Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 13

This content originally appeared in Tech Leadership Weekly, a weekly email newsletter to help you become a better technical manager.

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Cap Watkins
Management & Power

For many, management is an opportunity to accumulate power, specifically, the power to insure the the doers of work are doing it right. Flipping the corporate triangle (CEO at the top, makers at the bottom), provides a healthier view of a manager’s role, which is to support those doing the work. Being an effective manager isn’t about accruing power, but rather shifting your old power into the hands of those on your team. This allows space for your new power: hiring great people and enabling them do great work.

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Raffi Krikorian
“What does a VP of Engineering do, again?”

What does an effective VP of Engineering focus on? Primarily three areas: establishing focus, leading and designing the engineering organization, and representing engineering at the leadership level. Providing focus for the team, both on what and what not to work on, aligns the team behind the business’s goals and objectives. A VPE needs to lead, manage, and coach. They need ensure the team can move efficiently, and continue to be effective as the team grows in size and the software in complexity. Finally, the VPE represents the engineering team at the executive level, aligning team goals to company goals, and ensuring the perspective of the team is heard.

Reading Time: 8 minutes


Rands
Introverts as Leaders (Briefly)

Introverts tend to be good at listening, observing, and gathering information. Listening results in good situational awareness, which is amplified by an introvert’s natural desire to avoid interpersonal conflict. The key for an introvert in a leadership position, is to leverage their listening and awareness, while ignoring the instinct to hide from conflict.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 12

This content originally appeared in Tech Leadership Weekly, a weekly email newsletter to help you become a better technical manager.

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First Round
The Science of Speaking is the Art of Being Heard

Communication is not just the articulation of your thoughts. It’s also the ability of the other person to hear what you’re saying. Some people are predisposed to focus on a goal as a means of achieving an objective, while others focus on solving a problem. Someone may make a decision based on their internally standard, while others seek outside affirmation as they come to a decision. Some people think in big picture terms, while others break a problem down into actionable steps. A person may arrive at a decision either based on what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, what they’ve done, or what they’ve read. Understanding a persons predisposition to messages and framing a message to align with their traits can be the difference between being heard and being ignored.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


Ryan Spraetz
How Should Deadlines be Used in Software Engineering?

Deadlines are an important tool, but they are often mis-used or mis-understood. For a deadline to be effective (or accurate), they need to be created only when enough information is available to make an accurate estimate. It’s important that all parties dependent on a deadline understand the definition of complete. When challenges arise in a project, deadlines need to be updated and communicated. At their heart, deadlines are a communication tool teams use to manage dependencies.

Reading Time: 6 minutes


Kellan
Surviving being senior (tech) management

For a technical leader, the transition from maker to manager brings an additional challenge. It’s critical to focus on keeping yourself healthy. Make sure you exercise. Have someone to talk to about difficult, often personal challenges you’re facing. Talk shop with a small group of peers outside of work. Look to grow through personal projects, completely unrelated to your daily work. In order to be an effective leader, you need to be in a happy, healthy place.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 11

This content originally appeared in Tech Leadership Weekly, a weekly email newsletter to help you grow as a technical manager.

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Camille Fournier
Notes on Startup Engineering Management for Young Bloods

Regardless of the size of your organization, it’s important to think about the safety net that surrounds you. If you’re at a large company, you probably have a safety net (possibly, without you realizing it). If you’re at a small company, focus on building out that safety net. Trust and communication are the lifeblood of a team and it needs to flow up and down within a group. Prepare for long feedback cycles, but look for ways to shorten them. Pushing code early and often, and running postmortems a day after an incident provides opportunities to shorten the feedback cycle.

Reading Time: 7 minutes


Sam Gerstenzang
21 management things I learned at Imgur

Communication is always a challenge. Focus on it, both with yourself, and your team. Your goal is to reduce the number of decisions you, as a manager, need to make. Providing context for how you make decisions enables your team learn. Being unaware of your weaknesses is more destructive than having weaknesses. Be conscious of your shortcomings. Providing clarity of purpose and regular feedback is the most effective way to manage a team.

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Stephen J. Dubner
How to Be More Productive

How team members interacts with each other is the best indicator of how effective a team will be. Team members need to feel they can speak up, are listened to, are not fearful of failure, and feel included. As a manager, be aware that being effective and productive may not always look like efficiency.

Reading Time: 10 minutes (or listen to it!)

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 10

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


First Round Review
Shims, Jigs and Other Woodworking Concepts to Conquer Technical Debt

Technical debt is a natural part of the software development cycle, and smart teams are constantly managing it. Dialog and conversation, before any code has been written, aligns the team to the approach. Pair programming and consistent code reviews are important as well. Modular code limits the impact of technical debt and simplifies the process of debt burn down. When a project accumulates too much technical debt, creating a rating system, including security concerns, prevalence, and the frequency of contact, can help a team prioritize which debt to focus on.

Reading Time: 8 minutes


Julie Zhuo
Managing with Martians

When people come to you with a problem, often, our first reaction is to provide a solution. There are times when this is the right decision. More often, a better approach, is to provide a framework, some guidance for the desired direction, and let the individual choose their own path forward. You remove yourself as a micro manager, and allow the individual a learning opportunity.

Reading Time: 6 minutes


Marcus Blankenship
Ruining Habit #1: Ineffective managers don’t express gratitude

It’s important for the people on your team to know they are valued and appreciated. It can be hard to know when or how to say thank you. A thanks can come in the form of a note, an email, or part of a one on one. Showing gratitude is an valuable motivator. It’s important to show appreciation for those you appreciate.

Reading Time: 4 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 9

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


Dave Thomas
Agile is Dead (video)

The Agile Manifesto is being applied in ways the original authors never intended. It’s created an entire industry of consultants and process. From one of the original authors, a reset:

  • Understand where you are.
  • Take a small step toward your goal.
  • Adjust your understanding from what you learned.
  • Repeat.

When faced with a choice, choose the option that is easier to change in the future.

Reading Time: 8 minutes


Brian
What Shape are You?

In a creative endeavor, like software development, the work is subtractive, meaning you start with a pile of stuff to do. The work is complete when there is no more stuff to do. Each person’s efforts removes stuff from that pile. Instead of evaluating individuals on strengths and weaknesses, look at the value each person brings to the team (or the stuff they subtract from the pile). It is important to provide feedback to the expected scope of an individual’s work and it’s context within the larger picture. This awareness helps people understand the true value of their contributions.

Reading Time: 12 minutes


Matt Moore
PBTs + DRIs + OKRs = ZOMG

How can you keep a team nimble, focused, and effective? Construct Pizza Box Teams (no larger than can be fed with two pizzas) of Directly Responsible Individuals, and insure they have Objectives and Key Results goals. The small team, aligned on a common set of goals, with a mix of product, full stack engineering, marketing, and analytics skills streamlines the flow of information and maximizes effectiveness of the team.

Read Time: 5 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 8

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


Camille Fournier
Ask the CTO: Achieving friction-free status updates

Getting updates on the teams progress without disrupting the team can be challenging. A great first step is the team’s project management software. Understanding the urgency of the ask is also important. Providing a high level overview and following up with more details later may suffice. Look for natural breaks; lunch, coffee, etc. for the opportunity to ask questions without disrupting someone’s focus.

Reading Time: 7 minutes


Julie Zhuo
Unintuitive Things I’ve Learned about Management (Part 2)

The lack of a clearly defined goal will really slow a team down. As a manager, focusing on the ‘why’ allows for focus and frees you from micro-managing. It gives your team the context needed as they craft their solution.

Within a team, it’s also important to be aware of the impact of conflict and individuals unable to contribute at a required level. Supporting and growing your people is a primary objective. You also need to know when to move someone to another team if it’s just not working.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


Kevin Ho
Pivotal Experience

Design and development teams really can work together. Collaboration between teams will result in a better product. Tightly integrating design into an agile sprint can help the team focus on key features. Pairing designers and developers for short periods (1-2 hours) at key points can streamline design reviews and maximize efficiencies in visual build-out. Collaboration is good!

Reading Time: 4 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 7

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


Dave Girouard
Speed as a Habit

Moving fast isn’t just something software teams need to focus on, it’s applicable to the entire organization. Making thoughtful decisions with input and perspective from your team, and acting quickly on those decisions creates forward progress. Tackling problems in parallel results in quicker solutions. Constantly asking “Why it can’t be faster?” can generate creative ideas for simpler solves. If an organization can move faster than their competition, they will win.

Read Time: 10 minutes


Google
ReWork

This site is the result of Google’s efforts to understand what makes an effective manager. Short, high value insights and guides about the skills it takes to manage, and how to become a better manager.

Read Time: 5 minutes – 1 hour


Chris Herd
The Parallels Between Life and Project Management

Start your day with the task you least look forward to. Recognize when you’re wrong and apologize. Relationships are worth more than being right all the time. Trust those around you. Let people be experts. Praise publicly. Empathize and coach instead of yelling. Be a good person and others will follow you.

Reading Time: 5 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 6

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


Julie Zhuo
Unintuitive Things I’ve Learned about Management

If a day of 1x1s sounds like a nightmare, management might not be for you. As your role transitions to a facilitator, enjoying people is critical to being a successful manager. Just as the craft of software takes time to learn, managing different teams with varying skill sets and personalities will help you develop and grow as a manger.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


First Round
Thoughts on Gender and Radical Candor

Gender equality and diversity is an important topic, especially for tech focused companies right now (as it should be). Slowing down, listening, choosing words carefully, and remaining vigilant is important. Kim Scott provides a solid framework for both men and women to use while navigating teams, leadership, and the work environment.

Reading Time: 20 minutes

Charles Duhigg
What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

What does a healthy, productive, creative team really look like? It’s not quite what you’d expect (focused, single topic experts educating the group, etc.). Instead, it’s all about everyone participating on an equal footing. It’s about members being comfortably voicing their opinions, asking questions, interrupting, and talking about their weekend. It’s a team with above average social sensitivity. As managers, it’s critical we facilitate a psychologically safe environment and insure everyone has a voice, even if it means a meeting runs long.

Reading Time: 25 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 5

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


Rands in Repose
Lost in Translation

This post has two great points about being a manger. First, you will have failure, and it’s OK. It’s a big part of learning. Second, communication and providing direction is hard and it can feel unnatural. Reiteration and assuming nothing can help improve the situation. What feels like over communication might just be the right amount.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


First Round
The ‘Adaptable Leader’ is the New Holy Grail — Become One, Hire One

Just as being an effective learner is a vital skill to growing as a programmer, it’s vital to grow as a manager and leader. Focusing on keeping an open mind, staying scrappy, and learning from the inevitable ups and downs of the process will allow you to grow and improve your effectiveness.

Reading Time: 15 minutes


Andreessen Horowitz
Andy

Andreessen Horowitz offers a very thoughtful review of Andy Grove’s book ‘High Output Management’. There are some excellent nuggets of wisdom in this post, including insight on the role of a manager, the importance of upfront project planning, and what to look for when hiring managers. My biggest takeaway was that I really need to read the book.

Reading Time: 6 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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Tech Leadership Weekly, Issue 4

A weekly dose of management, process, and leadership.


First Round
This Is What Impactful Engineering Leadership Looks Like

A good manager is a good facilitator. It means understanding the goals and objectives of your people and creating opportunities. It means clearing roadblocks to allow your team to be productive. It means freeing information, for effective feedback and retrospectives, as well as aligning the team around business challenges and goals.

Reading Time: 15 minutes


Matt Briggs
The Role of a Senior Developer

An insightful look into the skills and insight of a developer at various points in the progression of their craft. It’s not about years of experience, it’s about one’s ability to understand the trade-offs of proposed solutions, and how those solutions and trade-offs fit into the larger context and environment.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


Marcus Blankenship
Delegation Checklist

This is a great, single page, cheat-sheet for what and how you should be delegating work to your team.

Reading Time: 3 minutes


This content originally appeared in the Tech Leadership Weekly Newsletter. Signup for a weekly dose of management, process, and leadership delivered to your inbox every Wednesday at Tech Leadership Weekly.

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