SW engineering, engineering management and the business of software

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Turning Art into Science

A lot of the difficulty in creating scalable teams is understanding what successes are attributable to highly skilled/experienced individuals performing to the right of the bell curve vs what successes are attributable to effective systems or processes. If you think of the former as “art” and the latter as “science”, you can make significant progress towards scaling high performance team. Take the science parts and replicated them. For the art, the challenge is to convert them to science. This is difficult because you may not be able to figure out why someone is good at their role. Or it may be a combinations of skills that is quite rare.

An example I often harp on is the art of designing technical interview questions. You may have a cohort of engineers who are good at this, but can they train a broader pool of talent? Can they break down 12 or so characteristics and attributes of good engineering interview questions? Can they create examples and walk through the mindset of creating a questions then further walkthrough the process of testing, refining and assessing efficacy? Can they identify the 3 or 4 metrics or criteria to objectively measure efficacy? Can they synthesize all of their working knowledge and experience into a training program with slides and exercises? Do the people they teach become experts or near experts?

Your secret weapon to scalable engineering teams? The ability to convert art into science. It’s not easy. If you find people who can do so, you have removed one of the biggest roadblocks to growth.

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