David is Nitro’s Vice President of Engineering. David oversees the global engineering team across Dublin and San Francisco, as well as all Nitro products. With over 30 years of developing, coaching, and leading engineering organizations, David is committed to creating a cutting-edge work environment that benefits both customers and Nitronauts alike.
At Nitro, we have an incredibly talented and diverse Engineering team with a strong culture that puts our people front and center of everything we do. Our product team principles map out what we value at Nitro and help us navigate decisions to ensure that we keep building a workplace where people experience a sense of choice, ownership, and well-being. This post outlines Nitro’s approach to building products—which we continue to refine and apply through our practice—and how this approach has helped us successfully shift to full-time remote work and stay aligned to our values; high performance, no bullshit and, be good.
Although it is 2020, we still live in a world where top-down hierarchies and command and control leadership styles are accepted or even expected in many organizations. A leadership style such as command and control assumes the worst in people. Employees bring skills to the table, but they have little or no autonomy. Usually, it is someone further up the hierarchy who has the decision-making power.
This approach does not get the best out of people. Leaders observe sub-optimal behaviors in their people and ironically believe that things could be better with even more command and more control. In a situation where everyone is working from home (WFH), autonomy and trust are critical to success. Controlling leadership behaviors undermine the autonomy and trust of your people. In addition, command and control requires a clear line of sight to all parts of the system. This is challenging while WFH and introduces significant overhead and waste. It simply will not work in a modern organization operating in a competitive environment whose business needs require creative people to build innovative products.
Time to adapt
A lot was achieved with these methods in more traditional organizations over the last 120 years. However, employees no longer want to work at organizations where they simply must do as they’re told, have no input in their role or the direction of the company, and must follow orders because they came from somebody more senior in the hierarchy. These methods drive people away and will not work in truly modern workplaces where people think for a living.
Studies have revealed that globally, two-thirds of people are not fully engaged in their work. This is a catastrophic waste of human potential. Behavioral science and psychologists have also shown that command and control leadership styles actually demotivate people. Research consistently shows that this is especially true for people who need to problem solve or be creative and innovative at work.
This is hugely relevant to the work we do at Nitro. We reject command and control leadership styles. We believe that our people want to work hard and apply their craft for the benefit of the business and our customers. Our people want to do the right thing. Therefore, we choose to minimize hierarchy and eliminate command and control. However, when you minimize hierarchy in an organization, to avoid harmful chaos, you need various practices to ensure cohesion and collective alignment. Defining our key principles within the product group is one such practice. These principles are guiding truths for our system of belief and behavior.
Nitro Product Team Key Principles
Our performance first principles are important because our products originate from within our people. Therefore, we need principles that support creativity, innovation and mastery. High performance delivers a competitive advantage for our business, but this must be achieved in a sustainable fashion.
1) Play to Win. We believe that we will never reach our full potential by being cautious and safe. We operate under extremely competitive conditions and within a creative economy. To achieve impact at scale in this world we must be fearless, move fast and play to win.
2) Autonomy. We believe in an environment and culture where team members are encouraged to participate in decision making and provide leadership in all areas where they have developed competence and confidence.
3) Accountability. Although we seek strong business alignment and maximum customer impact when making decisions, we are accountable for our work and our decisions. Autonomy comes with responsibility.
4) Growth Mindset. We learn and grow from our mistakes. We develop our competence and master our craft as we implement our company’s mission.
Poor interpersonal behaviors, a lack of candor and organizational games do not help to build products that our customers love. Our No Bullshit principle helps us to avoid these behaviors.
1) No-Blame Culture. We learn and improve instead.
2) Communications. We understand that high quality information exchange must occur within engineering and between engineering and the other parts of the business in order to support our key principles of autonomy and accountability.
3) Be Authentic. Be yourself. Be honest. Be straight with yourself and your colleagues but always do this with respect.
In 2020, building products is a very dynamic process that requires all the talented people we hire to work together effectively. These principles are critical for smart creative people who may generate a lot of different ideas and disagree with each other before selecting the best path forward.
1) Safety. We are receptive, open and positive to divergent thinking. We love suggestions, opinions and helping our colleagues find their voice. When we disagree, we do so with respect. We keep an open mind at all times.
2) Respect. We are committed to treating everyone with respect and fairness in all situations and scenarios. We expect others to do the same with us.
3) Collaboration. Nitro is a team. We collaborate with and support our colleagues throughout the company so that we can achieve the company’s goals together.
At Nitro Engineering, in addition to building products our customers love, we are also striving to build a truly modern organization regarding how we organize ourselves and how we approach our work. We are focused on creating an environment where people experience a sense of choice, ownership, and well-being at work. We do this so that our many smart creative people can maximize their talent and positively impact on our business whilst also maintaining a healthy and upbeat perspective on life at Nitro. This is equally true when we are working in the office or when we are working from home.
The best part is that we’re hiring, come and make an impact on a powerful mission with Nitro. See our open roles here.