Engineering Manager series part 3: stakeholder happiness and how to maintain alignment
In today’s post we sit down with Oliver Strobel, Director of Engineering, to discuss the third component within our Engineering Manager framework: stakeholder happiness.
A Leader’s Responsibility
Today I want to talk about another component from our framework for Engineering Managers: stakeholder happiness. In many organizations, this is traditionally left to Product Managers; however, at GetYourGuide, we believe all Engineering leaders should actively participate in this activity. We work in cross-functional mission teams, so there are many different stakeholders, functions, and areas that need to be interfaced with. It is every leaders responsibility to foster meaningful collaboration across the various functions.
So, what does this mean in practice? Managing stakeholders successfully means balancing different work streams, staying proactively aligned with others, and, ultimately, building trust by delivering on commitments. In our framework, we broke this down into three main areas, each as important as the next.
1. Team meets their commitments
This means on-time delivery of projects in the agreed upon scope. At the end of the day, did you and the team deliver what was agreed upon? If yes, there is a deposit made into your trust account. This doesn’t mean you can’t pivot, change scope, or change your mind along the way based on learnings or new data.
As a company, we apply quarterly OKRs to facilitate this goal-setting and alignment process between departments and teams. These OKRs are not intended to capture everything being done, but rather the primary metrics or projects that are being pursued. These roll up into department-level goals which are reviewed monthly by the executives. At the end of the quarter, each level conducts a retrospective to derive insights or learnings for next time.
2. Stakeholders are not surprised
This sets the expectation that plans are communicated clearly and in a timely manner. The end result only captures the outcome, but it’s important that along the way any changes are proactively communicated and transparently discussed with all those who have a stake in the final results. Remember: even good surprises are still surprises at the end of the day.
Having a concise 6-month roadmap for the team with clear short, mid, and longer-term bets is a great way to facilitate alignment with others. Teams typically work differently depending on their focus, so this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Those focused on optimization will be looking for quick iterations and learnings as they explore while those aiming to build disruptive features or products work on a longer-term horizon requiring more planning.
3. Team is trusted by stakeholders
Finally, the Engineering Manager must ensure all conflicts are handled directly and openly, and that stakeholders accept the team’s inputs and recommendations. This ties back into our core value of clarity, which encourages transparent communication. It’s important that priorities and tradeoffs are discussed and understood by everyone to maintain alignment in a fast-moving business. You may not always agree, but are you able to commit to the direction? We will succeed or fail together, so it’s best to frame discussions in this context to find the best path forwards.
Having been at GetYourGuide for a number of years now, one comment I often hear and am guilty of myself is, “Oh, X has been tried before!” But just because one solution has been tried in the past does not mean we should dismiss it off-hand. Neither should we reinvent the wheel. To that end, it’s important to document past hypotheses and learnings so others can feel empowered to revisit them following changes to our products or underlying inventory.
Alignment is Key
In the end, stakeholder happiness comes down to trust. This is built by meeting commitments, keeping everyone up to date, and openly addressing any misalignments in expectations or changes in direction. Without this, projects miss the mark, progress is blocked, or, in the worst case, issues appear downstream. At the end of the day, the more aligned you are with what is necessary for delivery, the more likely it is you will build the best experiences for customers, which is what it’s all about.