The world’s leading engineering companies and their leadership teams have one mission objective outside of the commercial, to build and retain industry leading, high-performance people that deliver quality products on time.
When building teams of talented people that work together, effectively, especially in challenging environments, leadership must maintain a focus on identifying, hiring and retaining the teams that comprise of the key talent that lies behind every innovation and new product release. Those teams require engineering management of the highest ability as well as those that embody a positive corporate culture and bring out the best in their people. Not through force but through ability enablement and nurturing of individual and team skillsets. Only the top engineering companies can produce this level of productivity, innovation and expertise.
Obviously, hiring the right people is reliant on building an environment where talented people want to work. Somewhere they can use their passion for engineering to grow themselves and the product or service. A culture rooted in growing the strength of a team by growing the market value of every employee, will ensure high levels of team retention through training and investment creating an inherent sense of self-value. In turn creating an atmosphere where personal performance is as important as corporate output and customer perception.
In combination with common perks such as flexible-working hours, games areas, company activities focused on fun and team building, a focus on increasing an employee’s value subsequently improves a company’s reputation and ability to attract the right people at the right time especially when that company is not risk averse and is willing to pursue new technologies, challenges and directions.
A “cultural manifesto” is now as important as the commercial playbook and is an inherent part of building strong and successful engineering teams. A company’s values, goals and working methods comprises more than the ingredients behind an often-empty Mission Statement and is now more a shared experience than a strapline!
The renowned MIT scholar Edward Schein defines culture as a “pattern of basic assumptions” which are discovered, invented and developed by a group as it works towards problem solving. Those basic assumptions, values, and problem-solving techniques become part of the organization’s “culture” as soon as they are codified into something that can be taught to new employees and is essential to the scaling of teams. Especially, in engineering environments such as scrum-teams working in Agile or Waterfall methodologies.
Development roadmaps are also essential in aiding project direction, control of output and the management of team morale . Adding an invaluable input from customer based “super user groups” ensure the customer base buy-in to new developments and directions at the earliest point which naturally leads to an uplift potential in sales. Meaning that, everyone is on the same page, both inside and outside the company. This approach to crafting software architecture roadmaps reinforces market leading potential, especially following on from a collaboration with the kind of customers that the competition takes notice of.
Also, of note is the source and the ease of which employees can see the route to success. In the IT sector, most MDs, CEOs, CTOs started their trade as engineers from which they climbed the ranks through hard work, dedication and skill. This level of achievement must be seen as available to all employees and if they “put the work in and they can get there too”. The real trick to engineering management is to focus on the management and not the coding, Generals need Lieutenants and a reliable mid-level engineering lead provides huge dividends.
Leadership that recognises what leadership means has massive value, managing and developing are very different skills and the human aspect needs to be nurtured. An awareness of the problems often seen during a company’s growth, especially those triggered by scaling aren’t easy to see. The remedy of which, is not as easy as rectifying coding problems and again this contributes towards that culture of excellence. Great management at its basic level is keeping your team happy, but in order to achieve a culture of excellence a team needs to be more than happy, they need to be challenged. No one likes a boring environment and pushing the product set to new heights and capabilities, especially those you know your competition struggles with, brings bragging rights and huge rewards. A team should also have a visibility of success, their reward doesn’t amount to just pay-day and a sense of ownership, being a part of success establishes personal growth. An engineer with a sense of worth and value is a high-performing engineer and a high-performing engineer with a sense of ownership, is an exceptional engineer!
The above approach combined with effective involvement, collaboration and team-wide communication will deliver high-quality products on schedule and in conjunction with the “user super group”, to deliver an unrivalled product with market dominating performance. This approach to high-level working practices doesn’t happen by mistake, it is a deliberate act, designed to produce an environment where commercial and personal success is not the exception, but the absolute minimum expectation. Success, like quality is never a mistake, it is a destination and the correct roadmap will deliver every time. Inherently, tension will occur, people are people after all, but capturing and directing that energy prevents issues and will bring about a positive outcome, especially in a team where success is the only aim.
“No need to reinvent the wheel” is a phrase often heard, however in engineering, especially where Safety Criticality and Quality are concerned, it is a phrase often far from the current truth. To continue the march towards ever greater levels of automation, in areas such as testing, reinventing the wheel leads to market-dominating technologies which in turn lowers end user needs for enormous man hour efforts. Similarly, the development team needs to ever increase the level of automation and the quality of the automations output and performance. It is the identification of that need, and the route to delivering such technologies which further distinguish a leading technology company, from just a technology company. Regular and punctual release schedules based upon a culture of continuous improvement portrays a company and staff that is not just content with its market position but is always striving to lead. It is this attitude towards leadership, this attitude towards inspiration and this attitude towards growth which defines quality, from Junior Developer to CEO, quality runs through a leading company’s veins.
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