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Startup and Engineering Management Hot Takes

A few software development and engineering management opinions I've established that influence my work as an engineering leader.
Startup and Engineering Management Hot Takes
Photo by Pickled Stardust / Unsplash

Scrum Stagnation

The software industry’s stagnation on Scrum as well as how it is implemented at most companies has a greater negative impact on engineering effectiveness more than most people realize. It is an example where the responsibility “pyramid” has been inverted such that the engineers with the relevant experience are relegated to the bottom, and end up acting as ticket robots. It is also directly responsible for an overwhelming number of meetings, an uncured affliction at the many startups.

First and Foremost, Trust

Without trust, a manager is more likely to micromanage their teams, second-guessing decisions, disrupting flow, and lowering morale. My management philosophy is centered around a trust first approach. Now this might seem obvious to many, but I've found that it's simple to say, but difficult to put into practice. This is most evident when managers are faced with "silence," that is, not receiving constant status updates or seeing visible forward progress, or not being included in every decision made by the team, for example.

Trust that your team members mean well, want to make the best decisions, and want to build a quality product. When trust is broken, be quick to take necessary steps, correct course, and finally, make any required HR changes based on documented facts.

Less is More

Most startups run their teams at 100% capacity or higher, both in terms of workload (i.e. cycle times / velocity) and work hours. I believe that both of these scenarios result in less output than companies would realize if they implemented a buffer or did less (I'm a big believer in the four-day, 32-hour work week, after all).

A fully allocated workload is brittle and leads to missed commitments (a team morale killer) because the unknowns cannot be accommodated in the schedule.
Increasing work hours as a solution to this problem leads to burnout (work produced is not linear with hours worked), and running an infinite scrum treadmill without regular breaks or downtime prevents opportunities to learn, fix tech debt, and ultimately recharge for the next iteration.

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