Back to resources

When a Lack of Clarity Impacts Performance

Alignment
Remote
Sharing The Vision
Team Processes

28 June, 2021

Anand Safi
Anand Safi

Engineering Leader | Mentor & Coach | Advisor at Mark43

Anand Safi, Engineering Manager at Mark43, uncovers how a lack of clarity and shared understanding can seriously impact a team’s performance.

Problem

In recent months -- when all the work transitioned to remote -- I too often encountered the lack of shared understanding of the team’s goals. Unfortunately, I firsthand experienced how a lack of clarity can lead to a team’s dysfunctionality.

In this particular situation that troubled my team, not only that Engineering lacked clarity, but I had to spend much more time in meetings with Product, Design, and QA to help them understand engineering effort and goals. I realized that if Engineering looked like a black box to people outside of Engineering, that left room for guessing and uncertainties. If other stakeholders couldn’t understand how we were building things and what our timeline was, we would risk vagueness, inaccurate updates, and overall confusion.

Actions taken

Whenever I would be put on a new team, I would do a “How we roll'' meeting, a 90 minutes long meeting on how we should roll as a team. During that meeting, we wouldn’t only discuss engineering processes such as how we do branching, how we deploy code, etc. But we would talk about other things as well -- how we would share our work with QA, how we would let Product know of the changes and how to test them on a master branch, how we communicate with Design to make their design technically feasible and aligned with what we were building.

Next, I have one-on-ones every week with stakeholders on a team level -- with Product, Design, and QA. Even if there is nothing to talk about in terms of action items, I would still do those meetings because I would use them as an opportunity to share what we were working on and what would be coming from the engineering side. That update would help other stakeholders prepare their own work and sync their timelines. Our frequent exchange helped collaboration and alignment across different departments that were often chasing different goals.

We also do monthly retrospectives to make sure that we are learning and progressing by evaluating our past work. By revising our processes and practices, we are refining as we go. We blamelessly dissect our past actions to learn what we did well, what we could improve, or what we need to reconsider doing. That helps us come stronger after each retrospective and learn where to put our effort into.

Lessons learned

  • While some people were complaining that we have too many meetings, most of the meetings were critical, especially in a remote setting. Weekly sync-ups and one-on-ones with internal stakeholders especially contributed to alignment and clarity and helped us save resources that would be otherwise scattered and misaligned. As long as a meeting improves clarity and encourages shared understanding, spending time in meetings is valuable.
  • It is important to have a custom working relationship between Engineering and other departments. The relationship between Engineering and Product works in one way and is different from the relationship between Engineering and Design. I assumed that Engineering would be more inclined to collaborate with QA in the same way Product will be with Design, but I was mistaken. We created a circle where cross-department collaboration between all stakeholders intersected, which significantly improved clarity. Each relationship needs to be handled separately in terms of needs and jointly in terms of collaboration.

Discover Plato

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


Related stories

(Re)Organizing Your Teams Using Domain-Driven Design

12 July

A proposal for how to create an org structure that will deliver software systems that you want, not ones you get stuck with.

Alignment
Architecture
Scaling Team
Building A Team
Internal Communication
Reorganization
Ram Singh

Ram Singh

CTO at REAL Engagement & Loyalty

Team Development Framework for new managers

26 June

Individual Contributors are familiar with a technical development framework that helps them with building products. Managers, especially new managers can leverage a parallel framework to help them build their teams while drawing analogies from an already familiar framework.

Building A Team
Team Processes
New Manager
Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Viswa Mani Kiran Peddinti

Sr Engineering Manager at Instacart

Managing Through a Team Reorganization

15 June

Mugdha Myers, former Engineering Manager at Google, discusses the challenges of leading a team through the ambiguity and anxiety caused by a large-scale team restructuring.

Alignment
Changing A Company
Strategy
Changing Company
Mugdha Myers

Mugdha Myers

Engineering Manager at N/A

Promoting Interdepartmental Teamwork for More Efficient Problem-Solving

13 June

Roland Fiala, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup, raises an interesting issue about autonomy in teams: does it hinder collaboration opportunities that lead to better problem-solving? He shares his system for promoting teamwork in engineering departments.

Internal Communication
Collaboration
Roadmap
Team Processes
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Roland Fiala

Roland Fiala

Senior Vice President of Engineering at Usergems

How to Motivate Your Engineers to Grow in Their Careers

13 June

Roland Fiala, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Productsup, highlights the importance of soft skills and shares how he motivates his engineers to further their careers by focusing on personal growth.

Goal Setting
Different Skillsets
Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Motivation
Team Processes
Career Path
Performance
Roland Fiala

Roland Fiala

Senior Vice President of Engineering at Usergems