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I joined a new software company and was put in a team that suffers from a bit of friction, in particular with one developer and a Product Manager.

Apparently at times the PM has been asking the devs to do things that are more in her domain. In "retribution" one dev constantly keeps saying that the PM should write more stories whenever she brings up a new requirement. While not overly, he is also a bit brusk towards her. As a result of that, the PM is not very decisive and tries to do things by consensus, even if they should be driven/directed from her. I am trying to figure our if talking to either of them would help or if there is anything else that can be done to make them have better relationship.

What other suggestions are there to make the team "gel more"? We have a sibling team that seems to have a much better bond/stronger intra-team relationship, although their tasks require much less input from product and tend to be more oriented towards coding to known requirements.

  • While I understand the desire to work on a cohesive, stress free, respectful team, I'm not really understanding why you're concerned about the relationship between two other employees. Does this situation affect your ability to do your work, or does it create mental, emotional, or physical anguish of some sort for you? – joeqwerty May 30 at 0:40
  • Not really. However, I am interested in moving into a more leadership oriented position and want to use this as a learning opportunity. – laconicdev May 30 at 0:58
  • TBH, if you are their peer and not their supervisor/manager then any attempt on your part to mediate this is probably not going to met with the best attitude and may turn you into a common "enemy". If this isn't directly affecting your work or mental and physical health then there may not be anything you can do, short of going to your supervisor/manager. – joeqwerty May 30 at 1:08
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One suggestion is to volunteer to help the PM write or expand the stories.

we had a similar situation where our PO thought that a lot of business domain knowledge he knew was shared by the team, which was not. So when he wrote something that was vague for us, I or other colleague would go to him, explain what we did not know and together we would add the pieces we missed. We also would use this opportunity to break stories into smaller ones, have more clear and defined acceptance criteria, etc.

On a side note, you should not get involved in the relationship between the PM and the other developer. Just do your part to help create a better environment for you and your team by bringing the PM closer to the team. And usually this also helps the team to bind together, if they feel they have a share of ownership in the stories.

hope this helps.

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There can be many different views on exactly what the role of Product Manager should be as well as how teams work. The best thing to do here, is agree. Agree how the team should operate as well as how the interaction between the PM and team should be. Normally, I expect the structure to be such that:

PM:

  • Not part of the development team
  • Responsible for deciding the direction of the products development teams work on
  • Identifies new users/clients which could benefit from existing products
  • Communicates with innovators in the space on how to improve services
  • Works with the team to decide what the direction for the next year should and how best to navigate towards that goal
  • Makes sure the priorities set by the team matches what will deliver value to the users
  • Justifies the direction via value delivery to users and clients

Team:

  • team is 3-7 people led by a team lead (tech lead etc...)
  • responsible for all aspects of services and features this include writing user stories, communication with users/clients about features, prioritizing issues and features, etc...
  • If there was no PM I expect a team be able to operate effectively for 6 months to a year without issue.
  • Seeks to understand why the direction is what is and question that direction.

Based on your story, I would suggest the following:

  1. The work you think is the responsibility of the PM is really the responsibility of the team, so start working on it.
  2. Work with the PM you are on the same side/work for the same company.
  3. Identify the opportunities to help deliver direction, user stories etc...
  4. Talk with your team and PM on the expectations of the different roles and how to work together.
  5. PM should stop suggesting "features" or "user stories" but unless there is a lot of value in those things, then I would expect the team do be doing that.

In some teams they also have a PO or Product Owner to help do some of the things you mentioned. Those responsibilities are specifically the role of the dev team, and if they can't do them today, then you should all work towards a day where have the competence, trust, and alignment to be able to do them effectively.

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