The shift into engineering management was slow and subtle, but I became more aware of the differences between being a builder and a manager.
Innovate for the Masses: Creating a management philosophy
Armed with a singular vision and philosophy, leaders have a solid foundation to develop their own management philosophy.
Jason Flaks is the co-founder and CTO of Xembly, a company focused on leveraging AI to improve every step of the business meeting. He has over two decades of experience building and scaling teams at technical orgs. Additional blogs can be found on his personal website, speechwrecko.com.
If you know anything about me, it’s probably that I’m opinionated and occasionally dogmatic. What else would you expect from a born-and-raised New Yorker? I grew up in a household where arguing your point was considered a cultural birthright!
Unfortunately, while having strong opinions and ideas can be a positive, I’ve found throughout my career that those ideas don’t always resonate with coworkers, even when those ideas are sound. When I started to lead and manage larger teams, this increasingly became a handicap, and I soon realized I needed a better way to get my thoughts across to the organization.
Enter Pete Carroll. That’s right, the football coach who led the Seattle Seahawks to two Super Bowls and USC to two college national championships. Not too long ago, a good friend happened to tell me about a management training class he attended based on material from Pete Carroll and his “Win Forever” book, which outlines his core philosophy. It sounded very compelling and I immediately purchased Pete’s book based on the same concepts.
It was immediately clear from reading this book that Pete Carroll had faced similar challenges earlier in his career.
“But while I had a sense inside me of what we needed, I hadn’t articulated it very well,” Carroll wrote. “I didn’t have the details worked out in my own mind so that I could lay them out clearly and convincingly to anybody else.”
In short, this book preaches a simple strategy for dealing with an inability to convey your ideas. According to his thoughts, the clear communication of ideas requires leaders to write them down, iterate on them, and formulate them into a single cohesive vision. By doing so, you change the conversation from “Hey, here is my opinion” to “Hey, I have a strategy for winning, and here it is.”
As Carroll wrote in the book, “By December, I finally had a clear, organized template of my core values, my philosophy, and – most importantly – my overarching vision for what I wanted to stand for as a person, a coach, and a competitor.”
Armed with a singular vision and philosophy, leaders have a solid foundation to convey their thoughts. And suddenly you have transformed disparate ideas into a recipe for success. The implications of documenting your philosophy are huge and by doing so you can:
- Set clear expectations for your employees.
- Set expectations for executives, higher level managers and peers for how you operate and how it will benefit them.
- Have a recipe for success for which you can continually improve and iterate.
With this information in mind, I decided to take years of ideas I had accumulated and started to jot them down. I refined them and wove them into overarching vision. And when I thought about what I was ultimately trying to achieve, it became clear that I was always trying to deliver truly innovative software to as many people as possible.
And so my Innovate for the Masses™ philosophy was born. I present it to you below unedited. It is a continual work in progress but something that has served me well so far.
Innovate for the Masses™
What we do
Create unique and defensible value: Products should deliver something truly special that cannot be found in other solutions and simultaneously provide a defensible moat.
Build best-in-class solutions: Products should be fully functional and should not cut corners. We should do everything required to delight customers, nothing more and nothing less.
Support all customers: Products should be accessible by all existing and future customers. One off solutions are never okay.
Enterprise class reliability and scalability: Product should be robust with 4 9’s reliability and the ability to scale to all customer demands.
How we do it
Ruthless prioritization: We question the necessity and value of every feature or piece of code. We only work on things that deliver essential value to the customer.
Avoid premature optimization: we only build exactly what the customer needs. No more and no less.
Read between the lines: We listen to our customers but don’t just cater to their demands. We find the commonality amongst all our customer’s requirements and build a truly unique and defensible product that surprises, delights, and addresses their needs.
Communicate like crazy: We are one team with one vision and one goal. Everybody must constantly be talking to innovate and build cohesive products
Right spot right time: We believe every team member plays an important role in the team’s success whether that is in a leading role or a supporting role.
Work harder than anyone else: We will win by out working all of our competitors.
Don’t chase the competition: We don’t chase every move our competitors make. We pay attention but follow our vision and goals and methodically work towards delivering on them without being distracted.
What we need to be successful– expectations for the team
Be insanely passionate: Our employees exude passion. We are a passion first organization.
Get a lot done / execute like crazy: Our employees are insanely productive. They get more done than anyone else.
Care: Our employees give a shit. They care about the product, team, company, and customer like something they hold dear.
Have a sense of humor: Our employees laugh. At themselves and each other. We believe you should leave work every day having smiled so much it hurts.
Don’t whine or complain: Our employees don’t whine or complain, they express their opinions and try to instigate change in the direction they want to see. If a decision doesn’t go their way they disagree and commit.
Don’t play politics: Our employees don’t play politics. They lay it all out on the table and do their job to the best of their abilities … that is what they get rewarded for.
Dare to disagree: Our employees disagree loudly and proudly. Good disagreement is central to progress. Different opinions are valued and we seek out constructive conflict
Having a vision and philosophy is not all rainbows and unicorns. Creating a philosophy and broadcasting it to your coworkers is the equivalent of driving a giant metal stake deep into the ground. You may find throughout the course of your career that sometimes people don’t agree with your strategy. When they don’t agree, you only have three options: change your strategy, change their minds, or move on. Or again, to quote Pete:
“Coach Seifert was specifically adamant that I not change who I was or my mentality. He said clearly ‘Pete, you’ve got to do it the way you know how.’ After my experience in New York, I wondered if I shouldn’t try to be more political, but the advice I got from the two mentors was uncompromising – and some of the best I ever received.”
In closing, if you are anything like me or Pete Carroll, I strongly encourage you to write down your great ideas and formulate them into a cohesive philosophy. It will be worth your while, and hopefully help you develop your own management philosophy.
Adapted with the author's permission from Speech Wrecko