Skip to main content

Concentrate on the Work

A software manager must be able to balance creative independence, strong technical opinions, staff

turnover and business continuity.  Personnel factors such as work/life balance, diversity and personal growth also add complexity to this mix.  When navigating all of this becomes tough, my advice is to get back to focusing on the work.

When I was re-reading Instructions to the Tenzo – an ancient Zen text for the monastery cooks - this paragraph seemed to be applicable to the modern day software development:

“Do not just leave washing the rice or preparing the vegetables to others but use your own hands, your own eyes, your own sincerity. Do not fragment your attention but see what each moment calls for; if you take care of just one thing then you will be careless of the other. Do not miss the opportunity of offering even a single drop into the ocean of merit or a grain atop the mountain of the roots of beneficial activity.”

These instructions that have lasted centuries contain several layers of information and seem to be too detailed, but within that specificity one can find the secret to longevity.  For instance, bringing the attention back to “washing the rice” is similar to bringing attention back to “building the product,” or “solving customers’ problems”.

- When there are problems with egos, the best way to diffuse this is to focus on solving the problem.
- When you feel like your colleague is not pulling his weight, the best way to confront this is in the context of solving the customers’ problem.
- When someone is carelessly breaking the build, the best way to handle this is to focus on actually fixing the problem, rather than passing judgment about someone’s work style.

As a manager, when focus drifts away from work, it is good to ask yourself: “Do I have the right environment that allows good people to focus?”

In his book, “Hard Thing about Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz cites a conversation he had about bad organizations:

“Let me break it down for you. In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling.
In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not.”
 Horowitz, Ben (2014-03-04). The Hard Thing About Hard Things

When the conversation can’t stay focused on the work and solving customer problems, the first thing to ask is, “Do you have the right environment, vision and visibility to let people know that the work is the reason they are there in the first place?”

-mb

If you liked this blog post you might want to check out: Three Pillars of Engineering Management and Win Forever posts.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Hire Fast, Fire Fast? Not so Fast.

Silicon Valley is full of advice and it frequently comes from people who have little experience on the subject matter.  A popular topic surrounds hiring and terminations with the king catch phrase being: “Hire Fast, Fire Fast.”  To me, what that usually means is lack of diligence, thought, communication and courage.

When hiring people love going with their gut feel, often with disastrous results.  There is an obvious subject of diversity of thought, appearance and background.  When thinking “fast” you are probably hiring people like yourself because humans quickly react to people who they believe are in their tribe.

A startup that lacks the resources of a big company often becomes so desperate to get technical staff that when a decent candidate comes along, excitement ensues and the employer doesn't slow down to put them through a more rigorous hiring process.

I highly encourage technical founders and engineering executives to write out their precise hiring process.  Of course, y…

Pull Requests and Code Reviews

Software development involves a great deal of collaboration.  One of the most basic blocks of collaboration on a software development team is a code review.  There have been many different ways of doing code reviews over time, some of this has been dictated by the tools available.  Git and online source collaboration tools created a set of best practices that are worthwhile of adopting on any team.

About a month ago I have looked at various articles about how to best create a Pull Request (PR) and do a code review and the attached presentation is the result of this research.  The presentation can help you guide your team and develop a set of collaboration practices that works for your particular situation.

It’s good to start out with why to seek a code review.  Having clarity about your intentions helps you guide the person helping you with code reviews and also to manage your expectations about you can get out of the code review.  The reasons for seeking a code review are generally …