Managing engineering teams effectively in today's context

If we consider the triple constraint of any project (scope, time and resources), the most complex problems of current times are the ones related to people, especially the ones related to communication & collaboration inside teams.

Why this?

Because, even though the technical aspects and those related to delivery terms can be negotiated also during the project, the people-related issues cannot be solved easily, especially in the recent context, characterized by the pandemic, war and inflation on a global level.

And more specifically, which are the details of the problem we’re facing? Let’s zoom in on the most important ones.

First issue

There are growing differences between the demographic characteristics of engineering team members. Not only there can be major differences in terms of age, but supplementary there will be differences in business culture, nationality, time zone and even philosophy of life. In the last ten years, such differences have drastically increased, as part of processes like globalization and the free flow of people and goods between countries and continents.

Thus, managers can face the situation where, for the exact same subject, will have totally different reactions from their team members. For example, not giving time off to a team member on an important day for him/her can open a major conflict between that employee and his/her direct manager, a conflict that can lead to a definitive break between the employee and the organization.


Second issue

Second, there can be major personality differences between team members. The simplest example: some can be introverts and others extroverts. And in this case, the approaches and ways to communicate between manager and each team member must be completely different, from case to case.

Or, one member of the team may have a greater appetite for risk, while another may have a great reluctance to make decisions and take responsibilities.

So, in all these cases, the manager can expect again to receive completely different feedback or reactions from their team.

Last but not least,

we are dealing with big differences in attitude towards work and life, differences accentuated especially with the appearance on the labor market of generations Y (Millennials) and Z. Here, managers must be very attentive to the approaches of the new generations vis-a-vis: the life-work balance, the preference to work remotely, social responsibility, care for the environment and their respect for the needs of local communities.

And yet, what is to be done?


First of all,

managers must learn to listen more and more. And to do this continuously, finding time whenever needed for their employees. Not only during the usual weekly project meetings, but also on any other occasion, be this a short coffee break or a teambuilding session.

Also, managers must understand the new paradigm, namely that each team member must be looked at individually. In this way, the most important aspects such as career plans or sets of benefits for employees must be customized at the level of each employee and not at the level of teams or business units, as was the procedure until recently.

Last but not least, managers must have a very clear plan for the development of their own soft-skill capacities, and this plan must be permanent and with several iterations per year. Only by applying this permanent non-technical development plan can they listen, understand and provide support to each member of their teams and the entire team as a whole.


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