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Managing an IC Who Is Getting Ahead of the Project Timeline

Managing Expectations
Juniors

17 June, 2021

Rachel Wasko
Rachel Wasko

Product Manager at Lyft

Rachel Wasko, Growth Product Manager at Lyft, explains how she manages a developer getting ahead of themselves when a project is not well-defined enough to be built just yet.

Problem

Right now, I’m working on a new feature within my company’s suite of offerings. It’s very unique, something that we’ve never really dabbled in before. It has the potential to be controversial and risky in terms of how our clients perceive it.

Everybody on my team is very excited about the idea, which is great. Recently, we got into a room and had a higher-level conversation about the idea, and I had a Lead Engineer who really wanted to start building immediately. They were very enthusiastic, pushing for what they would like to contribute to the project.

As it is so early in the timeline of the project, I found myself kind of stressed out about it. There is little alignment on what the product should be yet and little confirmation that we have product-market fit. Moving too quickly has the potential to harm our brand if we aren’t careful about how we think about it.

For this situation, the conflict was between their desire to move fast and figuring out what was being built as a whole. From my perspective, we just don’t know what we need yet.

Actions taken

After the conflict presented itself, I persuaded them that we should talk to our users before moving too quickly in one direction or another in order to find out what they think before we start building. We were able to find some really great insights to bring back to the team.

I am finding that what works is managing expectations around timelines. I’m starting to get better at managing this excitement and energy of this Individual Contributor. You don’t want to have them stop working on the project; you want to keep them engaged and listening in on the UXR sessions to hear what users have to say, and they continue to.

I am finding that it really is about redirecting that energy, collaborating on aspects of the feature that are rooted in the insight gathered from those who will be using it. What are some generic parts of the feature that we can start building, coming from this foundation of what has been investigated? What is something flexible that could potentially be applied to all four of the paths that we are considering as a team?

Lessons learned

  • The key here is to keep the IC excited and engaged with the project while still giving yourself time as a manager to make the right decision on the best direction to take the project in as a whole.
  • Bring your team along when gathering insight from the intended user. This will show your Developers how much is known concretely about what the team as a whole should be doing. Connect the Engineer to the customer’s needs as they actually exist.
  • Give yourself and your team an adequate window of time to brainstorm. This keeps the momentum going. Manage their expectations around timelines and the projected date of delivery.
  • If you have an IC who is overly enthusiastic, consider applying the energy to generic features, perhaps on the back-end, that will inevitably be a part of the feature no matter what direction you take it in.

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