How to grow department heads from line employees? / Hebrew

Short description

Arthur manages the project office in Skazbuka, which is developing a mobile application to develop a child’s thinking and talents. The company underwent a restructuring, creating micro-departments to make employees more independent and transition executors to managerial qualities. Arthur shares his tips on how to create an atmosphere for employees to acquire managerial skills and become leaders, such as choosing department heads by looking for their leadership skills, knowledge of the project, and desire to flourish. He also suggests setting goals, organizing feedback systems, defining metrics for tracking results, and teaching initiative and decision-making skills.

How to grow department heads from line employees? / Hebrew

Greeting. My name is Arthur.
I manage the project office in Skazbuka.

We are developing a mobile application that develops a child’s thinking and talents in a playful way.

The project is more than 7 years old, and during this time it has undergone many changes. Both the external side — the product itself — and internal processes were changing, and radically.

My arrival at the company coincided with another reorganization of the organizational structure. In the company, large departments were divided into many small ones, and some employees without management experience had to take the place of managers.

In this article, I want to tell how a project leader/manager can create an atmosphere and conditions for employees who were executors to acquire managerial qualities and become leaders.

How did it all begin?

Why did the company’s structure change at all?

Before the restructuring, the main project was developing in the direction of increasing the amount of content. They tried to release new games every 2-3 weeks on average. Each game was worked on by a separate group of employees who were responsible for implementation – a unit team. They went through the entire development cycle from the idea and concept development to final testing and publication in a short period of time.

Over time, the goal changed, and the company focused on improving the stability of the program and the quality of the gaming experience from the entire platform, rather than individual games. Much attention was paid to user onboarding and increasing conversions. In addition, in 2022, many tools that helped work with the audience disappeared from the Russian market. We had to completely change the approach to attracting new users. And all changes had to be made quickly.

For such tasks, unit teams are not effective, so it was decided to change the work format and gather in micro-departments that will cooperate with each other.

The goal was to make employees more independent, able to set tasks for themselves without waiting for orders from management.

The project manager in this laugh heads the project office as a whole. It helps to build effective organizational processes in each department and synchronize work between managers.

How to choose a department head?

If someone in the department has management experience and organizational skills, the choice is obvious. Let’s make him head of the department and live happily ever after. But in our case, many employees had not previously organized the work of teams and mostly relied on the manager’s decision.

When choosing future managers, we were guided by the following qualities:

  1. Leader in the team. A person has a lot to learn in a new position, and authority among colleagues will give more confidence and support. This can be an informal team leader or a person who previously held the position of team leader.

  2. Knowledge of the project. A person must understand the current state of the project (at least within the scope of his activity). It is desirable that the employee has been working on the project for a long time.

  3. The desire of the employee himself. It is worth conducting a preliminary interview with the candidate and discussing whether he is interested in moving to a new position and what experiences are related to this.

An inexperienced employee may refuse due to the fear of not being able to cope despite the desire to develop. It is worth offering him to test himself for a month or two and then discuss whether it is worth continuing. With a high probability, this time he will learn and get used to his new status.

How to create conditions for the growth of employees and managers?

Set goals and provide feedback

At the very start, it is worth marking the focus for the employee so that he understands exactly what his new duties are. It is necessary to clearly define the goals that it will achieve.

For example, the goal of the art department may be to improve the quality of content in the application.

In this case, the head of the department will understand what he should focus on and, based on this, will build the department’s processes and roadmap.

It is also worth organizing a feedback system. For this purpose, Skazbuka organized a “feed” – (from English core + meet) a joint meeting of department heads, where we synchronize our vision every week, talk about our achievements and plans for the coming week.

Fodder is needed for managers to show their achievements based on specific indicators of their department.

So, for example, at the meeting, the head of the development department showed metrics for the download speed and stability of the application, and the testing department showed a graph of the number of bugs and application colors in different versions and platforms, etc.

It is very important that the goals of the department do not conflict with the general direction of the company. Otherwise, the manager will not be able to achieve them effectively.

From “What?” and how?” in “Why?”

In any project, participants are divided into those who answer one of the questions:

  1. Why – About goals. This question is most often answered by the management team. In order not to do work for the sake of work, it is necessary to determine the expected results from this or that activity of the company. For example, an increase in the quality of art can affect the involvement of users in the product.

  1. What – About the task. This question is often answered by people who are looking for ways to achieve a specific goal. It can be a designer who needs to develop a more user-friendly UX for a site, or a product/marketer who needs to invent a new feature to improve marketing performance.

  1. As – to search for implementation methods. This question is most often answered by the executors of the assigned tasks. It can be a programmer looking for a way to implement some feature or a designer/artist/animator trying to optimize time for content creation.

To develop a good department head, he must be taught to maneuver between the questions “What?” and why?”. It is necessary to form a product mindset in him and ask him to define metrics for tracking results.

In this way, the manager will be able to start from the current business goals (answer the question “Why?”), and with the help of the analysis of metrics, form tasks for employees (answer the question “What?”). To the question “How?” department employees will already give an answer.

Stimulate decision-making

A new manager without management experience is not in the habit of making decisions that will affect not only the development of the product, but also other project participants.

It is very important to teach a young manager not to be afraid to take responsibility for his actions. After several successful cases, he will become much more self-confident.

If you see that the manager is focused on executive responsibilities, give him a task aimed at determining the path the team will take.

Suppose we take two payment systems and ask the head of the technical department to choose one of them. He must study them and justify his decision.

Support initiative

A good leader is a proactive leader. In order to develop this quality, it is necessary to encourage the manifestation of initiative and in general to indicate to the “young” manager that he needs not only to listen, but also to express his opinion regarding the joint development of the project.

Feeding in Skazbuk also helped in this. The founder of the company and other managers always emphasize the initiative of other employees in the meeting. Thus, employees receive constant positive reinforcement, and a cult of initiative is created in the company.

Be a mentor

The “young” manager will initially have a hard time due to the emergence of new tasks, responsibilities and increased responsibility. Therefore, in the first steps, it is worth holding frequent meetings with him to monitor his emotional state and stress level.

It is also worth following the principle of “praise and correct” at the start. Encountering harsh criticism at the start can demoralize an employee.

Teach the employee not to be afraid to change what is already there

Very often, an employee, fearing to make a mistake, will act according to the principle “it works – don’t touch it.” This will inhibit his involvement in the product, as he will not seek to study it in order to improve it, but will only fix what does not work.

And this kind of thinking can very quickly cause a department to stagnate. It is necessary to stimulate the manager to find more effective solutions for optimizing already existing processes.

So, for example, we ask the heads of the department to make a presentation about the experience of using Skazbuka. Given their different knowledge and perspective on the product, each manager notes different aspects of what can be improved in the current version of the product. We then prioritize it and refine the product.


Based on the listed principles of creating conditions for growth, we built in Skazbuka both a general working structure and internal processes in each department. We increased the engagement of every employee in the product and implemented many initiatives of new department heads that improved the quality of both the program itself and the work process. And the company team has become more united.

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Many thanks to Inokentia Skirnevko and Maria Osetrova for their help in editing the article.

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