New Leads Need “Domains of Execution”

August 30, 2022
Woman balancing project responsibilities

Okay, sure the title really needs to be “New leads should totally define a list of clusters of responsibilities that every project has so that they can make sure the project is appropriately supported” …but you get it.

What’s a “Domain of Execution”?

A domain is some cluster of responsibilities that your project will require someone to execute. There’s some list of domains that encompasses all of the responsibilities your project will require. You’ll need that list.

It’s important to note, I stole this term from Mike Rogers ❤ Thanks, buddy. 

It doesn’t matter how you list out those domains.

Honestly, every Team Lead I ask has their own list…

👩 Product, Process, Delivery

👨 Development, Design, Testing, Product, Process

👧 Development, Design, Testing, Product, Process, Project

👨‍🦰 Client Relationships, Development, Testing, Product, Process, Teaming

And so, I’m going to posit that it doesn’t matter how you cluster project responsibilities.

Okay, so what does matter?

It’s only important that you have a list. Because before the project ever starts, you’ll need to ask:

  1. What domain(s) am I responsible for on this project?
  2. Who’s responsible for each of the other domains?

Coverage. Every project needs leadership coverage of its domains.

Benefits, probably?

It can help you identify if you’re signing up for too much.

“Too much” is obviously contextually dependent.

Are you a one-man show, and therefore are responsible for all domains? That may be a totally reasonable expectation.

Are you a Senior Software Engineer about to start your first project as Team Lead for a 6 person team? Probably shouldn’t take on more than one domain.

Are you an LSE2 who’s managed – like – 5 teams at one time and it was a smashing success? You’re insane and I have no idea what rules apply to you anymore. (I mean, I’m sure you know the exact number of domains you can handle)

It can help clarify if there are any gaps.

That conversation may reveal that no one is responsible for “Product”. Is that because the client will be responsible for those? Worth verifying!

That conversation may also reveal that you’re responsible for something that’ll be a bit of a stretch for you skill-wise. For example, my first project as Team Lead, I was responsible for the Client Relationship domain. Which… totally concerned me because I don’t really, um, “button up” my personality for people or work. As it turned out, our primary client contacts were pretty chill, so our casual personalities jived pretty well. BUT, I was able to warn my manager before the project started and we were able to clarify what the domain really needed from me. 😅

It can help you build your support system.

If my next Engagement Manager told me I was responsible for Design, I’d know I was completely out of my area of expertise. And so, I would need to start thinking about who I need to surround myself with in order to do that job well.

Can we add a designer to the team who I can lean on heavily for education and expertise?

Should I have weekly 1:1s with a design lead as an avenue for regular mentorship?

Should I get a crash course or workshop scheduled?


👋 As always, totally reach out! Let me know what your list ends up looking like!