You did it! You’re managing a new team. Maybe it wasn’t your decision but either way I see you’re busy. We don’t have much time.
Here’s some advice as you chart a course for your team:
- Make new problems into old ones
- Hire generalists, not specialists
- Own the problem space
This may sound self-explanatory but give me a minute to expand on this. After a few years working and leading software teams, let’s just say, I’ve seen a few.. things…
New problem → Old problem
It may sound strange to say, but being lazy can be a good thing. But you need to be lazy in the right way spending a bit more energy early on to make future problems more tractable (another way to think of it: maximize slack for you and your team later by simplifying problems today).
Real innovation can happen against a backdrop of what is known, familiar and stable. So maximize for what is known, familiar, and stable! this will leave more space for the hard, exciting problems in the future.
Get good at doing this. Help your team get good at doing this. It can be a kind of superpower.
Look, I’ll be honest with you. These are early innings for your company. “More people” can feel like “more progress” but if you feel pushed to hire specialists, you should politely refuse almost every time and hire generalists instead.
Do this unless it’s so painfully obvious that the specialist’s job is tied to a long-term, strategic pursuit of your organization.
Which brings us to the most important point…
Projects are ephemeral, but problem spaces are not. If your new team is defined by the projects you tackle, you’ll have problems when those projects change course (which they will).
Unlike the other points above, it’s very hard to recover from a misstep here. To get this wrong carries risk on team morale, tenure and overall trust within the team.
Projects can get de-prioritized. Developers who pin their career goals on a project risk feeling “de-prioritized” as well. People quit their managers over this all the time. You don’t want this to happen.
The answer is to never get into this situation in the first place. Make sure your team is aligned to a problem space (e.g. replace “we work on the reporting tool” with “we work on customers getting insights into their data”).
There’s a lot more to add about that, but I see you’re late for your next meeting..