Want a Good Team Now or a Great Team Later?

The goal of our teams is to deliver results for the company. So when we prioritize work, we consider two factors: level of effort and impact. (ie, do low effort / high impact projects first).

Engineering managers have a third factor to consider: career development. Guiding people to learn new skills and be the best version of themselves is critical too.

So what happens when a project comes up that requires a specific skillset? Do you have the expert on the team handle it or do you have someone new who wants to learn that skill handle it? Or generally how do you handle time for an individual to learn?

For this I ask myself: Do I want a good team now or a great team later?

Do I want a good team now or a great team later?

If I bias towards “later”, I understand completing the project will take longer and I may get some pushback. But I also understand it will help build team knowledge and resiliency - improving our bus factor. More importantly, I know that creating a safe team environment where people can learn and be challenged is a great team to be a part of. It shows you are in it for the long-term and you value your employees’ careers.

In practice, managers need to balance between the “now” and “later” everyday. But by biasing towards the long-term, we seek to create these great work environments. Empowered, motivated, and skilled individuals will always deliver far more impact. If the goal of our teams is to deliver results, I’d say we would have succeeded.

The Pre-Mortem: Software Engineering Best Practice