Things I’ve Learned from Technical Leaders

Things I’ve Learned from Technical Leaders

I’ve had the privilege to work with some wonderful people. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned, specifically from working with and observing the impact of senior leaders and executives of technical product organizations. In truth, many of the challenges associated with leading a large group of people towards a shared set of goals are universal, and hopefully resonate with people outside of the software industry or even the business world.

I’ve had the privilege to work with some wonderful people. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned, specifically from working with and observing the impact of senior leaders and executives of technical product organizations. In truth, many of the challenges associated with leading a large group of people towards a shared set of goals are universal, and hopefully resonate with people outside of the software industry or even the business world.

Use Your Product

If you want to build a customer-centric product and engineering organization, use your product like a customer would. Hold your product to a high bar for user experience and give your team direct feedback when it doesn’t meet your bar. You can tell your organization to care about customer experience, but actions speak louder than words. When people see senior leaders and executives use the things they built, they respond.

Time or Scope, Pick One

If you want to release a product on a fixed date, you have to be okay with cutting scope. If you want to release a product with a fixed scope, you have to be okay with pushing timelines.

You will make plans, and have targets, that’s all good. As you approach a release date, you will inevitably discover some intended scope that’s at risk of delivery. If you think you can rush to get all the scope in on time, you’re picking time over scope — you just might not realize it because you’re not stopping to think about what scope you’re cutting. It will likely be some unarticulated requirement, like quality, cohesion, documentation, or some other blind spot.

There’s no inherent right answer when trading off time vs. scope, but you’re better off when you intuitively understand that there’s always a trade-off. Leaders especially need to understand the global calculus of incrementally adding the N+1ᵗʰ feature to a release at the cost of delaying the N features that are already ready to ship, when the N+1 feature team sees only the incremental value.

Quality is Everyone’s Responsibility

Quality is not something you bolt on afterwards. Quality is not a task a manager can assign. If you want a quality product, hold everyone responsible for quality.

engineering product-management leadership technology software-development machine learning

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