Why aren’t the 3 principles more prescriptive? I was expecting them to say things like “Teams should only work from 9 to 5…”.
A highly prescriptive model would likely never get adopted by any team, since it would have to match their business needs and existing team culture.
If the principles of Sustainable Development were very precise and dictated exactly how all teams who follow it should work, it would simply fail to be adopted.
The 3 principles instead focus on empowering team members to work with their management to collectively agree on how they should operate. They’re the experts on their own team, so they are best positioned to determine their optimal way of working.
What if all the engineers on my team agree to adopt this, but our managers do not?
Sustainable Development is very likely to fail without agreement from the managers of a team.
Without their buy-in, following the first principle (where the whole team collectively defines their own practices) would lead to a working model being set up without management’s approval, and that would almost certainly lead to it causing problems.
The success of Sustainable Development in an organization requires the agreement and participation of the team’s management.
Isn’t this just obvious? Don’t all teams do this implicitly?
Most teams do build tribal awareness of their own work practices, but they are rarely written down explicitly. When they are written down, they are sometimes too loosely-specified to be actionable.
I’m an engineer. How can I convince my manager to adopt this?
Engineering managers can only benefit from adopting Sustainable Development!
They could easily see:
- Better retention rates
- Higher employee morale
- Improved hiring funnel
Remember, Sustainable Development isn’t just for engineers. It’s for their managers too! Everyone gets to participate and decide on how to work at a healthy pace, and for the long term.
I’m an engineering manager. How should I roll this out?
Following Principle 1 (collectively defining your own sustainable work practices) is the most work, but it’s not difficult. If you have never discussed work practices with them before, meet with your team and ask for their input on how they’d like to work, and come to the table with how you’d like the team to operate. Then try to reconcile the two models into something everyone can all agree on.
Secondly, just make sure you follow your own stated practices, remembering that as a manager your example carries a lot of weight. So if your practice says “no working while on vacation” and you reply to some emails during your time away, your team might think that Sustainable Development isn’t being practiced any more, or that you believe you’re exempt.
Lastly, make sure to follow the third principle and continuously improve your own stated work practices to be more sustainable.
What’s stopping a team saying they follow Sustainable Development, but their stated practices are to work 18 hours a day?
Nothing! If a team collectively agrees with their management that very long hours and weekends will be sustainable and healthy, that’s their decision to make.
The Sustainable Development principles do offer protection against unhealthy models being proposed:
- A team would have to collectively agree that 18 hour workdays are sustainable, and not just have management dictate those terms.
- Candidates seeking employment on that team could ask to review their Sustainable Development practices, and seeing 18-hour days would likely make those candidates think twice before accepting an offer with them.
- The third principle (of continuous improvement) should quickly highlight the fact that 18 hour workdays are unsustainable, and lead to improvements being collectively made to change those stated practices.