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Engineering Investment and Business Alignment

Hot Take: We Need to Make Time for Strategic Initiatives

Traditionally, commonplace thinking was that a software engineering team’s success or failure is based on delivering features without bugs… and don’t forget, on-time – sigh [we all know “pick 2” but here we are]. Of course! These things are necessary; they’re the status quo.  But isn’t it time that we raise the bar? In this contemporary “every company is a software company” world, this may no longer be sufficient. This definition doesn’t address how our teams are going to move the company forward and take over the world! So, what’s the missing ingredient that we’re neglecting? Punchline: we need to figure out how to double down on investment in corporate strategic initiatives.

What are strategic initiatives and why do we need to prioritize them?

Strategic initiatives are business vernacular for the efforts that go beyond the status quo – that change the company’s trajectory. They’re the “game-changing” or “company/valuation moving,” “hockey stick” stuff. They feel like a stretch, but their potential upside is so huge that it validates the cost that we put into them. Frankly, if all our competitors are doing the status quo – the only way you’re going to make a dent in the market is to stand out. Strategic Initiatives FTW!

Of course, now that we all agree – you say, we all want to be working on these things. The real problem is that something always keeps us from getting these things done. We don’t need more ideas damnit!  😉  We all agree this is important, so let’s get down to it. Why. Can’t. We. Get. This. Stuff. Done. Let me offer an approach that could help you in your pursuit of accomplishing these strategic initiatives.

Why do we struggle to work on them?

Let’s be honest, the biggest challenge in moving initiatives forward is that we never have enough time. Progress feels slow or even completely halted. More than likely, the team never gets to these corporate strategic initiatives because of the other work that supersedes these perceived “nice to haves”. If this is the case, we have a prioritization challenge. The reality is we’re all human and we have trouble focusing on non-critical things – but you can help.  

Measure what matters

We can help by making sure our team changes our “diet.” We need a trainer! We can’t change our routine unless we know what we need to change and, as we all know, we can’t manage what we don’t measure! (who said that again?)

Ok step 1, let’s start by quantifying how we spend our time. Chances are that our intuition on how much time we spend is off; really off. We are humans, remember, our gut leads us, but sometimes our intuition fails us. A while back, Jellyfish research showed that leaders were overestimating their team’s work in certain areas by as much as 62%.  

Once we take this step, and we know what our team is actually working on, we can make informed decisions as to how you want to reallocate your team’s time. Step 2 is up to us.  If we’re not investing enough to move the company up and to the right; what should we do? That’s right we know what to do.

Lead the charge 

We all aspire to lead teams that build the next big thing – the thing that launches companies to new heights, creates a new category, changes the world, and redefines what’s possible. What stops our teams from achieving that legendary status is that we all fall victim to legacy ways of thinking – the status quo. Take time for you and your teams to work on projects that realize your potential. We all have the ability to break from the status quo, we just need to take the necessary steps. We know what we are capable of, so let’s start taking back our time and leading our companies into the future!