Teams exist to complete a mission. If you are a software team leader, you must
ensure that the team’s mission is well defined and clearly communicated.
Without a clear mission, your team’s ability to make decisions is grossly
impeded, as is your ability to set goals and measure progress.
Yet, I have encountered many software shops in which the mission is unclear or
absent. Failing to clearly communicate a mission is a leadership mistake of the
Surprisingly, some teams are formed without thought for their missions. I have
been placed in management and leadership positions on teams where there was no
clear mission. I surmise that the senior leaders placing me on those teams
thought that the team name (e.g., “the computing infrastructure team” or “the
data engineering team”), along with the business context, was somehow
sufficient to act as a guide for strategic decisions. It was not.
To understand how a defined mission is required to make good decisions,
consider this: Suppose that you are tasked with leading a software team in a
computer vision company. The company sells software and services to industrial
manufacturers. You discover that your team is making a software product similar
to one that already exists on the market — it is produced by a competitor.
Should you discontinue the development of your company’s new product and
instead grow your team’s expertise in that already-existing product? Or, should
you continue to expend serious budget on the continued development of your
company’s new software product, elongating the timeframe for sales? The right
answer can only come from a clarified team mission.
If your team’s mission is to develop a software product to compete with that of
the already-existing product, regardless of timeline, then you should continue
with development. If your team’s mission is to solve your customers’ problems
expeditiously and to make sales as soon as possible, then you should grow your
team’s expertise in the competing company’s product.
These are drastically different courses of action.
Define Your Team’s Mission
Without a clearly defined mission, you may make the wrong decision. It is
impossible to ensure that leadership decisions are made correctly in the
absence of a mission.
Define the mission for your team and make it prominent. Make decisions in the
context of mission fulfilment.