How to align engineering and product leadership teams with a win/lose together mindset

By February 17, 2019 Engineering, Product, ScaleUp

The engineering and product leadership teams of any company have a lot of reasons to rely on each other — but that does not exactly equate to time spent working closely. While this common, and quite necessary, delineation of teams calls for distinct tasks and management on both sides, engineering and product could have a lot to benefit from working more closely together.

In a recent Q&A discussion with Sérgio Laranjeira, Engineering Lead at Zalando, a panel of ScaleUps came together with their best queries on how to effectively bridge engineering and product leadership teams.

Preaching a win together, lose together mindset, Laranjeira contributed his take on how these two crucial teams can share their global goals and impacts to more thoroughly serve the company overall.

Turning a technical view into a business view — and vice versa

According to Laranjeira, the biggest struggle for the engineering side, of which he is the leader at Zalando, is defining a perspective on projects that extends further than just the technology.

Product leadership has the advantage of understanding how the joint output serves the business, making it easier to recognize the sales impact of what’s being built. But there’s a disconnect in what it takes to create the actual product.

Engineers have the skills to put it all together but aren’t necessarily focused on how this will reflect back in sales.

Both teams have the opportunity to redefine their instinctive view — technical or business — and make a conscious effort to turn it into a more holistic understanding of the impact on both product and sales.

This kind of switch in thinking allows the teams to not only find new ways of understanding their influence but also broadens their abilities to work together in reaching bigger, company level goals.

Laranjeira suggests that companies do their best not to create a hard divide between tasks that are designated to the two teams. This allows both engineering and product leadership teams to work better with effective and levelled communication.

Staying on the same page with performance reviews

Speaking of communication, what’s the best way to make sure everyone’s on the same page? Complete transparency when it comes to performance expectations and execution, of course.

To Laranjeira, clear communication means both written and verbal conversation — as much as possible. And the best space to establish and follow through with this initiative is with multiple styles of review processes.

At Zalando, the team uses one-on-one sprint reviews, as well as retrospectives and two larger performance reviews in the year. With clear notes taken at each sprint review, the longer performance reviews are better informed, understood and come with few surprises.

Each feedback meeting should be approached with facts including numbers and measured impact. It’s a time for getting into individual feedback, which all engineering and product leadership teams should embrace.

One final note: Laranjeira does one-on-one sessions with the product team in addition to his engineering squad. When he says clear communication across the board, he’s not messing around.

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