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Storyline: Two Brothers and the Geese
Two sons work for their father on the family’s farm. The younger brother had for some years been given more responsibility and reward, and one day the older brother asks his father to explain why.
The father says, “First, go to Kelly’s farm and see if they have any geese for sale — we need to add them to our stock.”
The brother soon returns with the answer, “Yes they have five geese they can sell to us.”
That father then says, “Good, please ask them the price.”
The son returns with the answer, “The geese are £10 each.”
The father says, “Good, now ask if they can deliver the geese tomorrow.”
And duly the sone returns with the answer, “Yes, they can deliver the geese them tomorrow.”
The father asks the older brother to wait and listen, and then calls to the younger brother in a nearby field, “Go to the Davidson’s Farm and see if they have any geese for sale — we need to add to our stock.”
The younger brother soon returns with the answer, “Yes, they have five geese for £10 each or ten geese for £8 each; and they can deliver them tomorrow — I asked them to deliver the five unless they heard otherwise from us in the next hour. And I agreed that if we want the extra five geese we could buy them at £6 each.”
The father turned to the older son, who nodded his head in appreciation — he now realized why his brother was given more responsibility and reward.
The bottom line of this story is that, when one is observant, knows what others expect from them, communicates well, can add value and make the right impact. They gain more responsibilities as others start to trust their judgment, involvement, and ownership.
Relevance to work
Top engineers in any organization are self-motivated and self-directed. They do not require or need minimum supervision. This breed of engineers drive themselves, align themselves to the team, and organizational goals and deliver results consistently. For engineers to reach such a state, it requires an understanding of various aspects of the business and not just the engineering details.
Whether it is a top performing or an average engineer, a few skills are very important to make decisions and build confidence to achieve objectives that are aligned with both engineering and management needs.
Here are a few aspects that one can apply as an engineer and manager.
Checkpoint and communicate
How much is too much and too little? Managers need to provide clarity to individuals on what is expected and during what timelines. Those expectations must be met. As managers & engineers, it is important to have checkpoints to keep plans, expectations, and execution in order.
Managers & Engineers can adopt AAA policy (Assess -> Acknowledge -> Action).
This 3-step process will help both parties to evaluate, plan and move forward, and be aligned to objectives at all times. The philosophy on updating and check-pointing is very subjective to situations and being aware of each-others needs is very important for being aligned, and hence communication plays a big part in the check-pointing process. Both can be open on when it is too much or too little and keep the course corrected. There is nothing like too much or too little, all updates are important towards sailing together.
Give and build trust
It takes years to build trust and just a moment to break it. When starting a new team or organization, it is a great first step to start by giving trust in each other. As the team makes progress, this trust is reinforced when the decisions made by engineers and the manager as a cohesive team work towards achieving the goals successfully.
Houses can’t be built without foundations, and foundations cannot be laid out without architecture. Building beautiful architecture requires detailed planning backed by timely execution.
A manager can be treated as a customer who is looking to build a house. Engineers play a role in creating the architecture and executing it to completion. What a manager needs to know at the start is a plan to get things done. When these dots are connected with reasonable checkpoints, trust gets built and great things happen.
These things fall in place as each individual participates with openness and eagerness to learn and apply new thoughts together.
Story adapted from Business Balls