Engineering Values ​​Handbook – Strong Ideas, Held Loose > News

(Not sure what this post is about? Check out Living Bungie’s Values ​​as Engineers.)

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Strong ideas, kept relaxed

When we first went through the Engineering Values ​​Handbook as a team, we ended up in a multi-day chat thread delving into this particular value. It turned out we were all pretty much in agreement on ‘kept loose’, but we had many different interpretations of ‘strong ideas’! Was there strong advocacy to ensure ideas were given a fair hearing? Bold proposals that challenge conventional wisdom? This section of the guide gave us the opportunity to address these types of nuances.

We believe that good ideas can come from anyone, regardless of title, seniority or discipline.

  • We strive for an egalitarian feel in all interactions.
  • We try to give each other psychological security. We recognize the near-universal validity of imposter syndrome and seek to build one another up by openly showing respect and admiration while being very careful of the tone and context of criticism.
  • By default, we try to show visible respect to everyone, even if we haven’t worked with them before. This is especially important to provide psychological reassurance to new hires who have not yet established institutional credibility.
  • During debate and decision-making, we try to separate ideas from those who proposed them.

“I transitioned from gameplay development to graphics about a year ago and soon after began my first significant feature planning work. As I discussed the problem area with my mentor, Mark Davis, a senior graphics engineer with over twenty years experience, I was struck by just how much it was just two graphics engineers solving problems together. It was very clear that I was on an equal footing in the discussion as we went back and forth about possible solutions and complications, and was never afraid to challenge or bring up ideas. I always feel like I’m a full member of any discussion, and my input is valued and meaningful, whether it’s with Mark, the graphics team, other engineers, or Bungie as a whole. As a freshman in a new discipline, I have grown into my new role and learned so much from this opportunity and it is a deeply fulfilling and fun experience.”
Abby Welsh, 2020-

We’re brave enough to be seen wrong.

  • It can be scary to be seen as wrong, but it is critical to our success. When we let our fear discourage us, we sacrifice opportunities for creativity and growth.
  • It should never be a traumatic experience to be seen wrong. You should feel welcome and supported by the team. Our work to maintain psychological safety is vital here (see section above) – we create a place where you don’t have to “harden yourself up” to feel safe that you’re wrong.
  • We are bold enough to make suggestions to move a plan forward, even when there’s a good chance we’re wrong—We don’t wait until we’re 100% sure we look good with our proposal.
  • We are brave enough to accept our ideas as a challenge without feeling personally attacked– We try to remember that we are still respected.
  • We are bold enough to raise concerns or ideas even if we are not experts or we raise them to be someone older.
  • We are brave enough to share our ideas early, We seek upgrades from others and avoid polishing our ideas solely for big reveals that surprise others.

“In developing the new engine model, the Activity Scripting team reworked how and where activity scripts are executed within the server ecosystem. Distributing it across different agents within the ecosystem allowed for more expressiveness, but also created a synchronization bear trap for writing scripts that might be blocked or exhibit unexpected behavior due to race conditions. To mitigate this possibility, I have proposed a process of code reviews for designer-made scripts, similar to code reviews by engineers. This wasn’t a practice that designers were experienced in, and most people who heard my pitch thought we wouldn’t get widespread approval. Instead, we transitioned the technical design to mitigate risk with minimal loss of script expressiveness, and have not adopted designer script reviews at this time. Talking about it as a team helped us quickly realize that solving this challenge with ongoing human diligence was not the right answer, even though it would have made an exciting technical solution possible.”
Ed Kaiser, 2010-

We believe that success helps a group find the best answer and leave with stronger relationships.

  • If you’ve found the best answer but people aren’t thrilled to work with you again, this is a mistake.
  • If you’ve made a meeting or project 25% more efficient, but people aren’t thrilled to work with you again, this is a mistake.
  • If everyone is excited to be working with you again, but you haven’t commented on a big mistake or opportunity, this is a mistake

“For a time, the engineering organization held regular lead meetings where managers and others in leadership positions came together to discuss Important Stuff™. When I finally leveled up enough to be invited, it felt like I’d made it. It was a great feeling of validation but also intimidating. I wasn’t sure I had anything of value to contribute in this room with Bungie’s best and brightest. When I finally worked up the courage to intervene, I was pleasantly surprised that everyone took my comments as seriously as everyone else’s. I realized that this applied to everyone who joined the group. There was never one dominant opinion that overshadowed all others. All votes counted all the time.”
James Haywood, 2007-

Until next time for Value #4 – Completion is a Daily Practice!

-Bungie Engineering

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