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Implementing a better collaboration between Product and Engineering

Leadership
Productivity
Stakeholder Management
Communication and Collaboration

6 December, 2017

Jeremy Wight
Jeremy Wight

VP of Engineering at CareMessage

Jeremy inherited a team that his VP presented him as totally underperforming. However, Jeremy prefers to investigate to understand where their lack of productivity comes from.

Problem

A few years ago, I took on a new team of four engineers that I didn't know. My VP told me the team was not functioning well, and that it was ineffective at delivering software. They were always late, didn't have a sense of responsibility for the code they pushed, and were clearly underperforming.

Actions taken

When I took on the team, I tried to investigate where their lack of efficiency came from. I realized that the team was constantly being interrupted during their sprints, mostly due to requests not being clear enough and a lot of changes being made while the work was in progress. This hindered the engineers from moving forwards and delivering their work on time. I went to see the product team and explained that their requests were not clear enough and that it was complicating my engineers' work. I educated them about how to make better requests and made it clear that all their requirements should be set before sprints. If some elements were ambiguous, they would have to wait until the next sprint to ask for changes. I then defined the success criteria in the short-term for my team and set very clear goals. We agreed that everybody should be aligned on what the priority was for the next two weeks, and on the reason for it being a priority. With these changes put in place, my team was then able to finish a sprint before being asked to make changes. Their velocity increased three times over and I noticed a significant increase in motivation from my engineers as they gained confidence in their abilities.

Lessons learned

The Vice President hadn't had the full picture. His point of view had been more based on perception than on real facts, and he didn't understand where the problem was coming from. By establishing clear processes with the product team, my team became significantly more efficient and productive.

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