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How to design a global software engineering organization for success

Before going straight to the topic …

I had a conversation with one of my former clients.  “D” is a Chief Product Officer in a software engineering company with teams in multiple countries.

“D” and I worked closely in the past.  “D” also happens to be one of the smartest people I know.   But “D” was in trouble.  His efforts to create a world class global software engineering organization have failed.   He asked me to help.

If you are a CTO, VP of Engineering, or any senior executive who wants to design a global software engineering for success, this blog entry is for you because these are the problems you are facing:

– Increasing sense of urgency to deliver complex products faster
– Increasing need to deliver products which are tailored to operate in a certain region / country (but have a common architecture)
– People in one timezone can only accomplish so much;  need 24/7 engineering cycles

First – order these books:

– “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:  A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencione” from www.amazon.com
– “Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:  How to Bring Out The Best in People at Their Worst” by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner, also from www.amazon.com

Then – eliminate these expressions from your vocabulary:

– Outsourcing
– Offshoring
– Captive organizations
– Low cost labor

We are now ready to design a world class software engineering organization. Together.

Follow these ground rules:

– Teamwork – Part 1:  Superb people exist everywhere.  You just have to find them.   This means that a technical architect in Country A and a technical architect in Country B must exhibit the same technical depth and competencies.   They are exactly the same, but speak a different language.   Teams with superb engineers (regardless of where they are) will work together because they will gravitate towards each other.   Smart people want to work with other smart people.

– Teamwork – Part 2:  World class software engineering organizations are world class because of superb managers.   Imagine how difficult it is at times to make 2 people sitting in offices next to each other work together.   Now imagine the challenge of 2 people from 2 cultures sitting 6,000 miles away from each other – working perfectly well together.   Teamwork does not happen by a directive from me or any other executive.  Teamwork is enabled by managers who believe in, “if you take care of the who, the what and the when will come”.   Find these managers.   Hire them.  Get rid of anyone who does not believe in Part 2.   Do not forget to practice Part 2 yourself.

– Teamwork – Part 3:  Teams in a world class software engineering organizations enable each other.   They do not run away from each other.   Hiring superb engineers is a must.  But not everyone is a technical architect (1% of all candidates).   Implement “if you take care of the who, the what and the when will come” at the ground floor level by creating a formal program, where senior employees are responsible for enabling new hires in other countries.   It works very well.  “J” is a principal level engineer in Chicago.   “J” has been asked to mentor and coach “V”, a new hire in Country B.   “J” is responsible for enabling “V”‘s success during the first 6 months.   “J”‘s individual performance is tied to “V”‘s success.  If “J” cannot replicate excellence by coaching others, get rid of “J”.   Send a message.

– Teamwork – Part 4:  Shared responsibility for success is a common denominator in a world class software engineering organization.   Again  – do not send another email about this topic.   Make it extreme, where everyone has to breathe this concept.  Carefully deconstruct a large software product into smaller components.   Assign component ownership to multiple teams.   Neither team can succeed unless they collaborate and agree how all components work together.

If you haven’t ordered the first book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:  A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencione”, please order it now.

Patrick Lencione could not have said it any better:

“Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it so powerful and rare”.

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