Posts in category 'prodmgmt'

  • So you don't want to be a manager

    Early in my career the idea of moving from an IC role to management sounded crazy. But, one thing led to another and I found myself on the management path despite my best efforts to avoid it, and it turns out it can be pretty awesome!

    Let’s face it, management is not seen by many as a sexy profession. Whether you’re reading Dilbert or watching Office Space or enjoying the first act of The Matrix, managers are depicted as universally incompetent, do-nothing overhead that only get in the way of the “real work”. And even if you recognize that this is just a stereotype and that strong management brings real value to the table, anyone paying attention will notice all of the crap they have to deal with, including hiring and firing, handling performance issues, and ultimately being accountable for their team’s effectiveness.

    Who would want to be that person?

    During the first ten-plus years of my career, certainly not me! Just let me code, maybe lead something with a few other sharp team members. Who would want to do anything else?

    But then I was presented with an offer I couldn’t refuse: the opportunity to take the lead in building a new Product Management organization. And, of course, that meant not just managing the product but building a team and managing people.

    And I was terrified.

    Well, it turns out, for someone like me–and let me be very clear, here, this is not a career path for everyone–it couldn’t have been a better move.

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  • Chesterton's Fence

    The last few months have me thinking a lot about technology, disruption, and the metaphor Chesterton’s Fence, or why you need to think about systems before reforming them.

    Back in 1929, G. K. Chesterton, an English writer and philosopher, described what is now known as Chesterton’s Fence, a metaphor about reforming systems:

    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’

    In the context of his writings, G. K. Chesterton was using this as an argument in favour of certain socially conservative views (hence the title of the essay “The Drift from Domesticity”). But the core principle–that it’s important to understand systems before you change them–is far more broadly applicable (and apolitical!), and is something that I think the technology industry would be wise to adopt.

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