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Output Orientation

Is making a deadline always worth it?

As a team lead, or engineering manager, you often read that you should be a shit umbrella for your team: Shield them against the bad stuff happening outside the team so that the developers can focus on their work. Protect the devs from political games, and ensure they have the long stretches of uninterrupted time that they need. Sounds reasonable, right? Sign me up! I want to be that guy! I want to be a shit umbrella!

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One Year of Blogging - a Resumé

Writing regularly changes a lot of things to the better

I published my first article just over a year ago, with the goal of pushing out one blog post each week. Now, roughly 52 weeks later, it’s time for a little resumé.

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How Google Combines Hiring Steps

For a lot of companies, the hiring process looks similar: Review CVs, have a round of one or more phone screens, Skype, or Hangout sessions, then some personal interviews, and finally a hiring decision. A work sample test (e.g., write some code that does this or that) might be asked for at some point or other. This sequence of different steps has a couple of advantages, after all:

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If You Want Learning and Change, Create Safety First

People learn best in a safe and slowed-down environment

Teams of middle managers are the most likely group to invent successful schemes for organizational change and reinvention. It is also them who have to guide their people through the difficult time of adaption to change. However, people generally don’t like big changes, and some will resist. Here are some things you can do to increase people’s success under new circumstances.

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Is Your White Space Safe?

White space can be beautiful and important

You have probably seen an org chart of your, or some other, organization before. Usually, there are lines and boxes, with boxes representing people or teams, and lines representing relationships of authority and reporting. However, an org chart contains a third component that is rarely mentioned explicitly, even though it is of great importance to organizational health: the white space between all those lines and boxes.

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Are You Too Busy?

Being busy is not good for you

Question to you if you are a manager of some sorts: Do you have a secretary? An assistant? My guess is: No, you don’t. Nor do I, for that matter. The thought almost seems megalomaniac and elitist, doesn’t it? An assistant? Who do you think you are? The Prime Minister? Tony Stark? Similarly, there are no office clerks who can take over tasks like copying, booking trains or flights, entering data, or getting books from the library. How did they all go away, and should we bring some of them back?

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Special Assignments Instead of Cogs In a Machine

You do not want to feel like this, right?

If all you do day in, day out, is write code, you might wonder at some point if this is all you are here for. Writing code is fun, and software engineers should enjoy it - otherwise, they will have a problem sooner or later. However, if every day looks the same, and every week looks the same, then you are probably not using the full range of your potential, or growing as much as you could. It is hard to feel unique when you do the same as everybody else, and the same holds true for them. Instead, you feel more like a cog in a machine - fulfilling its role, but exchangeable.

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Catalysts and Psychological Safety

Catalysts are important not only in chemistry

In the timeless classic Peopleware, the authors tell the anecdote of an employee who was, at first glance, not visibly standing out in terms of any particular ability. One thing was striking, though: Projects she was involved in had a significant higher chance of being successful than projects she was not a part of. The secret? Tom DeMarco writes:

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The Horowitz-Buckingham Leadership Argument

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Steve Blank’s article in which he argues that Tim Cook leading Apple is comparable to Steve Ballmer leading Microsoft: Both followed after iconic visionaries - Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, respectively - who embodied the company like no one else. Both were able to increase revenue and profit numbers at an impressive scale. However, both also failed to stimulate and harness the innovative powers within their respective company, and relied mainly on their strong brand for several years.

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Recognizing a Training Dead End

Not all training is equally effective

Do you remember Math in school? If you were good at it, did you help others when they were struggling? Did you always succeed? I remember that I did not. There were these recurring situations that left me clueless on how to make my point, and how to get my tutee to understand. For example, I would try to explain to a friend how to solve a simple equation with X as an unknown. This would go something like this

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