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I am a Lead Developer for a startup company and in the last couple of months some of the Product Owners (PO) have talked to members of my team about changes in the software development process and about changes to implementation details.

For example one PO asked to change our branching strategy to GitFlow instead of the Workflow set by me and the Head of Development and another PO asked to change the Database schema.

The POs are specifically for different teams and even if they where for my team, I feel like these specific things are outside of the POs responsibility.

They talk to my team when I am not there, which feels a little like they try to go behind my back. Especially since these where always things I am opposed to.

I usually learn about these things Hours or days later randomly from my Team, but I only get incomplete and second hand information about the situation.

My questions specifically are:

  • How can I approach this Topic with the POs and try to get them to include me in the discussions when they have these requests?
  • How can I approach this with my team and try to get them to not simply follow the PO requests without consulting me first?
  • 1
    You have lost control of the Lead – paparazzo Aug 12 '17 at 9:13
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Assuming you're responsible for managing your team rather than merely giving it technical pointers, have a few conversations with the various stakeholders.

Politely ask POs 1:1 to loop you in (cc) when they interact with team members directly, and let them know you'd rather they open a ticket for anything non-trivial, so you can do your own job prioritizing and scheduling your team's tasks as needed.

At the same time, politely ask your team members to open tickets and ping you when random non-trivial tasks that get thrown at them by the POs (or anyone else, for that matter). Also let them know that they can refuse tasks outright: instead of "Sure thing, I'll get it done by [datetime]" encourage "Got it, I'll check with [you] so we can schedule this."

Stay level headed and flexible, as it can also take a few reminders to instill the desired behavior. Particularly so in a startup with a very loose org chart. In my experience your team will be keen to cooperate, because getting random tasks thrown at them from all over the place can be irksome and stressful - they'll love you for having their back and standing up on their behalf, and your doing so will spare them ulcers or worse.

Also, keep in mind that there will always be a residual amount of work beyond your control that gets thrown at your team. You won't be able to get rid of it entirely without turning into a micromanager. Personally, I tend to draw the line at short urgent tasks, with a degree of commonsense on what fits that description left at the team's discretion. (I invariably qualify this with a reminder. Namely that, apart from life and death situations like driving an ambulance, there's no such thing as an urgent task in life; only hurried people with varying degrees of self-importance. "Urgent" tasks stem from botched planning or execution, neither of which are their fault or problem.)

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