This is an old favorite of mine by Michael Lopp (aka Rands):
As the title of the post suggests, it is one of the best (and most succinct) descriptions for the true role of a project manager:
“They are chaos destroying machines, and each new person you bring onto your team, each dependency you create, adds hard to measure entropy to your team. A good project manager thrives on measuring, controlling, and crushing entropy.”
The post specifically targets the people usually most resistant to the introduction of a project manager to their team: engineers and engineering managers. Rands short answer for why they should be supportive is: “do you or do you not want to be an engineer?” For the long answer – read his post.
“If so many discoveries – from penicillin to plastics – are the product of serendipity, why do we insist breakthroughs can somehow be planned?”
The short answer to this question, according to Greg Lindsay, is “because it can be planned”. To a degree of course.
In his essay, Greg covers the aspects of physical structures, organizational structures and networks that can foster or hinder reaching a serendipitous mindset.
Conway’s Law is one of those simple but powerful adages that once you get learn about it, you see it everywhere.
In its original form: “organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations”. But even when expanded, it still holds true: The work product of an organization is constrained (and often mirrors) the communication structure of that organization. And an organization’s communication structure is shaped mostly by its organizational structure.
Rich Mironov provides a great example of how Conway’s Law plays out in a Product Management organization in this post:
Conway’s Law in Product Organizations
Rich nails the challenge that Conway’s Law poses: “… organizations must have some division of labor … [and] every division of labor creates the potential for narrower thinking, boundary skirmishes, and inefficient resource allocation”. It is the leader’s responsibility to proactively address this “natural” organizational behavior: build big-picture context and cross-functional empathy (through cross-training), provide positive reinforcement for acts that put the greater good first, and settle sticky cross-border issues when an impasse is reached.
Henry Blodget did a very good job interviewing Jeff Bezos a few weeks ago:
The Jeff Bezos BI Interview
They covered so many topics: the stock price and dealing with Wall Street, retaining employees, the Amazon Fire Phone, the role of the CEO, being a dad, drones, space flight – the list goes on and on and it’s impossible to summarize this interview in a single paragraph.
Instead, I want to call out a few things that left me really impressed with Jeff Bezos:
- As a business leader – the relentless focus on delighting the customer and operations efficiency. Just count the number of times these came up in the interview and you’ll get a sense of how deeply those two are ingrained in the culture the Bezos built at Amazon
- As a person – the humility: giving credit when credit is due, being thankful for the luck he had in life and the other things that were out of his control, and maintaining and amazing conviction in the Amazon Way, while being explicit that it is not THE one and only way.
His far-from-perfect communication style creates such a strange illusion or normalcy which stands in such a contrast to all the amazing things he’s done.
Definitely worth re-watching every once in a while a keep in mind as you shape your own personal leadership style.