These notes are a work-in-progress.

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Why people go into management
    • A desire to be of service
    • Trading excitement (current role) for money and promotions
    • Feel they could do a better job

Chapter 2: Organizations

2.0 – Organization

  • Organization: Collection of people working toward a shared goal.
  • Organizations work, some better than others.
  • Organizational design
    • Attempt to understand why some create:
      • Energy
      • Heat
        • Friction
        • Frustration
        • Politics

2.1 – Sizing Teams

  • Managers
    • Should support 6-8 engineers
      • Gives time for…
        • Active coaching
        • Coordinating
        • Furthering their team’s mission by…
          • Writing strategies
          • Leading change
    • Types
      • Tech Lead Managers (TLMs)
        • Supporting < four (4) engineers
        • Take on share of design/implementation work
        • Limited career opportunities
          • Progress as manager
            • Hard to find time for managerial skills
          • Progress as engineer
            • Not enough time for technical details
      • Coaches
        • Support > 8-9 engineers
        • Act as safety nets for problems
        • Too busy to actively invest in…
          • Team
          • Team’s responsibility
  • Managers of Managers
    • Should support 4-6 managers
      • Gives time for…
        • Coaching
        • Alignment with stakeholders
        • Investing in organization
    • Types
      • Ramp-up
        • For those supporting < four (4) other managers
        • Should be…
          • Actively learning the problem domain
          • Transitioning from supporting engineers
        • As a steady-state, feel…
          • Under-utilized
          • Tempted to meddle in daily operations
      • Coaches
        • Supporting a large number of managers functions purely as problem-solving coach
  • On-Call Rotations
    • Should have eight (8) engineers
      • Two-tiers
      • Can be shared across teams
        • Good as intermediate solution
        • Not good as long-term solution
        • Stressful for those unfamiliar
  • Small Teams
    • Not a team if < 4 members
    • Essentially function as individuals
    • Require much higher focus
    • Are fragile
      • A single departure causes disruption
  • Innovation and Maintenance
    • Don’t spin up a new team to innovate
    • Keep innovation and maintenance together
      • Higher morale
      • Avoids class system of innovators and maintainers
  • Review
    • Teams should be 6-8 in steady state
    • To create new team
      • Grow existing to 8-10
      • Then split
    • Don’t create empty teams
    • Managers never support >8 individuals

2.2 The Path To High-Performing Teams

  • Should split hiring across org or focus on 1-2 teams?
2.2.1 The Four States of a Team
  • Falling behind
    • Backlog is longer week after week
    • Working extremely hard but…
      • No progress
      • Low morale
      • Users vocally dissatisfied
  • Treading water
    • Critical work done
    • Not paying down debt
    • Not beginning new projects
    • Morale a bit higher but…
      • Working hard
      • Users happier because they’ve learned asking for help won’t go anywhere
  • Repaying debt
    • Able to repay debt
    • Debt repaid allows more time to repay debt
  • Innovating
    • Technical debt sustainably low
    • High morale
    • Most work satisfying new users
2.2.2 System Fixes and Tactical Support
  • Managerial obligation
    • Identify system solution
    • Initiate solution
    • Support the team while solutions start to work
  • Solutions
    • Falling Behind
      • Hire more people until Treading Water
        • Net new people
          • i.e. Not from other teams
      • Set expectations with users
      • Lead team to easy wins
      • Inject optimism
    • Treading Water
      • Consolidate team efforts to finish
      • Reduce concurrent work until Repaying Debt
        • e.g. Limit WIP
      • Help people transition from personal productivity view to team view
    • Repaying Debt
      • Add time
      • Find space to allow value of paying down debt to grow
      • Find ways to support users
        • e.g. Avoid appearance of disappearing from users’ perspective
      • Prevent stakeholder impatience for delivering new stuff causing backslide
    • Innovating
      • Maintain slack so that the Team can…
        • Build quality into work
        • Operate continuously in innovation
        • Avoid backtracking
      • Ensure team’s work is valued
2.2.3 Consolidate Your Efforts
  • Leading Multiple Teams
    • Don’t try to progress all teams at the same time
    • Prioritize one team at a time
      • Hire until treading water
      • Move to the next team
    • Allow team to gel after a change
2.2.4 Durable Excellence
  • This process is slow
  • Consistently leads to enduring improvement

2.3 A Case Against Top-Down Global Optimization

  • “Once teams pay tech debt, shouldn’t surplus members move to other teams?”
    • Too many overstaffed teams focused on old issues
    • Important to address
  • Skeptical of reallocating individuals to address global priority shift
2.3.1 Team First
  • High-performing teams = sustained productivity
    • Disassembling leads to loss of productivity (even if only moved)
  • Gelling takes time
    • Understand one another
    • Set each other up for success
  • Shifting resets the clock
    • Especially vulnerable in the early period of gelling
    • Gelling !== stagnation
    • Never changing === stagnation
  • Re-gelling has costs
    • Rapid hire into debt-laden teams, not innovating teams
2.3.2 Fixed costs
  • Moving can shift innovating team into falling behind
    • Neither team is doing well
  • Don’t move below 8 engineers
    • Unless…
      • Keeping the lights on
      • Precommited contracts
      • Supporting other teams
2.3.3 Slack