“Man, this is a mess!” have heard those words before? No matter how many rock stars you have on your development and product management teams, I’m convinced that the overhead of communication and coordination directly impacts the cost and the time it takes to deliver a software product. Moreover, poor communication directly impacts the quality of the product.
Accountability is another thing that gets compromised when the team size grows dramatically. It is not that the people become irresponsible, but the size of the organization generates too many levers to control in the process, and it becomes impossible for the central entity to manage those levers effectively - that’s when people start becoming “cautiously optimistic” as opposed to being “positive”.
So how do you deliver a large project in a significantly big organization?
- Hire the right middle management that turns your development teams into true engineering teams that can make the right decisions at the right time when Product Managers are busy envisioning the next release
- Narrow your focus down to drive key strategic projects as opposed to trying to drive 100 different initiatives at the same time. It is the quality of the product that makes it successful.
- Make sure your teams believe in the initiative you are driving. Executives can provide strategic direction but they should let the people on the ground make the key decisions around product features. The more they believe in the product, the better the quality will be. You’ll be surprised by the amount of innovation and discipline it will drive when you let your people drive the product.
- Break your large teams into smaller agile teams that have their own measurable deliverable. Create a flat structure. Those 8 people could be reporting 5 different middle managers, but they all should have a single goal of delivering the product module end to end. Motivate them and help them be successful. Use Bezo’s Two Pizza Rule !
- Be realistic about timeline and goals. Raise project risks at the right time and generate a collaborative culture across business and IT teams. Which also means that the middle management will need to let go of their political agenda in order to allow people to focus on what is right for the company.
- Reduce Bureaucracy by not putting completely unnecessary processes in place where they are not at all required. This will also help reduce the administrative overhead and your people will be able to focus on delivering the freaking product they are working on.
Yes, it is possible to build a start up like culture within a highly complex organization if people put aside their “that’s how it works here” mentality and become truly passionate about delivering the product to the market. Easier said than done? Probably. Is it impossible? definitely not.