How do you know your VP Engineering is not performing well?
CTOs and CEOs — how do you know your VP Engineering is not performing well?
Here are the signs I’ve noticed:
1. Productivity is consistently low:
✓ your engineering team is failing to meet deadlines
✓ they’re struggling to deliver on projects
✓ they’re having their workload poorly managed
✓ they’ve been given unrealistic expectations.
2. Poor communication:
✓ they don’t act as a consistent voice between engineering teams and CTO/CEO
✓ communication breakdowns happen often and there’s confusion and delay about what is meant to be done that quarter
✓ they never tell you about potential risks and challenges with delivery when you propose new things that need to be done by engineering
✓ they always agree to deliver everything, they just don’t deliver (and there’s always an excuse outside of their control if pushed for an answer)
✓ they’re not keeping you (and other C Suite members) informed about important developments,
✓ you find out only when it’s an emergency impacting a client, by which time it’s too late
✓ every time you ask for a status update you’re told: “it’s going well” but no specifics
✓ you never know what to expect, most big delays or issues are a surprise and usually all last minute
✓ they’re hesitant and try to slow your actions down if you say you’d like to do some skip level meetings with the engineers.
On the last point — in most scale-ups, engineering leadership don’t do skip level meetings with the engineers. This is often not introduced from the beginning and introducing skip level meetings when it wasn’t practiced before, can look odd and suspicious.
“You always find out the truth from the engineers, not management” told me the CEO of a company of 7,000 people a few years ago.
He was right — every time I interview an engineer about what their CTO or VP Engineering is like (this is part of my process of advising a CTO or VPE), they always tell me more than any CEO or peer of the CTO/VPE.
You might want to consider introducing skip level meetings when you hire a new VPE — and tell them “that’s how we do things here” so from day one they know it’s not odd for the CTO to have one to ones with the engineers without the VPE.
3. Lack of innovation:
✓ your engineering team is stuck in a rut or failing to innovate
✓ engineering is not receiving the right guidance or resources.
4. High turnover / low morale:
✓ your engineering team has a high turnover rate,
✓ engineering teams say that they feel unsupported or undervalued in their employee engagement surveys.
✓ your engineering team is demotivated or disengaged.
Which of these resonate with you?
What other signs have you seen?