Managing an Engineering Team: A Guide for Startups | Hacker Noon

@mayakirianovaMaya Krapivnyk

Tech Enthusiast with expertise in Start Ups

How to build a proactive and happy engineering team? What should you know to manage and lead the team of engineers more effectively? Here we’re going to share the startup guide with the helpful tips to make you a better manager and leader.

How to Better Manage an Engineering Team

Being an engineer and a leader of the engineering team makes a difference. Especially, when dealing with a startup and it’s time for staff augmentation. It’s a difficult task to find and hire dedicated specialists, not to mention maintaining a healthy working atmosphere and keeping the team proactive and engaged. Usually, startups have limited budgets and, thus, there is a small room for mistakes, delays and changes.

So, how should you organize the workflow to be the best boss, achieve the settled objectives, and meet the tight deadlines? Let’s elaborate on the key things that can help you to avoid the common mistakes, better retain the specialists, and just make the startup team of engineers accurate, effective, and close-knit.

Create Defined Work Procedures

Before you start managing the team of engineers, you should create defined work systems and procedures to succeed and reach the settled objectives in time. Herewith, you need to define:

  • deadlines;
  • project leads;
  • workflows with regular updates enabled;
  • reporting.

Without this, you risk dragging on without any results provided. So, you need to create a work cycle system for the startup to erase ambiguity and assign responsibility. It may include the following aspects:

  • all team members list;
  • clear deliverables;
  • timing (definite start and end dates);
  • regular updates and reports;
  • weekly meetings.

Use Project Management Software

Why should you use project management software for the startup?

Such platforms provide you with all the necessary tools for project scheduling and resource allocation in a more efficient way.

Also, when using the software along with all the teammates, you can control the startup budget, time estimation, quality management, etc. Here are 5 key aspects that are extremely helpful for any project to be successful:

  • Task lists and boards with all the statuses visible;
  • Schedules to track progress in revealing any gaps in the early stages;
  • File sharing for easy management of the project materials;
  • Communication for quick and easy problem solving;
  • Reporting for tracking the progress, retrospectives, and controlling the workflow.

Today there is a wide choice of different platforms such as Jira, Toggle, Trello, Bitrix24, Zoho, Asana, MeisterTask etc. Each app provides a set of tools and features. Choose the platform that suits your company’s culture and project goals best of all.

Monitor the Engineering Team’s Performance

Managing the engineering team, it’s a challenge to stay tuned in to when your teammates start and end the working day, how many hours they actually work, and so on. And you don’t need to. That means you trust your team. However, you still should monitor the progress and success of the startup project.

Don’t track working hours, but focus on results. Hold the weekly meetings, check the daily reports, and track if they meet deadlines and control the quality of the work. This enables you to monitor the progression of the project, reveal the problems, be flexible and to keep an eye on the big picture.

Build Transparency-Based Processes

Processes are essential to keep your team effective, reveal the gaps to fill, clarify the responsibilities of each engineering team member, create accountability among teammates. There are lots of existing methodologies like Crystal, Kanban, Scrum, Agile, Waterfall, and others to implement into the startup for defining the processes and standardizing them.

Yet, keep in mind that all the approaches are not to be static and you should change them to suit your goals and team. Conduct regular retrospectives to find out what is effective and what is not, what should be changed. As it was stated, teams are more creative, accountable, and happy, when dealing with transparent workplaces. Use authentic and transparent working environments for engaging your team, making the workers creative, proactive, efficient and accurate with their output.

Another crucial aspect to bear in mind is the creation of and maintaining project documentation. It’s essential for outlining and clarifying all the processes you and your teammates (current and new ones) should keep in mind and follow. It will help you to take the necessary steps towards the goal.

Create clear, accessible, and concise documentation, so any team member can find and understand the needed information whenever it’s required.

Today, there are lots of tools like Confluence, Google Docs, GitLab, Dropbox Paper, Notion, and others to use for the project documentation.

Avoid Micromanagement

It’s better to avoid micromanagement because it can bring more problems than profits. Actually, micromanaging can become problematic when dealing with projects where managers are not familiar with the technical aspects of the workflow process. Thus, micromanagement has a negative impact on the results in terms of long-term goals. It’s vital to let your team work independently for making the engineers more proactive and initiative.

However, it doesn’t mean that there is no need to stay in the loop. Yet, in case you have managed to create the right process and good communication, you’ll know all the crucial aspects of the workflow and project like:

  • what everyone is working on;
  • the progress of tasks;
  • problems and difficulties that need resolving.

Therefore, there is no need for micromanagement at all. What’s more, you can always ask your team to provide extra info about the status of the tasks, give you another report, hold a meeting, and get some details to stay current.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Feedback plays a key role in the development and growth of your engineering team as well as successful and effective team management. Providing constructive feedback, you give your workers directions for improving their skills and developing them professionally and personally. Sometimes, it can be difficult to give negative feedback, yet it is an effective way to increase the quality of the product, upgrade the skills, and teach the team.

Just remember that any feedback given aims to improve the quality of work and help your team to grow. In case you have no negative feedback, then it is an opportunity to show your colleagues their progress, inspire them, motivate them to keep going, and so on. Feedback is a way to communicate with the engineering team and stay in the loop.

Bottom Line

Being an engineer means being attentive to details, having analytical and technical skills. However, not every great engineer can be a great leader. To lead and manage an engineering team of the startup, you need to have a deep understanding of the project details, know the job your teammates do and develop a keen focus with the big picture in mind.

You should build relationships with each member of the team to know their personal strengths and allocate tasks more efficiently to move toward the agreed objectives. Only when developing and demonstrating such traits as transparency, constructive feedback and strong communication, you’ll manage to become not only a manager but a true leader and make the startup team of engineers proactive and happy.


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