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Evolving our organization: introducing Engineering Managers and Engineering Leads

I’ve been digging into different ways to structure engineering teams a bit, and I like this take on the different roles of Engineering Managers and Engineering Leads:

It became obvious that in most cases it’s too much for one person to manage people (growth, performance and motivation), along with driving technical execution. At the same time, in most teams, we had one or more senior developers on whom Tech Lead could rely and delegate architecture decisions, quality, mentorship, etc… We decided to give these engineers roles to make them recognized in the company for their impact, also to improve communication channels, and to help team and product leads. We introduced the role of Engineering Lead to have a major influence on how we build products. Additionally, we replaced the Tech Lead role with the Engineering Manager role, which gave more focus on people and team management (“who”).

It also reminded me of Lara Hogan’s excellent post on how Engineering Managers and Engineering Leads work with Product:

What if everybody did everything right?

Here’s Lorin Hochstein with another great post about the practice of learning from software incidents. He asks, What if everybody did everything right?

An alternative lens for making sense of an incident is to ask the question “how did this incident happen, assuming that everybody did everything right?” In other words, assume that everybody whose actions contributed to the incident made the best possible decision based on the information they had, and the constraints and incentives that were imposed upon them.

The Lure of Divorce

I know there was a different The Cut essay that got more attention recently, but The Lure of Divorce is the one I actually read all the way through. A heartbreaking and beautiful story, so well written.

I didn’t read any of the internet commentary on it, but apparently it wasn’t great (shocking!). John Warner’s take on it resonates with me:

I have some things to say about the disturbing tendency of some readers to respond to attempts at interesting and true expression by leading with their moral as opposed to their aesthetic judgement.

Organizational health is (still) the key to long-term performance

This is an excellent read from McKinsey. It turns out that, unsurprisingly, organizational health is (still) the key to long-term performance:

McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index (OHI) continues to show, for instance, that, over the long term, healthy organizations deliver three times the total shareholder returns (TSR) of unhealthy organizations, regardless of industry. Other findings point to greater resilience and higher financial performance in healthy organizations, even as the world around them has become that much more complicated.

This bit particularly resonated with me:

According to the OHI research, companies with leaders who take decisive actions—and who commit to those decisions once they are made—are 4.2 times more likely to be healthy, as compared with their peers.

But it’s not enough just to be fast with those decisions; our OHI research shows that decisive leaders who empower their employees (giving those closest to the work the autonomy to make their own decisions) are 85 percent more likely to improve the quality of organizational decisions, as compared with their peers.

I’ve long been a fan of the adage “move decision-making to those closest to the data”. This research shows how important that continues to be for companies to succeed and employees to remain happy and fulfilled.

An Unreasonable Investment

An Unreasonable Investment is another excellent leadership essay by Michael Lopp. Here’s something to take with us into our jobs every day:

You want some free leadership advice? You build yourself by building… by helping others. The selfless act of helping humans will teach you more about being a credible leader than any book.

Your career is not your job. It’s the humans you help along the way.

Fit

Molly Graham has a fantastic essay on how to figure out if a job is the right fit for you. The post focuses on senior roles, but there are some great tips for everyone here:

What I look for, truly, is the intersection in the two sides of the equation: does what we NEED match what this person WANTS to do? As I said, most companies and most interviews focus more on the question: can this person do what we need? But if you’re trying to recruit the best talent in the world, it needs to start with them. Who are they? What do they love doing? What are their ambitions? How does their past shape what they want for their future? What are they insecure about? What do they want to prove? My interview style is really about mapping that.

Work for love

I love JJ Skolnik’s essay Love + Work for Flaming Hydra (paywalled but well worth it—this newsletter is great). JJ used to work at Bandcamp and reflects on “loving your work” when it doesn’t love you back. And he has some wonderful reflections on the meaning of music too:

Underground music is vital because it is an experience that cannot be replicated in capitalist language. No matter how much one tries to distill it down to a matter of commodity exchange—there is nothing that can capture the joy of a bunch of freaks making the music they want to make and sharing that in community with one another. This is true no matter how much money is poured into it. Money isn’t what makes it grow.

Quality vs Quantity

Mike Fisher preaches the good stuff in Quality vs Quantity. He talks about the importance of shipping small, incremental releases to customers:

By prioritizing the quantity of opportunities to learn, teams encourage a culture of continuous learning and flexibility. Each iteration becomes a learning opportunity. This method aligns more closely with real-world conditions where customer preferences and market dynamics are constantly evolving. Furthermore, this approach reduces the risks associated with big launches like Windows Vista, where a significant investment is made in a single, large-scale product release. Instead, smaller, more frequent releases allow for adjustments and refinements based on actual user feedback and engagement.

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