As engineering managers our time is always in short supply. Most managers I know complain about never having enough time. We are busy people! At some point in your management career you realize you just can’t get more accomplished by working more hours.
When it comes to time management, there is no panacea; but there are small things you can do that when added together, can make a big difference. What follows are some small things that have really helped me reclaim time and attention, increase focus time, and just lower my baseline stress level on a daily basis.
Have you heard of zombie standup? If not, there’s a good chance you’ve been part of one at some point. Zombie standup is just what it sounds like – a lifeless meeting where people go around a room and talk about what they are working on but nothing much useful happens as a result.
When done well, standups are a highly effective tool to keep work progressing in the right direction. In this post, I’ll talk about my experience with a different standup format than the one most commonly used. A format I think does a much better job of accomplishing the intended goal of standups in the first place.
Is your team scared to change their process? Are they endlessly evaluating or arguing over different options and their pros and cons? As an industry, we practice fast experimentation with new products and technologies; frequently releasing, getting feedback, iterating, and learning. So why do we resist doing this with our processes?
Does the above sound familiar? If you have worked in an engineering department for any length of time, you have probably had this experience.
So what is going on here?
The problem is that there is a fundamental disconnect between the two people about what they are actually talking about. The product person thinks the engineer is talking about a calendar time estimate. But the engineer is thinking about an estimate in terms of the effort involved – one that is completely divorced from any specific calendar or scheduling considerations. This is one of the reasons why many projects are late.
Analytics are critical to success in business today. Businesses can’t expect to understand their customers or the best path forward without constantly leveraging and gaining insights from their data. Just like business leaders use analytics to be more effective, so too should engineering leaders!
Leveraging analytics in your daily work as an engineering manager will help you make better decisions and increase your confidence in those decisions. Simply put, if you build the skills up and use them – it’s like a superpower. It will open up a whole new world of opportunities to make you and your team more effective.
You’ve probably heard of Harvard Business Review, but have you heard of the HBR IdeaCast? It’s a fantastic and free podcast that summarizes a lot of content in the Harvard business review publication and it’s been running for well over a decade.
I’ve been burning through the archives and created a list of the best episodes I’ve listened to. Hopefully these episodes give a sense of some of the great material available on the podcast.
I’ve recently begun the practice of maintaining a working thoughts document. The idea behind this document is to work through difficult or interesting problems I’m dealing with on a day-to-day basis at work through writing.