistic estimations, thinking about the complexity, number of unknowns, and scope of each project.

Faulty Estimations Cause Decrease in Quality

In a previous company, I was newly promoted to become a team lead. As one of the more experienced engineers, I had accumulated knowledge around how our system worked and how the implementation took place. I felt confident in my ability to lead, however as I continued into my position, I learned that my estimations for my team often came up short. I was falling behind and making unrealistic estimations which, by tendency, pushed my teams to ship code quicker. Many times this resulted in a decrease in quality and increase in stress from the IC's around me.

Evaluating Before Creating Estimates

Things I Thought About:

Probably the most important lesson I learned about creating proper estimations is that it is essential to understand your team to create a proper estimate. Before discovering this, I would base my time-frames on the length of time it would take me to complete a project. While I had my team in mind, I didn't use a specific process or method to create these.

Setting Parameters:

The process I began implementing was walking myself through three parameters. The first was the complexity of the project or work that my team was completing. It varied for each individual project and usually depended on the amount of code and new features my team had to incorporate. The second parameter I focused on was the unknowns that surrounded my work. The unknowns were difficult to pinpoint for specific projects, but I began allowing myself extra time with my estimations to deal with these unknowns.

Lastly, the last parameter I thought about was the sheer scope of the task. If a project was the foundation for a new product, I knew that my team would spend more time on it in comparison to a new feature. These parameters were subjective for each task assigned to my team, and I worked to run through each one before setting my estimation.

Confidence Levels:

Each individual had a different level of confidence while completing a task. Understanding which team members were better at specific tasks over others helped increase my team's motivation and productivity. I was able to create tighter estimates with my team working at a healthy place.

When learning about team members' strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement, it was essential for me to act with empathy. Throughout my conversations, I acted with reason and showed curiosity rather than interrogation. To create better estimations, it was vital to understand my teammates on a personal level.

Tips for Successful Estimations

  • Later on, I realized that doing a collective round of estimations, which is advised in SCRUM, is very helpful. These trial rounds help to smooth out any blind spots and many unknowns that appear during the work on a project.
  • Newer members on a team will have a higher number of unknowns. Through the reverse of this, more experienced team members will be quicker on many tasks. Both groups will work very differently from one another, and they should carry out different roles on a project.

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