Trusting Engineering Teams With Product Management
7 June, 2018
A few months ago, I split my engineering team into two smaller squads in order to help fix their communication issues. As the company's CTO, my primary role was still Product Owner and was I making a lot of team decisions. I had built the team and hired everybody, and we had spent a year to two years getting all of our engineering processes as efficient as possible. When we split the team into two squads, I was still basically doing that same role - I was wearing the Product Owner hat while also wearing the VP of engineering hat, and I was still basically functioning as though I had one big team and was running into challenges scaling my role.
I quickly realized that I needed to work out how to scale myself. I decided to look at what I did at the organization to determine what tasks should actually be delegated to the Scrum teams. My ultimate goal was to have each squad take a roadmap item and to have the squad have everything it needed to turn that item into working software. This didn't just involve building and developing, but also product management, talking with stakeholders, and thinking about when releases should be scheduled. On the next couple of projects each squad worked on, I went over the high-level goals of the projects and then let the squads self-organize in terms of figuring out the information they still needed, talking to the people they needed to talk to in the company, and creating and scheduling user stories for themselves. We have now evolved even more, to the point where each squad is given a high-level project and they are able to run with it. We have started doing user story mapping and have found this to be an extremely useful tool for breaking large projects up into smaller pieces. We're now at the point where when we hire our next squad, they will just follow the same plan. When we first split our team into two squads, my work basically doubled. However, what I've now ensured is that my work won't triple or quadruple as we hire more squads.
This has actually affected who I hire. It put what was important when hiring into perspective. I went from looking for people who were extremely skilled and who worked well with the team to looking for people who are responsible, self-motivated, and willing to work with their team to do more than just coding. I look for more well-rounded candidates and hire based on trust a lot.
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