An Open Letter to my New Team

Hi. As our journey begins, I would like to outline what I think the job of a (1) leader, (2) manager, (3) team member and (4) technologist should be.

These aspirations are the basis of everything we will build together. We are all technologists and members of a team. Some of you are managers. Give some thought to how these commitments might apply in your teams. We must all be effective leaders of the continued improvement that we seek for our teams and organisation. I look forward to discussing these with you and you joining me in evolving them to represent OUR TEAM and what we want to achieve together.

Commitments of a Leader

  • The fundamental job of a leader is to give people reason to believe in a better future and the tools to build it the best they know how.
  • I commit to communicating clearly to you both the challenges and opportunities I see for the organisation and our team.
  • I commit to build a shared vision of how our team will transform this organisation together with you.
  • Representing this vision, I commit to focus on creating customer value. This will sharpen our effectiveness and grow our influence.
  • I commit to creating a respectful, safe and enjoyable place to work.

Commitments of a Manager

The fundamental responsibility of a good manager is to prepare you for your next job by making you successful at re-shaping this one. I don’t want you to go, but I want you to grow faster than you thought possible so that as you grow, we are forced to grow too.

  • I commit to doing this with you by helping you to hone your super-powers, and become aware of your kryptonite. I rely on you to help me with mine too.
  • I commit to being a fierce advocate for our development and not just our delivery. I will not confuse discussions about your personal development with project progress.
  • I commit to prioritise work for us that is meaningful to you and valuable to our employer. You shouldn’t have to work on something you don’t believe in. Nor should we as a company invest in either bike sheds or monuments because it destroys value and blunts your energy.
  • I commit to treat you like the expert that you are. When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, I will trust that you did everything you could given the resources and information at your disposal.
  • I commit to learning from our failures and implementing changes together with you.
  • I commit to giving clear goals, stated as outcomes for our business and our team and not as lists of tasks or milestones.
  • I commit to making the constraints that the organisation, the team and myself have to manage, clear. I will facilitate any other context required for us to truly share an understanding of what ‘done’ looks like.
  • I commit to never ship our org chart. I will never pit us in opposition to other teams or departments or make partisanship an issue for our customers and stakeholders.

Commitments of a Team Member

The fundamental job of any team member is to honour her commitments to the team.

  • I commit to being clear about what I can and will deliver.
  • I commit to being clear about what I require in order to get the job done.
  • I commit to sharing my knowledge unselfishly across the organisation and the team.
  • I commit to work across team silos to produce a viable product and will embrace opportunities to learn skills outside my specialist area.

Commitments of a Technologist

The fundamental job of a technologist today is to bring technology to bear on a customer problem. The customer is the north star and the product they interact with the means of evaluating the suitability of our proposition to them.

  • I commit to ensuring I understand why something I am working on matters for a customer and why it is a priority now.
  • I commit to delivering small increments of value at velocity. No perfect solution ever survived production.
  • I commit to automation wherever possible so that I can apply my expertise where it is most valuable.
  • I commit to just enough architecture to define the boundaries of my system, the promises of its components and the requirements of my next increment.
  • I commit to building systems that are responsive, resilient and elastic under conditions of change that I know I can’t foresee perfectly. Therefore I will design systems with the expectation of the failure of their component parts.

That’s it. The rest we can work out as we go.

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