管理杂谈:团队的运行速度和挑战

Cadance(迭代速度)的概念帮助我们理解不同团队的运作模式。按照迭代速度的差异,创业公司的工程团队一般分为三种:产品团队(product team),平台团队(platform team)和基础设施团队(infrastructure team)。这三种团队运作的迭代速度、运作模式、所面临的管理挑战、以及克服这些挑战的策略各不相同。

产品团队专注于快速启动和更新产品,因此迭代速度最快,在极端情况下每个月都需要重新做规划才能够适应市场变化。平台团队专注于为所支持的产品团队提供服务,迭代速度适中,基本可以以季度为单位执行计划。基础设施团队提供全公司范围内的基础设施服务,迭代速度最慢,其推出新产品往往需要半年到一年的时间。

产品团队围绕产品运作,因此产品经理是主要的推动者。平台团队在提升同平台稳定性开发效率的同时还需要支持和参与产品团队的开发工作。因此他们主要由工程师来设定团队目标,但同时也会参与到产品开发的支持和讨论当中。基础设施团队的项目则基本以工程师为主导。

  • 产品团队

产品团队跟用户靠得最近,因此可以近距离地感受到工作带来的用户体谅、体验和效率的提升,这往往可以带来巨大的成就感。但产品团队变化太快、重复性工作较多、技术深度较浅、没有足够的空间做扩展性良好的设计等都是领导产品团队的巨大挑战。变化迅速有时候导致产品中途更改需求变化方向;早期上线的产品往往缺乏有效的运营工具因此需要大量的手动维护;产品领域以业务逻辑为主,技术栈较为简单,另一方面快速迭代的过程往往让工程师没有时间设计扩展性强的实现。对于追求技术的深度和美感的工程师来说是一个不小的挫折。

领导产品团队的重点是在产品需求的快速变化和团队的专注程度之间保持平衡。首先需要跟产品经理建立合理的预期和工作流程。比如为了帮助工程师保持专注,产品需求改动需要首先经过经理的评估和确定优先级。另外,需要平衡技术债务和产品更新之间的投入比例。产品迭代过程中所积累的技术债务会大大升高开发和维护成本,甚至导致产品无法有效扩容。工程经理需要跟产品经理确定技术债务的比例,保证技术栈得到不断优化。第三是合理的设定开发周期避免过多的草率的改动。

  • 平台团队

平台型团队主要提供后端和平台化的服务来支持产品。平台型团队以工程指标为主导,其主要目标是提供高效率的平台以帮助产品快速发展,同时帮助产品解决扩容等问题,使得产品团队得以专注于产品的更新。平台团队不直接主导产品开发,但通过两个途径来参与甚至推动产品更新。第一是参与到需要平台更新的产品研发当中,第二是为了优化整个平台的性能和效率主动推动产品模型的更新。

平台团队同样面临诸多挑战。第一容易变成产品团队的支持,因为几乎所有的产品研发都需要经过平台和后端服务,因此容易变成支持团队,而缺少主动项目研发的机会。第二,平台团队推动性能和效率提升往往需要产品团队的相应配合,比如产品端需要逐渐迁移到新的服务等等,但是因为缺少和产品团队的直接关联因此有时候推动乏力。

解决第一个问题的方案,第一是主动和产品经理团队建立联系,寻找产品团队经理的支持,比如性能提升也可以对用户体验带来提升,第二是推动开源模式,欢迎产品团队到平台团队的代码库中进行改动,同时平台团队提供支持,同时优化整个研发的流程和效率。解决第二个问题的方案主要是在优化平台的过程中解锁产品团队所需要的特性,比如通过新的平台设计使得某些产品特性可以得到支持或者更加容易得到支持。

  • 基础设施团队

基础设置团队则聚焦于为整个工程团队提供研发和服务的基础设施。其提供的服务往往十分通用,工作的目标是提升整个技术设施的效率、可用性和稳定性。基础设施团队完全不参与到产品研发当中。创业公司的技术设施往往搭建在第三方服务的基础上,很少需要自主研发,主要以运维为主。基础设施团队招聘到的往往是在该领域有多年经验的自身工程师。

基础设施团队的挑战来自外部和内部。外部需要避免陷入到无限的救火和支持当中,需要培养产品团队自主解决问题的能力,以保证在面向未来的项目上有足够的投入。内部需要避免陷入到各自为战的处境中。基础设施团队往往领域极深,工程师极为经验丰富,喜欢自己主导。需要促进彼此之间的协作,逐步形成梯队。

管理杂谈:创业公司的职级系统

创业公司早期的职级系统(leveling system)相对混乱。一方面是创业公司倾向通过升级录取的方式吸引人才,另一方面是考核晋升标准不统一且随机性较大,倾向于通过晋升奖励员工。职级混乱的表现是是职级膨胀、职级与工作年限不匹配。职级混乱会打击员工的成就动机。创业公司逐渐成熟之后一般会通过三种方式修正职级体系:提升招聘门槛,控制绩效考核标准和晋升指标,收紧招聘名额。

创业公司因为缺乏名气、风险巨大,往往招聘困难。一般倾向于通过升级录取的方式吸引人才。对于管理层来说,常见的现象就是遍地总监。英文中用scope来描述一个团队的责任范围,scope越大团队潜力越大。录取管理层的时候一般会给相对大的scope,但是需要经理负责招聘和建设团队。对于个人贡献者(IC),则采取升级录取的方式。升级录取有时候是一种招聘策略,配以末尾淘汰的制度来迫使员工努力达成期望,比如某FB,这个话题有机会单独讨论。

晋升标准不统一,通过晋升奖励员工等也是造成职级混乱的原因。创业公司绩效考核和晋升流程简单,随机成分较多。一方面是因为创业公司往往以产品绩效为考核标准,对其他方面的贡献缺少关注。另一方面是考核过程缺少客观标准,经理的个人影响力对结果影响大。除此之外,创业公司倾向于通过晋升并进一步获得加薪来奖励员工,造成部分员工晋升过快,而由于晋升流程简单,这一工具容易被经理滥用。

职级混轮会导致诸多问题。第一是职级倒挂,新招聘的资深员工可能不如早期加入的年轻员工职级高,新员工容易不满,后续考核也更加困难。第二是后继乏力。随着公司规模的扩大,早期快速晋升的员工由于缺少积累,后续职业进展乏力。随着公司成熟,建立公平的职级体系对团队健康发展至关重要。

第一步是通过提升招聘门槛保证招聘源头标准统一。比如在面试的时候有所区分:对更资深的候选人使用不同的面试问题,要求定级轮的面试者必须比候选人的目标定级高一到两级。比如引入定级标准:将工作经历与目标职级相联系,对于工作经历与目标职级不匹配的候选人增加核查力度。比如引入多个渠道衡量候选人的背景和潜力:通过幕后调查(back channel)等方式了解候选人在当前工作中的表现。

第二步是控制绩效考核和晋升标准以逐渐统一内部职级。比如建立职级期望:统一和公开各职级的员工的绩效期望,对员工在每个职级服务的最短时间加以限制,超过这一时间之后才能获得晋升。这一步可以保证经理在招聘的时候尽量公平定级,因为一旦犯错后续修正的时间成本极高。比如严格控制绩效考核的结果:规定考核名额,控制可以获得达成、超过期望和可以晋升的员工的比例,通过限制名额可以保证经理在考核定级的时候更加有区分度,迫使他们选出真正有资格晋级的人,同时防止晋升过快的现象。

第三步是控制招聘名额。这一步不常用到,但是通过控制招聘名额可以迫使经理淘汰掉不能到达职级期望的队员,从而间接提升团队的职级标准。

管理杂谈:机会稀缺

公司进入瓶颈期后,业务自然增长所提供的机会不足以支持团队的扩张需求,这样的差距会导致团队盲目寻求发展,造成重复建设、资源浪费、争抢项目等问题。

团队天然存在发展需求:经理需要扩大自己的职能和组织以获得升迁,队员需要扩大自己的影响力以获得升职加薪。一般来说,通过业务的增长带来的组织扩大和财务回报、开辟新业务线带来的新职能可以有效满足这些需求。但当公司的业务发展进入瓶颈期,机会变得稀缺,内在扩张需求得不到满足,各种各样的拍脑袋、造轮子、伪需求就会出现。上周面试了一个来自某Y公司的EM,他的团队就存在明显的机会稀缺乱廓张的问题。

Y候选人的团队负责建设给用户推送手机通知和邮件的消息平台,上游有两个主要客户:客户端产品团队和市场营销团队。客户端产品团队将推送的消息和目标用户的信息发送到平台,平台将消息发送给指定用户。市场营销团队将邮件内容和目标客户的邮件地址发送到平台,平台负责将邮件发出。一般来说这样平台型的团队的主要目标是保证消息平台的高可用性和稳定性:推送和邮件需要被稳定地发给目标客户,主要挑战来自和不同第三方平台的对接以及对服务的扩容。

Y公司已经进入了瓶颈期,第三方的集成应该早已完成,业务增长缓慢所以服务扩容的需求不大。Y候选人的团队为了创造影响力开始试图拓宽自己服务的边界:跟机器学习部门合作通过更加智能的推送时间安排来提高用户推送的互动率。但这样做问题重重。

第一,扩大后的目标和上游的产品团队目标相冲突,产品团队希望对用户的推送能够按照自己的规划及时稳定地发送出去,而不是在自己和用户之间再加上一层优化。第二,平台团队并不处在最有利的位置来进行这些优化。互动率优化需要大量用户数据和行为作为训练基础,平台团队无法控制这些数据的采集,即使是进行优化,产品团队来做也更合适。第三,平台能进行优化的空间非常小。提供用户互动率更重要的是推送内容的相关性,这些不在平台的控制范围内。总而言之,这是一个典型的内部创造伪需求的例子。

机会稀缺、增长乏力的后果就是人才的流失,文化恶化。有创造力,寻求发展的人才不会满足于内部创造的这些伪需求,最后只会选择出走,这是企业衰退周期中的一个部分。

管理杂谈:为什么大公司做事慢?

对同等复杂的项目,大公司的完成周期要远长于小公司。如果将项目分为计划、执行和展示三个环节,大公司不仅每个环节都更慢,而且项目计划和展示这些非生产性的工作占比大,进一步拖慢了节奏。大公司做事慢有三个主要原因,第一是组织之间存在大量壁垒导致沟通和协调困难,第二是质量控制严格导致大量精力用在校准质量上,第三是需要进行过度的成果展示以弥补实际影响不足的问题。

  • 组织壁垒

大公司内部存在非常清晰的权力边界,跨越边界的行动必须得到审核批准,审批过程成为执行任务的第一个壁垒。大公司业务分工细致,业务线通常由不同团队负责上下游环节。在规划项目的时候,主导项目的团队为了获得业务线上各个团队的批准,需要花费大量精力解释对流程的改动,而这样的沟通一般需要多个回合。在执行过程中,因为跨越边界,团队往往需要将改动递交给业务主管的团队审核,这样来回提交和审批更是拖慢节奏的毒药。

大公司的团队之间壁垒较高有两个主要原因:细致分工自然带来的专业性权威和为了彰显存在感而制造的壁垒。大公司内各个部门所主管的领域往往十分细致,专业门槛较高。为了保证对业务改动正确有效,需要领域内的权威进行审核,这就自然而然地催生了审核流程和文化。另一方面,设立壁垒既是彰显自身存在的必要环节,也是避免自己在组织中被替换掉的防御性手段。对于专业门槛不高的团队尤其如此,他们比其他团队更有动力使用手中的权力。

成长型公司内部团队之间壁垒较少。各个团队被赋予了充分的自由来变动工作流程,当然他们必须为自己的改动负责。相比由专家委员会审核批准,这样松散的协作方式也许会带来更多的人为错误,但是总体上它赋予了每个人更大的自由,会带来效率的提升。这方面的典型企业是FB,所以你常常听到有人抱怨FB的速度太快压力太大。

在成长型的组织里,设立防御性的壁垒既不需要也没有用。每个团队都有足够多的空间来发展和证明自己,没有时间也没有必要设立防御性的壁垒。另外,成长型组织的考核标准更多的偏向于业务的增长,而不是现有业务的维护,依靠设立壁垒来包住自己地位的方法是没用的。

  • 质量控制

大公司过于强调质量是做事慢的第二个原因。对于质量的强调是出于三个方面的需求。第一是业务更新周期更长,对质量的投入有长期的回报,因此人们有动力这样。随着业务流程质量的下降,后续投入的收效会下降。这种下降对于整体效率的影响随着时间增长而放大。比如不好的软件设计需要后来的程序员花费更多的时间理解和修改代码。第二是因为大公司较慢的流程当中往往有更多的空间给人们关注质量,比如有大量的时间进行代码审核。第三是通过对质量的强调创造知识权威,这也进一步弥补了通过业务影响创造权威的不足。

小公司需要将更多的精力放在业务的成长上。比如他们对代码的质量和对架构的前瞻性要求较低,因为反复的代码审核会极大的拉低项目速度,当每个人都在忙于成长性项目的时候,没有人有足够多的的时间审阅他人的工作。另外,默认设定是每两年左右需要重构一次所有代码,过于前瞻性的设计和对质量的高要求没有长期的回报,因此也就得不到提倡了。

  • 宣传包装

大公司重视宣传和展示成果是做事慢的第三个原因,比如将项目点成果在不同场合加以汇报。因为项目本身的周期长消耗大,团队需要通过重度宣传的方式来宣示成果。但更重要的是大公司进入稳定期之后,产品的迭代对于业务指标的提升越来越不显著,需要通过夸张的庆贺和宣传来创造一种实际影响很大的印象。

重视展示成果的文化也会自我加强。因为一旦这成为一种常态,人们就会假设那些没有进行展示的项目的实际成果不显著。这样的设定逼迫人们不得不努力去花费时间进行展示。在小公司因为从产品到业务的层级较少,所有的影响都可以通过简单直观的业务指标评价,不需要过多花费时间在这个步骤。

招聘杂谈:先招高级工!

招到合适的人是经理最重要的任务,但是新人经理最容易犯的错是给团队招聘太多初级员工。这个错误一般是两个情况造成的:第一是团队需要快速扩充人手,第二是初级候选人数量众多又容易招到。新人经理可以凭借业务能力带领相对初级的团队,但这很快就会成为他们进一步成长的绊脚石。

团队扩充人手的冲动主要来自产品版图扩大和业务量增长。招聘初级员工是解决这个问题最容易的出路。初级候选人数量众多,薪资竞争不大,比较容易从职业前景和财务机会的角度说服。高级候选人则完全不同,数量稀少,薪资竞争激烈。他们经历丰富,选择众多,对职业规划也比较清楚,发展机会、财务前景、公司文化、管理风格等任何方面的问题都可能是他们的顾虑。

新人经理解决人手问题之后,起初会发现初级团队没有那么难以管理。新人经理业务能力尚且强大,他们仍然可以带领团队在一线冲锋,创造较高的执行效率。但他们很快会发现这种模式是不可持续的。

初级员工的管理成本非常高。他们需要大量的指导和培训,在许多方面的技能尚不熟练,往往需要经理亲自上阵。最终,经理或者疲于在各个会议中填补技能空缺,或者不得不将大量精力投入到员工培养中。而从初级到高级的跨越往往需要数年时间,通过内部培训选拔是个投入巨大收效缓慢的过程。

这样的状况会损害经理的进一步发展。如果经理的大部分精力被处理业务问题、培养团队占据,那么他就很难证明自己尚有余力承担更多职责。相反的,一个相对高级的团队可以为经理节省大量时间。高级成员的管理成本低得多,同时能为团队创造更大的价值。他们清楚自己的方向,不需要过多业务上的指导。他们可以独立带领项目,为初级的队员提供辅导和帮助。所有这些都将大大减少经理的任务,使他们可以聚焦在更加战略性的问题上。

总之,新人经理一定要抵住诱惑和冲动,从高级员工开始招聘起。尽管这对招聘技能尚未成熟的新人经理是一个更大的挑战,但不这样做未来需要付出更大的成本修正这个问题。

面试杂谈:Google Engineer 的问题

我面试候选人的时候发现Google 这类大公司的工程师普遍有两个问题:对基础设施端(Infrastructure)了解不足,主动沟通能力不够。这两个问题根植在大公司的运行模式和企业文化当中,在这类公司的候选人当中非常普遍。

对基础设施了解不足主要是工程部门职能划分细致,分工明确,产品品部门缺少机会、意愿和能力了解基础设施的细节。产品部门负责产品创新和迭代,基础设施部门负责服务扩容和支持。服务扩张的需求转移到基础设施部门后,产品部门被隔绝在基础设施的细节之外,缺少了解细节的机会和愿望。另一方面,当产品到达一定用户和流量规模之后,基础设施的设计往往非常复杂,一般产品部门的工程师没有能力理解这些设计,更不用说主动贡献其中。这一点在以自建基础设施出名的Google尤其明显。

主动沟通能力不足表现在只会照章办事,缺少推动能力。大公司为了协作顺畅往往设置各种流程。很多工程师误以为在这样的流程之下工作出色就是沟通能力到位了,比如在Review Meeting上阐释产品和技术细节。其实被动沟通和主动沟通是两种能力。前者更像是回答考卷,只需按程序将问题解释清楚。主动沟通则需要了解各方的需求,克服流程和组织的限制达到目标。主动沟通的能力才是在创业公司获得成功的关键。

个人的成长离不开环境赋予的挑战,细致的分工和明确的流程当然有助于在所在领域做到极致,但往往也限制了个人发挥的空间。

《The One Minute Manager》Book Review

Instead of summarizing the book, I organized my learnings from the book in Q&A format to highlight how these hidden theories in the book could be applied to our daily management practice.

Part I: Book Summary

  • What is the one-minute goal setting?

Agree on your goal and see what good behavior looks like, write out each of your goals on a single sheet of paper using less than 250 words. Read and re-read each goal, which requires only a minute or so each time you do it. Take a minute every once in a while out of your day to look at your performance and see whether or not your behavior matches your goal.

  • Why do we need one-minute goal setting?

People are not motivated because they don’t know what their goal is. Most managers know what they want their people to do, but they don’t bother to tell their people in a way that they would understand. Instead, they assume they should know.

However, the one-minute goal setting only works for winners and those who have potentials. They know how to achieve these goals. So the manager’s more important job is to bring in the best person to the team.

  • What is the one-minute praising?

Tell people upfront that you are going to let them know how they are doing. Praise people immediately, tell people what they did right, and be specific. Tell people how good you fell about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people who work here. Stop for a moment of silence to let them feel how good you feel. Encourage them to do more of the same. Shake hands or touch people in a way that makes it clear.

  • Why does one-minute praise work?

It’s important to help people understand how well they are doing. The number one motivator of people is feedback on results. The most important thing in training one to become a winner is to catch them doing something right.

We don’t expect people to do things right from the beginning, but with coaching and other help, they can gradually moving them towards the desired behavior.

  • What is the one-minute reprimand?

Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing and is no uncertain terms. In the first half of the reprimand, reprimand people immediately. Tell people what they did wrong and be specific. Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong and in no uncertain terms. Stop for a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel. On the second half, shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side, remind them how much you value them. Reaffirm that you think well of them but not their performance in this situation.

  • Why does one-minute reprimand work?

The one-minute reprimand works because it makes sure people hear the feedback. People become defensive and can’t hear the feedback if they are attacked or if they feel you are not with them. The one-minute reprimand asks us to focus on the behavior instead of attacking the people and always make sure people know they are still valuable.

Part II: Hidden Management Theories

  • What’s your primary goal as a people manager?

A good people manager makes people work best with each other, they produce valuable results and feel good about themselves, the organization and the other people with whom they work.

  • What is “leave alone-zap”?

“Leave alone-zap” is you leave a person alone, expecting a good performance from them, and when you don’t get it, you zap them. The end result of this style is people do as little as possible.

  • When would people get motivated?

People get motivated for many reasons. But when get motivated, they feel good about themselves. Helping people to feel good about themselves is key to getting more done.

  • People-driven or result-driven, what type of manager do you think you are?

Many thought managers either cares about results or people. Result caring managers seemed to be tough and autocratic, while people-driven managers look nice and democratic. However, in order to be effective, you need to care about both.

  • How to help people find out the solution by themselves?

Ask the team to describe to you the problems they encountered in observable and measurable terms. Sometimes people focused on attitudes or feelings, which is not helpful for clarifying the problem. Then ask them to describe what they would like to be happening, and work with them to analyze what may have caused the discrepancy between the actual and desired.

  • How to explain your intention of sharing the feedback with the team?

It is important to let people know that sharing feedback is to help them become more successful. First, let them know that it helps them understand how they are doing in their work better, then, let them know that you wanted them to succeeded and be a big help to the organization, and to enjoy their work.

  • How do you explain to the team that your interests are aligned?

Explain to the team that your success depends on their success so they understand that your interest is aligned and you are with them. Explain to them that the more consistently successful your people are, the higher you rise in the organization.

  • What do you do if your team performed well however things are not going well?

Responds to people where they are, not where you are, still praise people even when you annoyed by other things if they’ve done well.

  • How to not discourage people when sharing constructive feedback?

The key is to separate the behavior and the people. Remember that when you give constructive feedback only focus on the behavior instead of the person. Always remind people that they are valuable and worthwhile?

  • Why separating people’s behavior and they as a person is so important?

Because we are managing people, not their behavior. People are more complicated, they will become defensive if they are attacked. Your power of management style comes from you care about people. Your reprimand would not work if the people don’t feel that you are with them.

  • Do you give positive feedback to the team? Do you think it is important?

Positive feedback is as important as constructive feedback. One mistake many managers made is to focus on the negative feedback, they set the goal and wait for the people to fail.

  • Is management manipulate people?

No, manipulation is getting people to do something they are either not aware of or don’t agree to. That is why it is important to let each person know upfront what you are doing and why.

Hiring: The Hidden Job Description

The internal standards we used to hire a candidate is way different from the job description posted on the company’s career website. It could be that the company’s using a standard hiring process with a generic job description, or it could be that the hiring managers intentionally keep the description vague so that we can be flexible in the hiring process. Published or not, we as hiring managers has to be crystal clear about the expectation of the position we are hiring for.

Smart Question use The hidden job description to describe these unpublished internal job description. The hidden job descriptions, unfortunately, will not be clear unless you written them down and validate them with the right principals. For example, not all expectations for the position are equal, some are crucial, some are important, while some are just nice to have.

The first thing SQ suggest us to do is to write down the job descriptions. Then you need to differentiate the crucial skills v.s. important skills. And then you should design your questions around the expectations. The most important piece is to trying to find out whether the candidate is a match for the position.

For example, I would want to hire a tech lead for my own team and hence the following three qualities are important for the person to be successful in this position:

  • Technical leadership

D: The ability to design, plan and organize the tech initiative from the day to day tech decision making to architecture change. Q: Can you describe to me how the project is organized in your current team and your responsibilities in organizing the work?

  • Tech mentorship

D: The ability to mentor and develop the team member’s tech skills as well as unleveling the team’s tech craftsmanship. Q: Can you give me a few examples how you help the team members that at different stages to develop their tech skills?

  • Communication skills

D: The abilities to work with different product and engineering team to drive the various initiatives related to the team. Q: Can you describe to me the challenges you faced when you drive a major initiative?

I would say the tech leadership and communication skills are crucial, while the tech mentorship can be developed and hence I rate it as important.

The hidden job description not only applies to professional recruiting, but also apply to other scenarios like looking for life partner. Not every time our answer to the question of “what is your expectation for your life partner?” is clear and well thought. Most of the time they are vague expectations.

People seeking life partner through online dating app is facing the same challenge as when they search for a job. Each of us have multiple choices while we have very limited time to know each other. The time we can spend with each candidate is very limited and when we are trying to evaluate the candidate, we are also being evaluated. Whether we can effectively find out the possibilities of matching with another person, whether we could present out self clearly to hopefully send out the right signals is a challenge.

The framework presented in SQ hence can also be applied to the dating interviews. First write down the hidden job description, then find out the what’s going to be crucial for you and design your question around that. In the mean time, present your self clearly during the dating to help the other person understand your expectations faster.

However, dating interview is different from job interview, even if a candidate matches with all our expectation, it is not guaranteed that we would develop the relationship with him/her, as passion something that we can’t define ore measure, is still the driven factor in establishing the relationship.

Leadership Case Study: Strength the Company Culture in Q&A Session

Starting from this post, I will start with a series of articles about leadership skills learned from people around me as I found it is an effective way of learning leadership skills. All examples will come from my working environment. The questions will be grouped based on the topic or the situation.

Question: What’s your most unforgettable moment in 2019?

The leaders should take each opportunity to motivate and inspiring the employee.

  • How was the question answered?

Tony started with the wins of 2019, say new product lunch, become market leader, etc, all about the great progress the company made in 2019. Then he turned to the difficult moment in 2019, he highlighted that lot’s of people working collaboratively together to solve these touch problems.Then he pivot the topic to: we cannot control our customer, but we can choose to be great. He named a few examples(male and female one for each) and stressed that these people made great achievement because they wanted to be great. He then concluded that we can choose to be great.

  • Learning

Tony first highlighted the wins, in the mean time, he identified the culture element that made us through the highlights and lowlights, and he ask us to keep working on these elements.

Question: in one year if you search XX(company name) in google, what do you wish to see?

Similar to the previous topic, the leaders should take each opportunity to stress the important values that we hold: focus on the income metrics not the outcome metrics.

  • How was the question answered?

This is a prompt question, and Tony talked about some fillers on the very beginning. Then he mentioned that he would like to see the stories about the impact we make to our customer, to the local merchants. He also mentioned that he didn’t want to see the valuation, market share, etc. He said these are the outcome metrics that we can’t control, and we should continue to focus on serving our customers.

  • Learning

Highlight the real important things that lead to your success, and pivot the team’s attention for chasing the outcomes.

Question: There has been ongoing negative sentiment in the industry about the gig economy startups, their profitability and success. Many companies in that space have not been able to keep up the industry expectations after they went public. What have we learned from that and what is our action plan to stay successful? How should we stay motivated ourselves that we are not heading in the same direction as those others?

  • How was the question answered?

Tony started with the setting the tone: not going to talk about any bad things of other companies, but don’t buy in everything on the press. Then he agreed that as a company, we will be inevitably measured by the outcomes: the growth and the profitability of the business bing the two most critical metrics.

He acknowledged that it is very hard to achieve both growth and profitability, but we are rewarded only by doing hard things. Then he highlighted a few critical things about achieving growth and profitability: being creative in growth, and being discipline in budgeting. He shared a few examples about creating growth without spending lot’s of money on marketing, and a few example about what it means to be discipline in budgeting: hiring the right people instead of hiring lot’s of people.

He then expanded this topic to highlight the culture of “And, Not Either/Or”. He mentioned that we need to achieve “And” in all areas, improve the efficiency AND share the benefit with the drivers, etc.

He then covered another culture element: focus on the income metrics, not the outcome metrics, say build the basics right. And only this way we get rewards.

  • Learning

Instead of trying to explain why there were negative sentiments, he created a narrative that these outcomes are many times beyond our control and we should focus on the foundation of our own business. And he always landing his reasoning in the company culture.

Manager Training: Stakeholder Communication

Why

As an engineering manager, you are responsible for business outcomes. And most of the time, you alone don’t have full control over the outcomes. You need to work with multiple other teams or departments, say the product management team, the operation team, the design team, the business analytics team. In order to achieve almost any meaningful outcome, you need to manage these stakeholders effectively.

Over-communicate

The most important step is to make sure you are on the same page with your stakeholders. Any misalignment can pull the team in different directions. One suggestion is to have regular 1:1s and/or a leads meeting at least weekly for the key partners.

When you organize such meetings, you should: Try to keep it small: only invite the min group necessary to take action for the success of the team. Many studies show that a large group could make the meeting ineffective. Align with your partners the priorities, and the strategies behind hitting them. Raise any flags of what you’re worried about that may hinder success. Such as feedback for each other or other team members, new areas emerging, etc. Problem-solve together, walk away with AIs.

When you are in the meeting, trying to be transparent: sharing everything. Teams are intertwined, it is very important as you plan for your team that stakeholders are in the loop to plan accordingly and give feedback.

Bridge the gap on tech

As an engineering manager, many times you need to explain your tech work to the nonengineering stakeholders. Tech work here meaning the work that is not tracked on the product OKRs, say improve the service reliability, improve the code quality, etc. Your cross-functional partners should be able to articulate the “why” behind these work as well as you do because they need to justify it to their own organization as well. One way is to try to answer this question: if I am an end-user, why do I care about that. And you should try to write these reasons down and pass it over to your stakeholders.

It is also important that when you plan for the work, you should try to plan the project so that you can deliver incremental impact or benefits, even if some times this means you need to take a detour.

Handle Disagreement

An important part of communication is to handle disagreement. The first point is to have empathy. You should be your delivery’s advocate, but in the meantime, as a thought experiment, try to switch sides with the other person and try to convince yourself from the other’s point of view. It is said that “S/he is no good layer who can not take two sides”, this also applies to the leader.

If you can’t convince the other side, try to propose an alternative path forward or middle ground to try to solve at least part the problem of your stakeholder. It is not enough to just say no.

When you don’t have enough information to make a decision, you can use a “disagree and commit” strategy, as gaining too much information to make a decision is too slow in most situations. But you should pick the battle and use this strategy wisely, it is better to be wrong than to be indecisive.

When you and your partner can’t reach an agreement or both of you agree to escalate, you should consider escalating the case. You should use this strategy carefully because if you escalate all the time, you are asking your boss to do your job. And when you escalate, it is important that you keep it clean: you should set a time with the mutual agreed decision-maker and commit to whichever outcome the decision-maker choose. You should try to avoid escalate without notifying your partners as this erodes trust. The decision-maker doesn’t have to be your boss, for tech discussions, you can reach out to more senior engineers.

Communicate Upwards

The most important part is probably to agree on the cadence of your report. You can set a calendar reminder to fill the report out consistently: consistency goes a very long way. You should also be transparent on the issue you are facing: your updates are not only for accountability, but also to identify problems and help to get the project back on track.

You should also minimize the overheads for your own reports just so that you can save as much time as possible for them to do the work.

Holding effective meetings

If the communication to your stakeholders goes more than 3 ~ 4 emails or JIRA comments, you should hold a meeting. And here are a few tips to keep the meeting productive.

Prior to the meeting, think about what it takes for the meeting to be successful and productive. During the meeting, don’t be afraid to inject if the discussion is off the track. And after the meeting, send an email reminder to all attendees to document the key decisions and listing AIs. And you should assume it is on your to get the AIs done.