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#EngineeringMgmt

Last updated on 2019/09/26

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

The next topic to tackle from a post category standpoint is in regards to Engineer Management. This is an important topic for me as it describes what I do every day. My current role has a title of “Director of Engineering”. As someone who leads and manages others, especially Engineers, the role can be fun, exciting, challenging, and sometimes frustrating. I would like to use posts in this category to talk about this role, the methods used, and most likely the many ways that I get things wrong.

While looking on Unsplash for a good image to use for this post I came across the puzzle picture above and it jumped out at me as a good talking point. Sometimes managing people and projects can feel like you are trying to complete a puzzle while blindfolded in a dark room and the pile in front of you contains a dozen puzzles jumbled together. On the good days it can feel like you are putting together a toddlers puzzle with only 16 pieces all from the same puzzle. It can be easy or frustrating, impossible or straightforward. One of the goals for this topic is to try and find ways to sort the puzzle pieces out. If more days are spent on the easier puzzles – or even spent on a single puzzle no matter if there are 16 or 16,000 pieces – the time, effort and results will be more fulfilling than the days where all of the puzzles have lots of pieces and all of them are jumbled together in the same box.

Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

The topics for engineering management are varied and cover lots of area, but if there is a central theme here it would be that the goal of this #engineermgmt category is to try and define the ways to go about creating a best practices methodology. Let me state up front – I am not going to push any single development methodology. I strongly do not believe that there is any single process or set of ideas that is a panacea for all roadblocks and issues encountered in the development and management process. I do believe that each team and organization can build an environment that works best for that particular group in their particular niche. That is the goal of creating a best practices approach.

I strongly believe that while the classic waterfall model is generally falling out of favor, an organization with full buy-in and a strong implementation of a waterfall method throughout the organization will outperform and have happier, more fulfilled team members than an organization with a half-assed agile-scrum method that is not well defined and executed. Some organizations could do amazing things with complete buy-in on a vanilla agile-scrum methodology. Some will need more of a chaos model. Some would do best with old-school waterfall. The goal of this blog is to define the tools and methods that can be used to find and define tools and methods for determining an approach that could be considered a best practice. In short – what tools and ideas can be used so that every team can have a model named after them like the Spotify Model?

The goal of this category is now set – it is not to promote any one of these methodologies. Instead, the focus here is to try and figure out how to select and build a methodology that someone else could consider a best practice. Upon reflecting on this topic and the idea at the beginning of the post I can now provide a much better metaphor than the puzzle pieces that I started with. Building puzzles is not the right way to think of this, yet for a lot of my career has been an implied goal. Even when I started writing this I hadn’t fully thought through that implication and immediately glommed on to a incorrect approach. Why is it faulty? Building a puzzle implies that an endpoint will be reached when the last piece is fit into place. That is absolutely the wrong way to approach #engineeringmgmt because the puzzle is never finished and a perfect method and process can never be achieved.

Photo by John Doyle on Unsplash

So what is a better analogy here? Legos! A lego build is actually a perfect metaphor for #engineeringmgmt. With legos you can follow the instructions and build the amazing creation on the front of the box. Unlike puzzles, you can also take everything apart, mix it with other legos and come up with something new and amazing. It should be noted that legos are engineered to fit together precisely but do not positively lock in place. They can be broken apart or fall apart on their own if different stresses are placed on parts of the build – just like development and management processes. The goal here is twofold – to define the key elements of successful processes (to define the lego bricks themselves) and to define ways to build up creations that look amazing and can handle being played with without breaking apart completely. And just to clarify – we won’t be using any KRAGLE to hold everything together here!

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