Overlapping responsibilities in teams

I’ve written recently about the importance of product managers embracing more than just features, and in particular prioritising non-functional aspects of the product such as security, reliability, and so on. There’s a small overlap for them with engineers, and it results in a better product, which is good for everyone. But overlap doesn’t need to be exclusive to product managers and engineers.

There are many roles that help a team to success. Common team leadership-type roles include technical lead, delivery manager, team lead, engineering manager, and, of course product manager. There are others, too.

In reality I don’t think I’ve come across anywhere that has all of these roles at the same time—everywhere has its own combination, each with its own combination of responsibilities.

But in any event the working relationship between the people leading any one team is a strong factor in future success. And where a strong working relationship is most visible is when there is a bit of overlap between those roles.

Overlap doesn’t need to be big—in fact it probably shouldn’t be—but it’s useful. For example, a technical lead may provide an update on the latest success metrics, or lead a small sub-project; a delivery manager may help with team recruitment, or help improve team happiness; a product manager has to consider non-functional features as part of the whole product. Not only do these overlaps help people out on individual tasks, they strengthen common interests and foster an appreciation of each other’s responsibilities.

It is really valuable to have boundaries between roles, because that creates clarity for everyone. But it’s also really valuable when those individuals share interests and visibly support each other in the day to day work. It creates unity, and communicates it.

Photo by Gregg Jaden

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