Quick Management Maxims For Doing Things Well

I like boiling things down to useful maxims. It’s not always appropriate. The world is more complicated than one liners. But sometimes it’s useful to have these things, to focus one’s philosophy. Here’s a few.

Lead the way and Clear the way

I was asked a while ago for my management philosophy. This is as concise as I can get… good managers “lead the way, and clear the way”. Just about everything boils up to this. How to treat people, how to organize, how to drive a vision and execution; how to implement best practices… all boil down to having a path, setting people on it, and making sure they don’t get pushed or pulled off of it.

Plan to do everything a thousand million times

It’s fun to watch the modern “Six-Sigma”, “CMMI”, “Agile”, “DevOps”, “No-Ops” transitions (with a million more little steps in there). Are those things all equivalent? No, of course not. But they’re on a long spectrum that has been going on since we decided to invent wheels and farming. All of human history has been about making things easier to do, really. In software land this is all about automation, and the way to know you’re doing that right is to imagine you have to do the same task a LOT. Millions of times. This helps focus ease, simplicity, performance tuning, documentation, architecture, … everything.

The Golden Rule – Plus Perspective

They teach you the “Golden Rule” pretty early as a kid. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated. But I think it’s just one step shy of ideal… you need to understand the perspective of the other person. Maybe they don’t want to be treated the way you do? Diverse teams are difficult to manage, but an easy way to fail is to treat people like they’re all the same. Even well intentioned, treating people like you want to be treated is a mistake. It’s the best _starting point_. But then you must learn their perspective, and, where reasonable, accommodate it.

Align Ownership with Accountability

This seems simple, but it’s another one of those things that many teams just don’t harmonize on, aggravating managers and employees. If you’re in charge of something, own it – successes and failures, no matter how many people you direct to help. If you delegate, delegate the decision making as well as the glory… or fallout. Think of the military here — train people; expect what you want from them. Avoid micromanaging… hobbling people’s autonomy, or undermining their successes. Let people be creative when they can, but make clear their constraints early. Quick iterations work well for this so you can always have touch-points and chances to redirect. Matrixed management organizations make this difficult… it’s easy to have “too many cooks” floating around and people unclear of their objectives or unable to take credit (or blame) for their work.

I’ll add more as I come up with them…

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