Before I get into the contents of this topic, I’d like to weigh in on what this would not be. This would not be about the different tactics that one can use to share his/her knowledge with an organization(neither inward nor outward). This would not be about the different tactics – like engaging in tech talks, like building online classes, like documenting (or correcting documentation on) workflow, like providing office hours, like providing a tailored social media experience via a mailing list– she/he can use to better his/her organization. Although, these things are all awesome to have.
This topic will instead be focused on team values, leadership & mentorship, performance reviews and peer bonuses incentive.
If you’ve been part of the organization for a while, you have greater degrees of alignment with these. It does still help to be able to convey these concisely. If I asked “Mai hey, what are your team’s values?” You should be able to say “Leadership, commitment & teamwork” or whatever it is.
When applying for jobs or to join teams on collaborative projects, I sift out the team values via available material on the team’s website, LinkedIn, job board etc. This allows me to communicate 3 things. (1) That I have done my research and I understand the team’s values which usually means the team can now communicate in a more cooperative manner with me. (2) I understand what anecdotes from my life apply and I can relay those accordingly. (3) My personal values are aligned with the team’s which gives me some breathing room to convey my intelligence.
But sometimes organizations aren’t so clear about their values and even less so with values specific to their teams. Let’s take a look at an example and see how we handle.
Case Study: Playstation
If you look here and even try to get some more details from their official website, you’ll find that there are no clear set of values being conveyed anywhere. We’ll just have to look a bit closer.
“PlayStation isn’t just the Best Place to Play —it’s also the Best Place to Work.” From here we can deduce that employee satisfaction is important to the company. Especially because it’s on the first line.
“We’ve thrilled gamers since 1994” This line implies that they are interested in longevity and permanence. This could be in the form of the employees they hire or the products they produce. This makes me curious about how they’re implementing codebase upgrades from an executive & policy standpoint as these are notoriously expensive to analyse and pull off.
“global leader in interactive and digital entertainment” The essence of this line can basically be captured in 2 words: User Experience (UX). Particularly leadership in UX. This can also be framed as “an individual who has leadership experience in UX and is more concerned about the outward presentation of the company than any ladder climbing”.
Team Values = Employee satisfaction+Longevity+ Leadership in UX.
I need a sidebar. What companies do you find more interesting than Playstation? Send me an email or leave a comment and we can go through the values together.
Leadership and Mentorship
Google’s Engineering team has a special tactic for this: Mentors are not allowed to be on the same teams as mentees. This allows mentees ask questions and bring up topics without a worry of sounding dumb.
If you’re in a small organization, there may not be any official leaders of a project and you may have found yourself falling into this role by accident a few times. A good leader provides the team with “microservices” like resolving conflicts, coordinating team members and making decisions necessary to produce a successful product.
I found myself falling into this role when I worked for a Start-Up in Los Angeles, CA. There were only 3 programmers on the team and sometimes we would run into issues like not knowing the correct tools to perform a specific engineering task or performance review. Sometimes we would run into documentation conflicts.
I found myself setting a documentation standard. “That’s how we’re going to do it. If it breaks then we’ll fix it or we’ll pivot”, I said in an email once.
As for the engineering conflict, I found myself interviewing several contractors for the job, drawing up the legal agreement and even partly financing the tech modifications.
It was either I do that or the project wouldn’t make it to the market in time. This would have been a bad look for the organization.
Organizations, in general, are notorious for investing in performance. They need to deal with challenges like:
- Are employees getting better at their jobs over time?
- Is there a key meter for performance measurement or is it something that can only be seen over time through a bunch of elementary indicators?
- How does one effectively invest in performance?
Knowledge work (like Software Engineering) is very unlike manual work in that it is hard to measure and subsequently hard to manage. To get the best results out of a knowledge worker, one needs to communicate what needs to be done and why. So, how can one convey to the knowledge worker the information, discussion and instruction?
I believe that it’s all about doing your best to prepare for the one-on-one:
– preparing questions ahead of time
– preparing materials that require feedback
– highlighting accomplishments
– preparing team analysis ahead of time
– are you meeting a specific team value? Convey your experience.
– Your analysis of leadership and how they can help you better.
Lucy Bain explains that it’s all about improving the value you get from meetings.
Peer Bonus Incentive
If a team member is doing exceptionally well, the other members of the team should have an easy way to congratulate her and send her rewards. This is known as a “Peer bonus” in companies like Google.
I have run into situations where organizations have forced this down the throats of their teams to detrimental effects. Saying things like “Who would you like to congratulate this week” in a large team meeting.
Team members should have the opportunity to issue “bonuses” without an added pressure by team managers or project leaders. An environment of psychological safety should be a priority.