Goals and baselines.

July 5, 2018. Filed under management 127metrics 5

There is a moment in every company's growth when top-level planning shifts from discussing specific projects to talking about goals. This can be a very empowering moment because goals decouple the "what" from the "how", but it can also be a confusing transition for everyone involved: writing clear goals takes a bit of practice. This post takes a look at how to write effective goals and how to use them during planning.

My rails for engineering leadership.

July 1, 2018. Filed under management 127leadership 3

My experiences working with many new engineering leaders, combined with my own struggles starting out, have lead me to develop a somewhat unusual approach to leadership, centered on systems thinking and providing robust standard rails. This is a collection of my writings by theme, which hopes to introduce folks to how I think about engineering leadership.

The briefest of media trainings.

June 24, 2018. Filed under management 127

When I was working at Digg, I was fortunate enough to get five minutes of media training, and I'm still learning from those five minute a decade later, so I've finally written them down.

A case against top-down global optimization.

June 23, 2018. Filed under management 127

After writing "Staying on the path to high-performance teams", quite a few folks brought up the same question, "Once a team has repaid its technical debt, shouldn't the now surplus team members move to other teams?" This is a pretty interesting question, and I've written up how I think about it.

Staying on the path to high performing teams.

June 17, 2018. Filed under management 127

A friend is six months into supporting a sixty person engineering group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of their teams believe they have urgent hiring needs. It's a great question, and captures a deeply challenging aspect of leading an organization: keeping the path after you've established a strategy and while it's still waiting to show results.

Where to stash your organizational risk?

June 13, 2018. Filed under management 127

Lately, I'm increasingly hear folks reference the idea of organizational debt. This is the organizational sibling of technical debt, and represents things like biased interview processes and inequitable compensation mechanisms. These are systemic problems, which are preventing your organization from reaching its potential. Like technical debt, these risks linger because they are never the most pressing problem. Until that one fateful moment when they are. Organizational risk is the more volatile subset of organizational debt.

Consider the team you have for senior positions.

May 19, 2018. Filed under management 127hiring 9

I've been hiring engineering manager of managers roles over the past six months. These roles are scarcer than line management roles, and vary more across companies. This process has taught me a bunch of new things, and been remarkably rewarding.

Setting organizational direction.

May 9, 2018. Filed under management 127

Over the past year, as I've transitioned into largely working with managers of managers, and it's gotten much more challenging to define direction for the growing organization. Let's explore that a bit.

Model, document and share.

April 26, 2018. Filed under management 127

One of the trickiest, and most common, leadership scenarios is leading without authority, and I've written about one of the styles that I've found surprisingly effective in those conditions. I call it Model, Document, and Share.

Migrations: the sole scalable fix to tech debt.

April 15, 2018. Filed under management 127infrastructure 34

Migrations are both essential and frustratingly frequent as your codebase ages and your business grows: most tools and processes only support about one order magnitude of growth before becoming ineffective, so rapid growth makes them a way of life. This post takes a look at why migrations are so important, and also how to run them effectively.