The Manager's Path: the guts of chapters 5 and 6

May 17, 2017

This is part 3 of X of my summary of Camille Fournier’s “The Manager’s Path”. Part one is here and part 2 is here.

Ch05 - Managing multiple teams

  • Engineering directors won’t necessarily be writing code every day
  • Be realistic about your schedule - any code you write will be slow
  • Code reviews are a good way to stay in practice
  • Spend time to gain mastery of at least one language before moving into management
  • Try to keep a half-day a week free from meetings and use this for something creative
  • Understand the difference between important and urgent tasks
  • Important but not urgent: preparing for meetings so you can guide them in a healthy way
  • Pushing an efficient meeting culture down to your teams can win back a lot of time
  • Look around the room during meetings to gauge engagement - if everyone’s asleep, it’s wasting their time
  • You’ll get better at delegation and decisions over time
  • Use the simple/complex versus frequent/infrequent grid to figure out what you should do versus what you should delegate
  • Simple & frequent: delegate
  • Simple & infrequent: do it yourself
  • Complex & frequent: delegate carefully
  • Complex & infrequent: delegate as a training opportunity
  • Strategies for saying NO: use the “yes, and” approach
  • Combining positivity while articulating boundaries of what’s possible will get you into the management major leagues
  • Strategies for saying NO: creat policies
  • When you start repeating youself, you’ve got the basis for a reasonable policy
  • Making a policy enables your team to know what they need to do to get a yes
  • Strategies for saying NO: “Help me say yes”
  • Ask questions and dig in on the questionable details
  • Curious interrogation of ideas can help you say no and teach at the same time
  • Strategies for saying NO: Work as a team
  • Don’t prevaricate: better to say no quickly than delay and drag it out
  • Questions to ask yourself: Do I know wha’s expected of me? Do I have what I need to get the job done right? Do I get to do what I do best every day?
  • Frequency of release is a team health diagnostic - good teams move fast and deliver small chunks of the big picture
  • Good teams check in code frequently - lack of this suggests poor planning and chunking
  • Good teams have a low frequency of incidents
  • Poor teams are: fragile to the loss of the leader; resistent to outside ideas; build empires; inflexible
  • Durable teams are: resilient to the loss of individuals; driven to find better ways; focussed on the company first; open to changes that serve their purpose
  • Impatience, laziness and hubris are virtues of engineers according to Larry Wall
  • Any time you see something inefficient, question it
  • Develop and show the value of laziness

Ch06 - Managing managers

  • The expectations for managing managers aren’t that different to those of managing multiple teams
  • Things are now obscured through an additional level of abstraction
  • You won’t detect problems when you’re in this role for the first time
  • This is a place where you need to find your discomfort, chase it down and sit with it unblinking for a while
  • Skip-level meetings - one of the critical success factors in managing managers
  • A meeting with people who report to people who report to you
  • Short 1:1 with each person in the organisation
  • Skip-level lunches with the whole team
  • Aim is to maintain trust and engagement, and detect places where you’re being “managed up” to
  • A reality check from the people on the ground
  • Relationships with your reporting managers should make your life easier
  • Often hard to hold your managers accountable because accountability is muddled
  • Common scenarios: unstable product roadmap; errant tech lead; ful-time firefighting
  • Spend time with your managers to get to know them as people, and pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses
  • The people pleaser: their team loves them as a person, but get frustrated
  • The people pleaser: they’re more interested in a team that runs smoothly than pushing them
  • The people pleaser: they wear their mood on their face
  • The people pleaser: they never push back on work
  • The people pleaser: they overpromise and underdeliver
  • The people pleaser: they say yes to everyone
  • The people pleaser: they know all about the problems, but never address them
  • Help them feel safer saying no, and externalise more decisions
  • Create better processes for getting work scheduled
  • Show them that they’re exhibiting the behaviours and highlight the downsides
  • Spend quality time with your new managers
  • Use skip-level meetings to detect areas where you need to support them
  • Watch for overwork, which is a sign they think they’re the taskmaster
  • Beware poor relationships with other teams and product, which can be a sign of a control freak
  • Managing experienced managers: make sure this person fits with the culture of your team
  • Hiring managers: make sure they’ve got the skills, and they’re a culture match
  • Have them role play a few 1:1s as part of the interview process
  • They must be able to debug teams
  • Try role-playing with someone who’s thinking of quitting