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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 2/27/2003

This is your bi-weekly e-Newsletter from Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.

eN-030227:

It’s Your Responsibility to Know Your Role in Implementing the Vision and Roadmap
  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.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 happen.

► 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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