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Created January 30, 2012 22:57
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Engineering Management Tricks

Here are some basic engineering management tricks for helping your team stay focused and productive. These questions are good to ask at planning, during standups, or in casual conversations.

  • When will I be able to try something out? / How can I try this out?: Ask how you can try out a new feature locally, in a dev cloud, or in production. This emphasizes getting a working vertical slice together as quickly as possible and entering into a feedback loop.
  • Can we merge this into master?: This helps you understand where an implementation is in the proof <-> production-ready spectrum. It also emphasizes that we should be separating shipping code from delivering it to users by using feature-flagging.
  • What are you blocked on?: Sometimes people get blocked on external dependencies without even realizing it, or don't have a good venue to resolve them. Asking this can help them get unblocked.
  • What is the rollout plan for this? / How is the rollout going?: Once a feature is implemented and throughout its rollout via feature flags, check in on the rollout plan to ensure we have one and are continually leaning on it.
  • How can we test this hypothesis? We often suspect something is wrong with our systems, then craft a multi-week plan to address it. We can de-risk situations like these by quickly testing the underlying hypothesis with a simple change.
  • How can I help you with that / can we look at that together?: If someone is spinning their wheels, you might jump in to provide a second pair of eyes. Sometimes just being a good rubber duck is sufficient.
  • What's the most important thing you're working on?: It's easy to get lost in the weeds - this question focuses effort in the right direction and connects it to the end goal.
  • What are you most exited about?: Always interesting to see where this one leads. It's a red flag if they can't come up with anything they're particularly excited about.
  • What are you most concerned about?: This can provide an engineer the room they need to bring up an issue that's been bothering them. You may need to ask several questions of the form "tell me more about that" to get to the root of the issue.
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