Your team is not too small

Working as a consultant, I could see different teams in different companies, and I’ve heard some sentences that sounds like a red alert to me. They are not necessarily false, but often they hide a different kind of problem from the one identified by words.

This team is too small, we need more people to grow our capacity.

Every healty business has a lot more business ideas than time to execute them: some good ideas, some are bad ones. What a lot of businesses lacks is the ability to choose which business idea is the most important now. If you can’t choose which is most important, you will be overwhelmed by a huge number of ideas all at the same priority that will start at the same time and will burn your precious time, without permitting you to complete any of them. If you can’t choose the fate will do it for you.

instagram team
The entire Instagram team when it was bought by Facebook

If you grow a team but you don’t have focus, your capacity to complete your projects will remain unchanged. You will simply start a lot more secondary things that will continue to steal your attention, and your important goal will be lost in a even worse mess of business opportunities.

But why choose which is the most important goal for your product now is such a difficult issue?

Well, the causes can be multiple:

  • to choose is a risk: if you choose you need to take the responsability of your choice, if you don’t choose your chance of success will be much smaller, but won’t be your choice to make you fail;
  • it’s not clear who should choose: in some company the responsability to choose the focus are not really clear, no one feels entitled to choose a focus;
  • who should choose doesn’t want to choose: sometimes the person in charge of taking the decision doesn’t want to take decisions because he doesn’t feel qualified, or he doesn’t want to be accountable for that decision;
  • different visions: sometime the people at the head of the company have different ideas (which is normal), but they can’t reach a consensus (which is problematic);
  • no vision at all: no one really cares about what this product should be, and even more importantly not be.

The solution is simple but not easy, you need to analyze and overcome all the obstacles that blocks your organization from committing to a single goal, to unlock your organization real potential.

 

Thanks to Nicole Bartolini and Riccardo Franconi

Programming is the easier part

Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.

So, about this Googler’s manifesto – Yonatan Zunger

The Second Law of Consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.

The secrets of consulting (1985) – Gerald Weinberg

Anyway writing software is hard, but unfortunately is the easier part.