managing @ 16 September 2011, “No Comments”

While I’m nowhere near Captain Dan Berg status (in fact, I really have no clue about how to build a ship in a bottle, probably because I really don’t care much about ships in a bottle), I’m using the title here for two reasons:

  • It’s possibly catchy enough for someone to think there’s something really deep in this post
  • The real content of this post is inspired by a story I read that involved ships in a bottle (confused yet?)

Awhile back, like a decade ago, I remember reading some comments over on slashdot and there was one comment in particular that resonated with me (although not enough to really remember anything other than a butchered version of the original quote):

“I work at a software company for a manager that I love.  Whenever I walk by his office, he’s building ships in a bottle not coding, writing email or doing other manager-y things.  Yet his projects are always on track, his team is happy and he’s always available to chat and help with whatever I need”

My first thought after reading this was “man, I want to be that manager, as long as I can replace building ships in a bottle with watching baseball and eating meatball sandwiches!”.  This was before I was a manager so I was full of youthful snarkiness and figured this must actually be a pretty poor manager who somehow duped this guy into thinking he was competent.  Surely real managers should be coding away, writing design documents, triaging bugs constantly, etc!  But over time (both as an IC and a manager) I’ve learned to really appreciate (and in fact incorporate) the message behind this quote, which distills down to my personal philosophy when it comes to managing:

“Hire good people and let them work”

In my experience, the best managers are adept at identifying and recruiting top talent, and just as importantly constantly re-recruiting the team.  Focusing like a laser on people above projects and process is a winning formula in my experience.  I’ve been fortunate to work with some really tremendous developers over the years, passionate and smart, and there’s just no substitute for a great team.  And its important to think of the team holistically, not just as a collection of individuals.  Thinking holistically forces a manager to ensure the team is balanced (in terms of both experience and passion) and gets along well together.  It can take time for a team to gel, but once it does it’s an amazing site to see…and it gives the manager more time for meatball sandwiches 🙂