Sometimes I meet software engineers who say “Just tell me what to build and let me work out how to build it.”1
While I think I understand the motivation behind the statement it always makes me a little sad.
In this dynamic, the requirements are rarely informed by what’s technically possible, and the solution is rarely informed by the organisation’s real purpose.
My assumption is this is a form of learned helplessness- the outcome of having worked in environments that punish creativity and innovation, are strict about role boundaries and filled with command & control style authoritarian leadership.
So I have empathy for these engineers - you can’t help where you’ve been.
But the mind boggles at the wasted potential!
The potential of inviting genuine collaboration; the potential for more innovative solutions to real problems, for aligning everyone with their work’s purpose.
So my advice to my clients and mentees is: join forces! Invite your engineers into customer conversations. Immerse them in the domain, let them contribute to the product vision and don’t punish them when an idea doesn’t work out. Foster psychological safety by focussing on the lessons learnt and incorporate them into the next iteration.
Product & Engineering: stronger, more creative, more innovative, together!
Have you worked in environments that rewarded or prohibited such collaboration?