Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

How to Grow a Planning Mindset

Managing Expectations
Team Processes
Prioritization

23 January, 2021

Chitrak Ojha
Chitrak Ojha

Senior Engineering Manager at Twilio

Chitrak Ojha, Engineering Manager at Twilio, tells how spreading planning throughout a quarter and involving as many people in the process will give planning the importance it deserves.

Problem

Planning is often only discussed towards the end of a planning cycle -- usually a quarter -- when most of the people responsible for the execution will be excluded from the planning. Even when there is an effort to make the process more participatory, people are brought in when key decisions are already made and when they can’t significantly influence the process.

Instead of including some people at some time, the planning should become a centerpiece activity that would require people to make an intentional effort to plan throughout a planning cycle.

Actions taken

As a manager, my first goal was to get teams into a habit of planning consistently. To do so, I had to create an environment where rather than intensifying the planning towards the end of a quarterly cycle I could encourage them to develop and nurture the habit of consistently looking ahead and not only being focused on what is going on at the moment.

That required a significant mindset change since teams would typically spend more time planning toward the end of a quarter, squeezing in all the planning activities in the last two weeks of the quarter.

The most important thing I had to do was to include the whole team and promote the planning mindset among all team members. People on the business or product size of things are more inclined to look ahead, but I wanted to include people on the team who would execute on things. Moreover, involving them earlier in the process could result in feedback beneficial to the planning itself.

I introduced weekly planning sessions lasting from 30 minutes to an hour and the focus of these sessions was on the next cycle. As soon as a quarter would begin, we would start having discussions about the next quarter. We would start discussing a set of items and their validity and as time would pass, the discussions between Engineering and Product would become more concrete and centered around prioritizing the next forward-looking items. After the first half of a quarter, we would be able to prioritize much better and remove the overwhelm that would happen when planning is all stuck in the last two weeks of the quarter.

Also, spreading the planning throughout a quarter helped us better prepare. For example, during the first month of a quarter, we would be discussing a project that would require a lot of discovery and we had to re-align ourselves to include the discovery in our regular activities. In addition, consistent planning could empower the team to create its own team processes that would improve their overall performance.

Lessons learned

  • The consistent planning allowed the team to step back and look at the broader picture that spread beyond the most immediate focus on the current items they are working on. It also allowed them to alleviate the overwhelm of the hectic planning happening at the end of a quarter.
  • Planning improves the alignment between long-term business objectives and priorities that are communicated to Product and Engineering and that are translated into concrete engineering projects.
  • Consistent prioritization also helps with focus. We are constantly prioritizing and are able to differentiate things that should be top priorities and deserve our undivided focus. Therefore, planning is also a path to continual improvement.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Building a New Team in a Foreign Country

23 November

Adam Hawkins, Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare, went all the way across the world to build a brand new team who worked very differently than he was used to.

Team Processes
Adam Hawkins

Adam Hawkins

Site Reliability Engineer at Skillshare

Why Overloading Product Teams Never Work

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he identified the symptoms of his overworked product team and worked towards defining conflicting priorities.

Managing Expectations
Product Team
Deadlines
Stakeholders
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

What It Takes to Understand Other’s Perspective

23 November

Nicholas Cheever, Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation, shares how to really understand someone else’s point of view.

Team Processes
Nicholas Cheever

Nicholas Cheever

Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation

How to Handle Team Collaboration After a Merger?

23 November

Nicholas Cheever, Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation, shares how he helped the acquired company’s team members understand the business mission and give them focus.

Acquisition / Integration
Team Processes
Nicholas Cheever

Nicholas Cheever

Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation

How to Build Rapport With an Introverted Manager

17 November

Piyush Dubey, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, shares his journey of climbing up the career ladder through awkward times dealing with an introverted manager.

Managing Expectations
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Piyush Dubey

Piyush Dubey

Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft

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.