Spotify recently documented their progressive approach to scaling Agile development with a fairly large team. Gilt’s approach has many similarities, but since some Spotify best practices are Gilt anti-patterns, it’s worth a closer look.
The Gilt tech team is about 100 strong. Most of our development is done in Manhattan. We’ve also got a small team in Portland, Oregon and a larger one in Dublin, Ireland.
The cornerstone of the Gilt process is the initiative. We define an initiative as “a project that we expect to work on for the foreseeable future.” Our foreseeable future is typically 3-12 months, depending on the area. An initiative might be to increase organic search traffic to the site.
We work on the order of 10 initiatives in parallel. The decision to green light an initiative depends on a number of factors. The most significant factor is a mathematical model of how we expect the initiative to perform, but we also consider softer factors like direct customer happiness and innovation.
Prioritizing a set of initiatives focuses the technology group on an initiative portfolio. This portfolio makes a clear statement on what is important, and indirectly, what is not. This has had a profound effect, halting our previously unending feature level prioritization discussions. This change has made not only our team happier and more productive, but also our stakeholders.
Unlike Spotify, we don’t maintain a roadmap document. Our roadmap is simply the sum of active initiatives. We revisit the set of prioritised initiatives every few months.Read the full post on The Gilt Tech Blog.
Google are associated with innovation in every aspect their business. Their management techniques are no exception. Google employ multiple award systems to motivate employees and perhaps the most notable is their peer-to-peer recognition program. This program allows Google employees to proactively recognize their peers for doing something big or small that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Peers often reward an activity that would have gone completely unnoticed by managers.
Read the full blog on Peer to peer recognition at Google.
Is great leadership the key to an organization's long term success?
Check out Jeffrey Cohn's great piece on the subject, where he discusses the need for integrity, passion, courage, vision, judgement, empathy and emotional intelligence from our leaders.
Arguably, the job of an engineering manager is to hire and sculpt a development team that is not only highly productive, but also precisely resourced for immediate business priorities.
Easier said than done. Businesses are highly erratic organisms. Especially start-ups. From week to week our business environment changes and company priorities evolve accordingly. In response to this, so does the position of senior management on the best way to adapt.
I recently had the pleasure of talking at First Capital's CTO summit. I hosted an interactive discussion on team building for around 100 CTOs and VPEs of small to medium sized, venture backed technology companies.
Here's how the audience voted on 12 critical questions:
#1: Should you hire specialists or generalists? (52 Votes)
I spend a lot of my time hiring. Recently I’ve streamlined my technical phone screening. I’ve defined a “Technical Bar” that focuses on seven skill areas.
Read more on my technical phone interviews blog
I loved the book (and the attack ad below promoting it). I spend a good deal of my time striving to hire world-class web developers, and much of what Jason and David had to say resonated with me.
I cracked a smile at the book’s opening assertion; resumes are ridiculous documents, beloved by the mediocre, filled with half-truths and exaggerations and perfect for spamming hundreds of potential employers. And my heart warmed at the suggestion that cover letters, on the other hand, are potential gems, written in the voice of the candidate and often specifically directed at the position in question. I always read the cover letter first.
Successful managers learn how to stay out of the way and let their teams work effectively and independently. Staying out the way doesn’t mean putting your feet up on your desk and playing Angry Birds on your iPad while your team does all the hard work. It means creating an environment where smart people feel empowered to recognize, own and solve problems.
Here are some ideas to help you as a manger. I’ve included a few quotes from General George Patton, since apparently even our great military leaders advocate staying out of the way.