Simon Willison’s Weblog

37 items tagged “management”

2021

At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind.  It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous.

Tyler Cowen # 23rd August 2021, 8:02 pm

The way you motivate someone who doesn’t need the money is the same way you should motivate people who do need the money: by giving them meaningful roles with real responsibility where they can see how their efforts contribute to a larger whole, giving them an appropriate amount of ownership over their work and input into decisions that involve that work, providing useful feedback, recognizing their contributions, helping them feel they’re making progress toward things that matter to them, and — importantly — not doing things that de-motivate people (like yelling or constantly shifting goals or generally being a jerk).

Alison Green (Ask a Manager) # 17th August 2021, 11:01 pm

Product Hunt Engineering Principles (via) Product Hunt implement “Collaborative Single Player Mode”, which they define as “A developer should be able to execute a feature from start to finish -- from the database to the backend, API, frontend, and CSS. The goal is never to get blocked.” I’ve encountered this principle applied to teams before (which I really like) but not for individual developers, which I imagine is more likely to work well for smaller organizations. Intriguing approach. They also practice trunk driven development with feature flags: “Always start a feature with a feature flag and try to get something to production on day 1.” And “If a product decision is missing, try to make this decision yourself—it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.” # 16th August 2021, 3:35 pm

There’s three ways to handle work assigned to you. If you say you’ll do it, do it. If you say you can’t, that’s ok. But if you sign up for work and drop the ball, the team fails. Learn to say no.

Chris Jones, original Internet Explorer team # 14th August 2021, 8:16 pm

GitLab Culture: The phases of remote adaptation. GitLab claim to be “the world’s largest all-remote company”—1300 employees across 65 countries, with not a single physical office. Lots of interesting thinking in this article about different phases a company can go through to become truly remote-first. “Maximally efficient remote environments will do as little work as possible synchronously, instead focusing the valuable moments where two or more people are online at the same time on informal communication and bonding.” They also expire their Slack messages after 90 days to force critical project information into documents and issue threads. # 22nd June 2021, 12:37 am

An incomplete list of skills senior engineers need, beyond coding. By Camille Fournier, author of my favourite book on engineering management “The Manager’s Path”. Number one is “How to run a meeting, and no, being the person who talks the most in the meeting is not the same thing as running it”. # 6th June 2021, 10:17 pm

I strongly suspect that the single most impactful thing I did during my 5+ years at Linden Lab was shortly before I left: set up a weekly meeting between a couple of leads from Support and Engineering to go over the top 10 support issues.

Yoz Grahame # 23rd February 2021, 4:49 am

People, processes, priorities. Twitter thread from Adrienne Porter Felt outlining her model for thinking about engineering management. I like this trifecta of “people, processes, priorities” a lot. # 22nd February 2021, 5:21 pm

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is that humans aren’t pure functions: an input that works one day and gets one result, then again another day and get an entirely different result.

Sarah Drasner # 19th February 2021, 12 am

Finally, remember that whatever choice is made, you’re going to need to get behind it! You should be able to make a compelling positive case for any of the options you present. If there’s an option you can’t support, don’t present it.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss # 8th February 2021, 3:21 pm

Generally, product-aligned teams deliver better products more rapidly. Again, Conway’s Law is inescapable; if delivering a new feature requires several teams to coordinate, you’ll struggle compared to an org where a single team can execute on a new feature.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss # 5th January 2021, 4:33 pm

2020

Build v.s. buy: how billing models affect your internal culture

Something to pay attention to when making a build v.s. buy decision is the impact that billing models will have on your usage of a tool.

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Stories of reaching Staff-plus engineering roles (via) Extremely useful collection of career stories from staff-level engineers at a variety of different companies, collected by Will Larson. # 11th September 2020, 3:30 am

Simply put, if you’re in a position of power at work, you’re unlikely to see workplace harassment in front of you. That’s because harassment and bullying are attempts to exert power over people with less of it. People who behave improperly don’t tend to do so with people they perceive as having power already.

Sarah Milstein # 1st September 2020, 3:10 pm

Why weekly? You want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s really going on. When 1:1s are scheduled bi-weekly, and either of you have to cancel, you’ll likely be going a month between conversations and that is far too long to go without having a 1:1 with your direct report. Think of how much happens in a month. You don’t want to be that far behind!

Adrienne Lowe # 21st August 2020, 5:02 pm

22 Principles for Great Product Managers (via) By Alex Reeve, a PM at LinkedIn. These are really strong—I particularly liked the “leading your team” section which emphasizes ensuring your team understand the goal and the path to reach it, and that you know what winning will look like and how to tell. # 20th July 2020, 8:17 pm

Unlocking value with durable teams (via) Anna Shipman describes the FT’s experience switching from project-based teams to “durable” teams—teams which own a specific area of the product. Lots of really smart organizational design thinking in this. I’ve seen how much of a difference it makes to have every inch of a complex system “owned” by a specific team. I also like how Anna uses the term “technical estate” to describe the entirety of the FT’s systems. # 29th June 2020, 9:33 pm

Company culture is the shared way everyone acts when you aren’t around to see it

Adam Kalsey # 20th May 2020, 3:30 am

The biggest thing people don’t appreciate about large companies is the basic productive unit isn’t an individual it is an engineering team with about ~8 members.

Patrick McKenzie # 29th April 2020, 6:39 am

Spotify introduced the vocabulary of missions, tribes, squads, guilds, and chapter leads for describing its way of working. It gave the illusion it had created something worthy of needing to learn unusual word choices. However, if we remove the unnecessary synonyms from the ideas, the Spotify model is revealed as a collection of cross-functional teams with too much autonomy and a poor management structure.

Jeremiah Lee # 24th April 2020, 9:57 pm

2019

For creative work, you can’t cheat. My believe is that there are 5 creative hours in everyone’s day. All I ask of people at Shopify is that 4 of those are channeled into the company.

Tobi Lutke # 26th December 2019, 7:06 pm

The Blue Tape List (via) I’ve often thought there’s something magical about your first month at a new job—you can meet anyone and ask any question, taking advantage of your “newbie” status. I like this suggestion by Michael Lopp to encourage your new hires to take notes on things that they think are broken but reserve acting on them for long enough to gain fuller context of how the new organization works. # 10th December 2019, 6:09 pm

OPP (Other People’s Problems) (via) Camille Fournier provides a comprehensive guide to picking your battles: in a large organization how can you navigate the enormous array of problems you can see that you’d like to fix, especially when so many of those problems aren’t directly in your area of control? # 7th August 2019, 1:58 pm

Friday wins and a case study in ritual design. “Culture is what you celebrate. Rituals are the tools you use to shape culture.” # 8th June 2019, 6:14 pm

Amazon’s Away Teams laid bare: How AWS’s hivemind of engineers develop and maintain their internal tech (via) Some interesting insights into how Amazon structure their engineering organization to maximize team productivity in a service-oriented environment. Two things that stood out to me: each service is owned by a “home team”, but sometimes features that are needed by other teams can be built by forming an “away team” to build out that functionality. Secondly, Amazon has a concept of “bar raisers” who are engineers across the organization who help approve key design and architectural decisions. It’s possible to go against the recommendation of a bar raiser but “such a move is noted and made visible to higher levels of management”. # 14th May 2019, 6:32 pm

One of the standards you have to have demonstrated to being able to reach Principle Engineer inside Amazon is “Respect what has gone before”. It’s very likely you don’t know the why, what or how of it. Often what was written was the best that could be done to the constraints.

Paul Graydon # 25th April 2019, 5:52 pm

The Behavioral Change Stairway Model. BCSM is the FBI’s model for crisis negotiation, but it looks like it could be a useful negotiation framework for all kinds of other conflict mediation as well. # 19th April 2019, 5:46 pm

Using 6 Page and 2 Page Documents To Make Organizational Decisions (via) I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the challenges of efficiently getting to consensus within a larger organization spread across multiple locations and time zones. This model described by Ian Nowland based on his experience at AWS seems very promising. The goal is to achieve a decision or “disagree and commit” consensus using a max 6 page document and a one hour meeting. The first fifteen minutes of the meeting are dedicated to silently reading the document—if you’ve read it already you are given the option of arriving fifteen minutes late. # 11th April 2019, 3:46 am

The Eleven Laws of Showrunning (via) Fascinating essay on how to run a modern TV show by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. Being a showrunner basically involves running a 100+ person startup with a 7 digit budget, almost immovable deadlines, high maintenance activist investors and you’re still expected to write some of the scripts! So many useful lessons here about management, creativity and delegation: almost everything in here is relevant to product management, startup founding and engineering management as well. # 19th February 2019, 7:27 pm

2018

Advice for a new executive, by Chad Dickerson (via) Lara Hogan shares the advice she was given by Chad Dickerson (CTO and then CEO of Etsy) when she first became VP Engineering at Kickstarter. There is so much good material in here. I can vouch for the “peer support group” recommendation: Natalie and I benefited from that through Y Combinator and ended up building our own founder peer support group when we moved our startup back to London. Having a confidential trusted group with which to discuss the challenges of growing a company was invaluable. # 31st August 2018, 1:45 pm