How to Communicate Effectively as an Engineer Without Resorting to Management Speak

Don't resort to management speak!

I used to hate running meetings. I still don't particularly like it. Sometimes it feels like I am throwing words at people who would much rather get back to their work, and who are only in the room because their calendar is telling them to. Then I think it's my job to talk them out of their unwillingness, to motivate them, to get them engaged — only to find that I quickly run out of words. […]

Why Job Titles Are More Than a Necessary Evil

Badly designed job titles and promotions can make people angry

Many young companies are proud of their flat hierarchies, short decision paths, and of everybody having a say about the direction of the product. One of the means they employ to achieve this is the lack of formal titles. The reasoning is something like: 'If everyone is on the same level, then ideas will flow more freely. People will be more approachable, and new employees will be less intimidated.' However, it does not always work out like that in the real world. […]

Supervised Confrontation

Should Patrick intervene or not?

Patrick is an engineering manager and has twelve direct reports. These direct reports are members of several teams, so Patrick does not sit with all of them every day, and does not notice everything that is going on first-hand. One day, during a one-on-one with Robert, an engineer, there is a complaint: Robert says that he is not entirely happy with his teammate Christopher. Christopher picks arguments and his behaviour hurts the team atmosphere. Should Patrick intervene? […]

Telling Stories

Your story might be just one of many

Bob is angry. He was put on an important project with Natalie, and they agreed to communicate closely. But now, she keeps doing things on her own. First, she announced department-wide that they would postpone the launch date without telling him beforehand. Then, he learnt of two occasions when she reported to their supervisor, Steven, about the project alone, when they agreed they would always report together. […]

The Power of Nudging

Little ones instinctively know the power of nudging

Developers around me are usually pretty busy. There are features to implement, problems to solve, sprints to plan, infrastructure to maintain, emergencies to handle. They coordinate projects, align with business functions, think about strategy, and many more things. Many of them are high-priority or cannot be moved because they just belong to the day-to-day. This means that other jobs that are not day-to-day and non-urgent, but nevertheless important, suffer. Nobody ever gets around to actually doing them. […]

Output Orientation

Is making a deadline always worth it?

As a team lead, or engineering manager, you often read that you should be a shit umbrella for your team: Shield them against the bad stuff happening outside the team so that the developers can focus on their work. Protect the devs from political games, and ensure they have the long stretches of uninterrupted time that they need. Sounds reasonable, right? Sign me up! I want to be that guy! I want to be a shit umbrella! […]

One Year of Blogging - a Resumé

Writing regularly changes a lot of things to the better

I published my first article just over a year ago, with the goal of pushing out one blog post each week. Now, roughly 52 weeks later, it’s time for a little resumé. […]

How Google Combines Hiring Steps

For a lot of companies, the hiring process looks similar: Review CVs, have a round of one or more phone screens, Skype, or Hangout sessions, then some personal interviews, and finally a hiring decision. A work sample test (e.g., write some code that does this or that) might be asked for at some point or other. This sequence of different steps has a couple of advantages, after all: […]

If You Want Learning and Change, Create Safety First

People learn best in a safe and slowed-down environment

Teams of middle managers are the most likely group to invent successful schemes for organizational change and reinvention. It is also them who have to guide their people through the difficult time of adaption to change. However, people generally don't like big changes, and some will resist. Here are some things you can do to increase people's success under new circumstances. […]

Is Your White Space Safe?

White space can be beautiful and important

You have probably seen an org chart of your, or some other, organization before. Usually, there are lines and boxes, with boxes representing people or teams, and lines representing relationships of authority and reporting. However, an org chart contains a third component that is rarely mentioned explicitly, even though it is of great importance to organizational health: the white space between all those lines and boxes. […]