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How to conserve capital with engineering team management

Taylor Veino

Sep 30, 2019 1:00:00 PM

This is chapter two of the three-part series:
A Complete Guide to Capital Efficient Engineering Teams


There's a huge difference between just managing software teams, and managing software teams to maximize efficiency. After helping to build and maintain hundreds of engineering teams, we would argue that achieving the latter is worth the extra effort. 

When it comes to managing your team’s efficiency, it’s important to play the long game by utilizing techniques that will stick, rather than checking off a list of quick, one-and-done to-dos. Unfortunately, clearer tickets and tighter deadlines aren't the answer - although that's what most managers default to when it comes to improving team efficiency. Instead, the magic cocktail of scaling intelligently, organizing to optimize output, and investing where it matters consistently drive results for your clients. Here's how.



Your team’s ability to work efficiently is determined almost completely by the type of firepower on your team. When a project’s scope begins to expand, it’s only a matter of time before your team needs to scale, too. Issues like bandwidth restrictions and technical gaps put a halt to product efficiency and speed of shipping. The best solution? Agile hiring

Just like the Agile framework we all know (and some of us love), agile hiring follows the same methodology, just applied to the hiring process. Rather than front-loading all of your resources into hiring FTEs - and crossing your fingers that development needs stay aligned with their expertise - agile hiring allows you to plug in the right talent, right when you need it. 

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Using agile hiring methods allows your team to maintain the quality and velocity output without missing deadlines. You save time and money during the spin-up period, because professional freelancers don’t need hand-holding in the onboarding process. They’ve plugged into dozens of different teams and have developed a personal playbook for shortening the runway required at the top of an engagement. That’s why they’re able to quickly input value and expertise to solve your most immediate blockers with minimal spin-up time, so you can focus on what actually impacts your bottom line.



Managing a team is like playing a game of chess: strategically moving pieces on your board determines your win. Organizing your team members into positions where they perform best, rather than just where there is a technical gap, will directly impact your team’s efficiency and output. 

In a study on workplace motivation, Deloitte found that team members who are passionate about their work translate three attributes into their role: questioning, connecting, and commitment to their domain. These three attributes elevate performance, maximize output, and streamlines efficiency for your entire team. Here’s how:

Imagine a team comprised of people who do all three of these things on a daily basis - and push their teammates to do the same. That's the epitome of efficiency. Without it, you're only accessing a fraction of your team's potential output.

  • Questioning: drives team members to go above and beyond their core responsibilities by testing and pushing boundaries to find better solutions.

  • Connecting: team members find opportunities to learn from their teammates; they continuously develop more knowledge and better capabilities in their role.

  • Commitment to their domain: team members make the choice to focus on where they can make the most impact in their role and commit to that focus long-term.

Imagine a team comprised of people who do all three of these things on a daily basis - and push their teammates to do the same. That's the epitome of efficiency. Without it, you're only accessing a fraction of your team's potential output.


Identify The Passion Gap

You don’t need to go all Magnum P.I and lurk around your team’s workspace to find clues. You can identify your team members’ passions by simply asking or tracking their output from different roles they have on projects. For example, did they have more output than usual using a specific tech stack, or solving for a specific bug? 

By answering the questions like that, you can start to build an understanding of their passions, and thus where you will get the most output from them. 

When every team member is aligned with their passion, the entire team is accessing their full efficiency potential by working together with a combined level of focus and drive. However, it’s understandable that not every team member can work on what they want to 100% of the time. Therefore, taking the time to identify which areas your team members are key players can be highly effective in instances of tight deadlines and long term projects. You wouldn't put Lebron James on the bench for game 7 of the NBA finals, so why wouldn't you put your key players in roles in which they have proven success when stakes are high? Agile hiring is always available to supplement any technical gaps. 



Your team is your firepower, and the way you invest in them directly impacts their ability to perform well. Investing in your team doesn’t just mean paying them fairly, supplementing additional expertise where necessary, and supplying them with all of the resources they need; it also means you invest in them as human beings. Promoting psychological safety directly impacts your team’s efficiency, but it is often overlooked. 

Establish Psychological Safety 

Psychological safety is defined by Amy Edmondson in Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking to improve team efficacy, learning, and performance.” 

We’ve all worked on teams with a palpable lack of psychological safety - and usually, those are the teams where we find ourselves least effective at our jobs. We’re afraid to speak up when we see a risk or opportunity ahead, and the entire team (and product) suffers because of this. 

It’s your responsibility as a manager to establish psychological safety, and your team’s responsibility to maintain it. Establishing psychological safety is similar to cultivating culture on your team. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Promote productive and open discussion among your team by asking open-ended questions.

  • Approach mistakes made with curiosity rather than blame.

  • Ask for feedback from your team on your work.

  • Utilize resources to gauge psychological safety, like OfficeVibe.

Psychological Safety Improves Decision Making

  1. Promote productive and open discussion among your team by asking open-ended questions

  2. Approach mistakes made with curiosity rather than blame

  3. Ask for feedback from your team on your work

  4. Utilize resources to gauge psychological safety, like OfficeVibe.Psychological Safety Improves Decision Making

Emotions inform decisions. It’s a simple fact of life that doesn’t exclude the workplace. By establishing psychological safety on your team, you stabilize emotional responses and produce positive results. It’s a complete cycle that directly improves the efficiency and output of a team when in balance, Here’s what we mean:




Managing your team for maximized efficiency isn’t always about the fastest tricks and hacks. It’s spending time on your team’s specific needs.

So, for the TLDR version, here’s how you can utilize scaling, organizing and investing to maximize your team’s efficiency.

  • Scale your team with agile hiring: Adding a professional freelance engineer with agile hiring quickly inputs value and expertise where needed on your existing team while maintaining the quality and velocity of output without missing deadlines. 

  • Organize your team by their passion points: Organizing your team by what they’re passionate about - and exceptionally good at - will be where they succeed the most and yield the best results. 

  • Investing: Invest in your team by establishing psychological safety. A team aligned with one another through psychological safety promotes communication, problem-solving and risk-taking, which yields better results for your company.


Check out the other chapters of our Complete Guide To Capital Efficient Engineering Teams for an applicable roadmap on how to conserve capital when building, managing and mitigating turnover with your engineering team. 

Written By:

Taylor Veino

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