Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 2/27/2003
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It’s Your Responsibility to
Know Your Role in Implementing the Vision and Roadmap
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
In previous e-Newsletters I’ve discussed the
importance of a company vision (see eN030102 –
Poor Company Vision Clouds Everyone’s View), a product vision
(see eN-030116 – Poor Product Vision Blinds
Engineering), and a product roadmap (see eN030130
– A Poor Product Roadmap Gets Everyone Lost), and how these must
be developed and published so that it is clear to everyone in the
organizations, in engineering in particular, what their roles are in
implementing the visions and roadmaps (see eN021303
– Even Small Cogs Are Essential to the Machine (Recognizing That Your Role
Makes A Difference)). It
is true that this is a key responsibility of management to the employees, and
poor outcomes will be the result of not making these clear.
However, this responsibility does not lie exclusively with management.
The individual employees are likewise responsible and accountable for
understanding their roles and for ensuring that they and their managers are in
full agreement in these roles.
Employees clearly want to be given credit for their initiative, their
hard work, and their successes; they deserve such credit.
Similarly, employees should be held responsible for their lack of
initiative, their inadequate work efforts, and their failures.
Further, while management has a responsibility to make employees’
roles clear, employees are responsible adults, and as such, must accept their
part in understanding how they fit in to the organization.
If employees do not clearly understand their role in the organization,
it is not acceptable for them to simply complain and blame management.
Blaming management is a cop out and shows immature behavior.
Employees must make their lack of understanding of their roles
abundantly clear to their managers, and work with them to become part of the
solution, and not simply part of the problem.
What should employees do if they are confused or unsure about their
role in implementing the vision and contributing to meeting the roadmap?
► First, they need to ask what the company vision is, and ask to have it
documented and publicized. If it
exists, they should review it and determine if their role in implementing this
company vision is clear to them. If it is, they should discuss it with their manager and make
sure he/she concurs with what they see as their role. In this way there is no confusion. If their role in the vision is not clear, then need to
discuss this with their manager and get clarification.
They need to make it clear to their manager that this is essential to
them properly doing their job.
► Second, they need to take similar actions regarding the product
vision. To demonstrate good
initiative, they may ask to be a member of the team creating this vision.
Again, their role in implementing the product vision must be clear and
agreed to with their manager; this is even more essential for engineers than
the company vision.
► Third, then need to take similar actions regarding the product
roadmap, and again can demonstrate initiative by asking to be part of the team
defining the roadmap. Their
specific role should be most clearly determined by the product roadmap, as
this will show what needs to be done, when, by whom, and how the many
sub-tasks fit together and are interdependent.
There needs to be crystal clear agreement on their role with their
managers on the product roadmap.
Now let’s assume that employees have done all of this, and there is still no
clear company vision, product vision, or product roadmap.
Then what’s next?
► If the employee can make no progress with his/her direct manager, then
it is time to find way around this. A
good first step is to have discussions with fellow employees and go together
as a group to the manager(s) and/or senior manager(s) to make it clear to them
that it is essential that the employees’ roles be made clear and agreed to.
A group of like-minded employees will have more power to affect change.
The thrust of such action should initially be entirely positive,
emphasizing the benefits for all of a company vision, product vision, and
product roadmap. It should also emphasize the desire of the group to
participate in this effort for the good of the entire company. The business reasons, as well as the development team
reasons, should be made clear to management, even if they don’t initially
recognize these reasons themselves. Subtle
embarrassment can make them recognize their responsibilities.
A reasonable management team should react positively and make this
► If this still has no effect, then it may be time to become more of a
pest, or a better yet a swarm. Make some noise; organize a protest (a positive, good protest). Let management
know that you demand that the company be a success, that you want to
participate in that success, and that they’re not doing their job in helping
to make such success possible. If
you become too much of a pest, then management may move to get rid of you,
although if you work as a team with key and respected employees included, this
is less likely. If management
ultimately does move to put down the protest , then are you really worse
off than working for a company destined for failure?
Management needs to carry out their responsibilities and to be held
accountable for their actions (or lack thereof).
However, it is also critical that individual employees need to
recognize their responsibilities, and the consequences of their action (or
inaction). The success or failure
of the company is up to everyone!
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