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Team Dynamics: Engineering Focused v.s. Management Focused

Which team dynamics do you enjoy most? I prefer engineering-focused dynamics because, well, I am a software engineer. However, I have seen teams that are entirely management-focused.

Two Types of DEV teams

Engineering-focused Team

  • Decisions are driven and often made by engineers
  • Team's success is also evaluated at engineers' happiness level
  • Manager's goal is to keep the team happy so people will be productive

Management-focused Team

  • Decisions are driven and often influenced by managers
  • Team's success is also evaluated at the manager's performance in front of higher leaders
  • Engineers' goal is to keep the manager happy, so they keep a pleasant team dynamics

Why the Conflict?

Both engineers and managers are aiming for the same goal to launch services. How come the conflict?

Engineers and managers have different mindsets at work. Engineers want to keep building, preferably new services. Managers want to launch new services, but they are also worried about the overall health of all their services. To accommodate both parties, engineers and managers collaborate through a sophisticated process: reporting.

Reports come in forms of project status, service metrics, business metrics, sprint retrospective, etc.

For engineers, the necessary amount of metrics and system progress tracking is sufficient to keep the project running and hit the launch goal.

For managers, they are demanded to report to their leaders (who has less context of leaf teams' work) about the overall health of projects.

There comes the complication: 1) engineering metrics are specific and scattered while managers want summarized reports, 2) Each manager has a slightly different priority in terms of business metrics, that creates their particular report taste.

As a result, managers influence engineers to conduct business reporting processes. I do believe it is a necessary act to keep the team healthy.

In the end, it is the art of keeping balance, again (it feels like anything at work comes to talking about balance). Or, in reality, it depends on your team has a super-driven manager or an oddly-aggressive but respected engineer.


Let's talk just slightly about the pros and cons of the two styles.

Engineering-focused Team

  • Pros:
    • Happy Engineer, Happy Life
    • Engineers make decisions efficiently because they are close to the actual technical components
    • Pleasant dynamics attracts talents
  • Cons:
    • Engineers get spoiled which may decrease team efficiency
    • Engineers may only see problems at contained scope rather than the overall roadmap

Management-focused Team

  • Pros:

    • Manager can help the team with the larger picture
    • Engineer are working towards a relatively united team vision instead of battling against each others' vision.
  • Cons:

    • Keeping the manager happy could cause tension in the team dynamics, because other engineers may not agree with the manager's tech preference
    • The team's success is reflected by the manager's success, which dissolves the value of success for team members
    • Engineers may create processes or spend hours trying to summarize things for the manager, but this does not bring direct value to the team

The Mix

In some companies, people manager and tech manager are two separate roles. The tech manager influences the technical aspects of the team. She or he perhaps also write code. The people manager, on the other hand, can be active on multiple teams but does not influence technical decisions as much.

What do you think is best for your team?

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