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

🔥

Back to resources

Without a Solid Team You Can’t Build a Good Product

Building A Team
Performance

15 June, 2020

Kowsheek Mahmood

Kowsheek Mahmood

Principal & CTO at ArchetypeTech

Kowsheek Mahmood, Principal and CTO at ArchetypeTech, recalls how he had to deal with an inefficient and stagnant team as he knew that without a solid team he couldn’t build a good product.

Problem

I recently joined a team of six other developers who were reluctant to dedicate themselves to the company goals. They had poor knowledge of the breadth of technology, and no appreciation of what both the business and product were capable of doing. I could attribute this to them being inexperienced but they were also lacking a work-ethos that could propel the technology forward. I was brought in as a senior developer because the leadership didn’t want to upset other developers by abruptly imposing a lead role on them. I identified two groups of problems: team and their processes. I decided to first focus on dealing with team-related problems since without buy-in from the team it would be challenging to optimize the team’s process let alone work towards building a good product.

Actions taken

First off, I had to understand what was happening in the team and do a knowledge download from them. After I did that I could think about revamping the team so that we could perform better and get the expected results. During my first week I had one-on-ones with everybody on the team as I was trying to get to know them better - to understand their problems, motivation, values, sense of ownership of the product - but also, to learn about roles and responsibilities across the team.

I used the one-on-ones to also communicate my values and my motivation and prepare them for inevitable changes. I would explicitly state what is expected from my teams and let them make their own conclusions about what changes on their part that would imply.

For example, our build times were upto 20 minutes and it seemed the team didn’t care about this inefficiency and that alone spoke volumes about the team itself. I would state that these kinds of inefficiencies were unacceptable and that we were going to take drastic steps to address this.

I experienced a lot of antagonism and pushbacks from other senior developers. They were initially reluctant to even answer my questions and were - as often is the case in stagnating teams - quick to blame the leadership. Their blaming of the leadership meant that their ownership of the product was rather low as they kept on dwelling on frustrations.

While my initial talks announced the future changes, I knew that nothing would speak louder than action so I rolled my sleeves up and did some hard work. I identified the highest value item in terms of speed and efficiency and worked for a week to upgrade it to the latest version of Webpack. The problem was that in 2019 we were using the long-outdated version 1 of Webpack, a common build-tool in front-end technology, that was wasting our time on every build. After the upgrade, we witnessed a huge increase in speed and productivity. This was a simple entry-point that had a great impact. By doing the upgrade myself I wanted to lead by example and do something that is challenging. I moved from the phase this is what we are going to do to a phase this is what we are doing right now that was really about reclaiming the ownership and demonstrating my values. Also, I was able to demonstrate how solving small problems could have a lasting and profound impact on our work.

Lessons learned

  • I worked for some time in the startup world where people are eager to learn and change, therefore I underestimated how firmly people can resist change and how stagnant they could be and have since learned to be most cognizant of how human-nature plays in the team.

  • I also had to manage the expectations of my leadership and to explain the proposed changes and their business value to my direct boss and project managers. It was demanding to do leadership both ways in my team so I had to learn to manage my leadership capital.

Discover Plato

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


Related stories

Delegate successfully as a first time manager of Product Managers

24 November

Andrew Tsui, a Product Leader, works to build great teams that are independent, demonstrate mastery of their domain, and fully commit to their purpose.

Scaling Team
Building A Team
Delegate
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Psychological Safety
Cross-Functional Collaboration
New Manager
Andrew Tsui

Andrew Tsui

Director of Product at Startup

Managing Team Collaboration After an Acquisition

10 November

Han Wang, Director of Engineering at Sonder Inc., shares the ins and outs of working successfully with the other half of the team after a merger.

Acquisition / Integration
Large Number Of Reports
Company Culture
Performance
Han Wang

Han Wang

Director of Engineering at Sonder Inc

How Data-Driven Products Help Customers and Increase Sales

11 November

Richard Maraschi, VP of Data Products & Insights at WarnerMedia, shares his insight on incorporating data science, AI, and product management to overcome slowing growth of the company.

Product
Conflict Solving
Users
Data Team
Performance
Richard Maraschi

Richard Maraschi

VP Data Product Management at WarnerMedia

Mentoring Freshly Recruited Employees

28 October

Yamini Choudhary, Business Strategy at Verizon, unveils some of the right tactics toward coaching fresh graduates.

Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Performance
Yamini Choudhary

Yamini Choudhary

Business Strategy at Verizon

Take Opportunities to Think Like a Product Manager

25 October

James Andrew (Andy) Vaughn, Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio, speaks on his fascination with high-performing software and how it led him to create a feature for a company that increased sales.

Customers
Internal Communication
Performance
James (Andy) Vaughn

James (Andy) Vaughn

Principal Technical Product Manager at AppFolio

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.