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Level Up - Issue #96


Level Up

June 13 · Issue #96 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Where are your hidden dependencies?
A lot of organisations today use quarterly planning for their teams such as agreeing on quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). I generally like the OKR approach, when done well, as it increases the transparency of teams’ or departments’ key focus areas. Unfortunately, too many companies ask teams to plan their OKRs in isolation. This planning approach leads to an overcommitment because teams don’t recognise their hidden dependencies and account for these in their plan.
In any large organisation, like in software architecture, it’s impossible to avoid dependencies. In a well-designed company, you can minimise dependencies (think high cohesion, low coupling). A heuristic I use is that a team should be able to do 80% of their work without involving another team. While you can minimise the degree of dependency with effective team (and architecture) design, you never get rid of all dependencies. In my experience, watch out for teams owning a more central product concept, or teams deeper down in the product stack (e.g. platform team).
Most organisations worry about being productive, so ask all teams to plan out a full quarter. But if the team that everyone depends on has already planned out their quarter with their own work, other teams who need their time won’t get it. Typically they will find out far too late (in the quarter) leading to a lot of frustration, shouting and unnecessary politics especially when leaders are financially incentivised to meet their quarterly goals.
This core issue isn’t that teams are poor planners. Nor is it about how people aren’t “committed” to getting work done. This is a clear outcome of a poorly set up planning system and those (higher-level) managers who set up this planning process need to change the system. As we say in systems thinking, a system produces the perfect result every single time. You may not want the result though 😅.
This week I challenge you to reflect on your organisation’s planning process and see if it accounts for hidden, or not so obvious, dependencies. What can you do to make hidden dependencies more obvious?
I hope you enjoy this week’s newsletter! Share it with a friend or colleague if you find it helpful, or drop me an email about topics you’d like to hear about in future editions.
Limited time offer! Level Up subscribers receive a 25% discount off the newest course, “Communicate Like a CTO,” using this link or the code “CLAC-LEVELUP” (until Jun 30, 2021) 🎉🎉🎉

Where are your hidden dependencies?
Where are your hidden dependencies?
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Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany