As a new engineering manager, your first day on the job can be a bit hectic. You arrive at the office or join your first Zoom meeting feeling a bit nervous and excited. You’re also surprised to hear from your backend developer that “everything is going great with deployment” when, in fact, you know that a serious codebase catastrophe is looming.

At this point, you might want to start thinking about how to lead your dev team out of crisis and towards success. How? With A 30-60-90-day plan for new software engineering mangers.

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What Is a 30-60-90-Day Plan for New Software Engineering Managers?

A 30-60-90-day plan serves as a valuable resource for engineering managers who are new to their role. A key part of the onboarding process, this strategy includes a breakdown of your new priorities, including specific tasks, projects, and objectives, which you should aim to achieve within the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job.

This plan allows new engineering managers to gain clarity, set the tone, and communicate goals to direct reports and superiors. It’s basically your blueprint to success!

I’ll be totally honest, with all these methodologies and project management tools in software development, it never occurred to me to read up on the 30-60-90 day plan. It was actually mentioned to me in our Slack community for engineering managers by somebody who uses it for 1:1 meetings, not long-term strategizing.

After they mentioned it, however, I did have a look and encouraged one of our new engineering managers to give it a try. She did, and it helped her think about her goals for the quarter. One of her main goals with the plan was to get her thinking differently about rewarding her direct reports and how to help them become not only better coders, but better people.

Here’s a 30-60-90 day plan that might work for you:

Day 1 to 30 - A Roadmap for Learning and Goal-Setting

Ask yourself this question: “I was hired to…?”

The first few big-picture ideas that come to mind may very well be your most important goals for your first quarter at the company. When you’ve got that figured out, divide these goals into manageable parts. Next, learn as much as you can, starting with how you’re going to attain these goals.

Read about the company, the products, and the processes. Attend all-hands meetings, familiarize yourself with best practices (later you could propose new ones), and meet with other managers and stakeholders. Take a deep dive into the codebase, including the architecture, tech stack, and any existing issues or bugs. This will help you understand the technical challenges your team faces.

With this out of the way, start connecting the dots. Link back every single task of yours to your macro goals. Fit your direct reports into the equation and write down exactly how they’ll help you reach your and your company goals. Keep track of progress with regular 1:1 meetings.

Here’s a sample of some 30-day goals for a new software engineering manager:

  • Meet with your direct reports in a regular one-on-one meeting. Get to know their roles, responsibilities, and challenges.
  • Learn about the company culture, vision, mission, and values, and how they align with the engineering team's objectives.
  • Review the current software development processes and identify areas for improvement. Find out if there’s a continuous deployment setup. Are your developers actively involved in code reviews and commenting on other developers’ code? Can you get a feeling of what the Cycle Time is and how long things stay in review? Is bug tracking software being used?
  • Set up regular communication channel like Slack or Teams. It’s better to overcommunicate than have a dead channel!
  • Develop a list of priorities and goals for the next 60 and 90 days.

Day 31 to 60: Start Planning to Improve Things

By now you should know quite a bit about your team and the company, so it shouldn’t be difficult to spot opportunities for improvement. This could include streamlining processes, improving code quality, or implementing new tools or technologies.

Gather as much data and feedback as you can from your dev team and stakeholders. Keep track of information just for your own sake, but also learn from what you gathered to help prioritize your efforts.

Here’s a sample of some 60-day goals for a new software engineering manager:

  • Conduct a team assessment to identify gaps in skills and knowledge and develop a plan to address them.
  • Implement new processes or improve existing ones to increase productivity and efficiency.
  • Develop strategies to improve communication and collaboration between team members.
  • Set up regular team meetings and status updates to keep everyone informed and on track.
  • Build relationships with key stakeholders, such as product managers, project managers, and other department heads.

Day 61 to 90: Nose to the Grind, Implement Your Plan

You’re heading down the home stretch, so it's time to start implementing your ideas. You should be charged at this point and more confident to really deliver on what you were hired for.

Work with your team to create a roadmap and start executing on it. Make this all public and transparent. Don't be afraid to pivot or adjust your plan as you go based on feedback and results.

Here’s a sample of some 90-day goals for a new software engineering manager:

  • Establish performance metrics and KPIs to measure the team's success. This could be Cycle Time, # of bugs reported, code coverage with tests.
  • Develop a long-term strategic plan for the engineering team that aligns with the company's overall goals.
  • Identify new technologies or tools that can improve the team's workflow and efficiency.
  • Develop a plan for career development and training opportunities for team members.
  • Assess the team's progress towards achieving the goals set in the 30 and 60-day plans and make necessary adjustments.

Follow these steps and you’ll soon realize that a 30-60-90 day plan can be an incredibly valuable tool for new software engineering managers. By breaking down goals into achievable chunks and focusing on building relationships, understanding team dynamics, and driving results, new engineering managers can quickly establish themselves as valuable members of the team and gain the trust and respect of their software developers.

But remember, every dev team and organization is unique, so a 30-60-90 day plan should be customized to fit the specific needs of the situation. Also, while having a plan can be helpful, it's equally important for engineering managers to be a little flexible and adapt as feedback comes in or as you pivot.

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