[An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management](http://An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management) by Will Larson is an excellent entry into the growing collection of books by Stripe Press.
The book is a personal narrative of leading larger technical organizations. It presents the author's take on some of the most crucial challenges like organizational design, the hiring pipeline, career narratives, and product work.
In this post, I'm trying to pick out some of the best gems I've found. There's a lot more to the book than I'm covering here; it's a worthwhile read.
Technical teams can be in one of four stages of technical debt.
Understanding the current stage helps the manager pick the right approach to guide the team along the progression curve.
After each hire, a team undergoes a gelling process, i.e., going through forming-storming-norming-performing. Adding new hires disturbs this process and resets it to a degree.
For that reason, the author recommends going through "growth spurt" periods with periods of low hiring activity in between. This approach gives teams time to gel fully before adding more members that restart the process.
Ad-hoc communication is a know productivity killer. Asks for help, feedback, troubleshooting assistance, external communication takes a lot of time.
The recommended setup is:
On a side-note, at Doist we handle this by having a "hero role", which is a similar concept. We have a blog post if you're interested in the details!
A good goal has four parts:
An example of a good goal would be: In Q4, we will improve the 2nd-day retention of our plugin users from 15% to 25%. Since the launch of the plugin, the retention has remained static at around 15%.
When defining goals, setting a countervailing metric can be useful to prevent focusing solely on reaching the target to the detriment of other metrics.
You can read more about goal setting on the author's blog.
Lastly, here are a few snippets from the book that are interesting even outside of their context: