Hi! It's your friendly project management theorician. You might remember me from blog posts such as Why software projects take longer than you think, which is a blog post I wrote a long time ago positing that software projects completion time follow a log-normal distribution.
I guess I should really call this a parable.
The backdrop is: you have been brought in to grow a tiny data team (~4 people) at a mid-stage startup (~$10M annual revenue), although this story could take place at many different types of companies.
Compensation has always been one of the most confusing parts of management to me. Getting it right is obviously extremely important. Compensation is what drives our entire economy, and you could look at the market for labor as one gigantic resource-allocating machine in the same way as people look at the stock market as a gigantic resource-allocating machine for investments.
Hanlon's razor is a classic aphorism I'm sure you have heard before: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
I've found that neither malice nor stupidity is the most common reason when you don't understand why something is in a certain way.
I recently finished the excellent book Kochland. This isn't my first interest in Koch—I read The Science of Success by Charles Koch himself a couple of years ago.
Charles Koch inherited a tiny company in 1967 and turned it into one of the world's largest ones.
When I started building up a tech team for Better, I made a very conscious decision to pay at the high end to get people. I thought this made more sense: they cost a bit more money to hire, but output usually more than compensates for it.
I get bored reading management books very easily and lately I've been reading about a wide range of almost arbitrary topics. One of the lenses I tend to read through is to see different management styles in different environments.
I have done roughly 2,000 interviews in my life. When I started recruiting, I had so much confidence in my ability to assess people. Let me just throw a couple of algorithm questions at a candidate and then I'll tell you if they are good or not!
I've written before about the importance of iterating quickly but I didn't necessarily talk about some concrete things you can do. When I've built up the tech team at Better, I've intentionally optimized for fast iteration speed above almost everything else.
I've read about 100 management books by now but if there's something that always bothered me it's the lack of first principles thinking. Basically it's a ton of heuristics. And heuristics are great, but when you present heuristics as true objectives, it kind of clouds the underlying objectives (and you end up with weird proxy cults like the Agile movement 👹 – not that I disagree with it, I just wish they could derive it from a more systematic understanding of project management).
Pareto efficiency is a useful concept I like to think about. It often comes up when you compare items on multiple dimensions. Say you want to buy a new TV. To simplify it let's assume you only care about two factors: price and quality.
One of my favorite business hobbies is to reduce some nasty decision down to its absolute core objective, decide the most basic strategy, and then add more and more modifications as you have to confront the complexity of reality (yes I have very lame hobbies thanks I know).
Note: this post is full of pseudo-psychology and highly speculative content. Like most fun stuff!
I became a manager back in 2009. Being a developer is fun. You have this very tangible way to measure yourself.
For most people straight out of school, work life is a bit of a culture shock. For me it was an awesome experience, but a lot of the constraints were different and I had to learn to optimize for different things.