reading: weinberg

Posted by anton
on Sunday, March 11, 2007

I am a little concerned that this space does not see much of the technical content in past few months. One of the main reasons is that the stuff I spend most of my energy on (and also the area where I currently learn the most) is organizational - everything from project delivery to team dynamics. It is surprising how much of it is dysfunctional, so all the reading that I have done in the past and seemed only marginally applicable now becomes incredibly relevant, supported by real-life examples.

One of the books I really enjoyed recently was Jerry Weinberg's "Becoming a Technical Leader." Very down-to-earth and personal book that is pragmatic, relevant, and simply rings true. Here's a couple quotes:

So perhaps a better leadership question is this:

If you had to take a trip with someone else driving, would you prefer a driver who
  1. has never had an accident, but would likely be indecisive if an accident occured
  2. has had an average of one accident a week, but was very adept at making decisions in emergency situations

Sad to say, many people seem to prefer (2). That's why Armistice Day has been replaced by Veterans Day. Peace is more difficult to organize, but war is more heroic. Really good organizing seems to lack drama.

Why is it that we reward programmers who work all night to remove the errors they put into their programs, or managers who make drastic organizational changes to resolve the crises their poor management has created? Why not reward the programmers who design so well that they don't have dramatic errors, and managers whose organizations stay out of crisis mode?

Organizing is not about solving problems, but avoiding them. Once you're in the throes of the problem, it's too late to do really effective organizing. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to effective organizing is our eagerness to reward ineffective organizing.

And another one:
A problem-solving leader's entire orientation is toward creating an environment in which everyone can be solving problems, making decisions, and implementing those decisions, rather than personally solving problems, making decisions, and implementing those decisions.

This is where I probably struggle the most in my current team (for many reasons) - giving away trust to acquire trust; in other words, delegating (the book has a whole chapter on it).

Weinberg's "Secrets of Consulting" is next (kudos to Muness for pointing him out to me).


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