/Will Larson

Meetings For An Effective Eng Organization tl;dr: "I’d like to recommend 6 core meetings that I recommend every organization start with, and that I’ve found can go a surprisingly long way. These six are split across three operational meetings, two developmental meetings and finally a monthly engineering Q&A to learn what the organization is really thinking about." Will discusses each in depth. 

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Measuring An Engineering Organization tl;dr: "There is no one solution to engineering measurement, rather there are many modes of engineering measurement, each of which is appropriate for a given scenario. Becoming an effective engineering executive is adding more approaches to your toolkit and remaining flexible about which to deploy for any given request." Will provides a template to work off of.

featured in #378

Company, Team, Self tl;dr: Will discusses his experiences managing and energizing teams. "Rigid adherence to any prioritization model, even one that’s conceptually correct like mine that prioritized the company and team first, will often lead to the right list of priorities but a team that’s got too little energy to make forward progress. It’s not only reasonable to violate correct priorities to energize yourself and your team, modestly violating priorities to energize your team enroute to a broader goal is an open leadership secret."

featured in #372

Reminiscing: The Retreat To Comforting Work tl;dr: Will discusses the concept of a type of work called "reminiscing": when under pressure, most people retreat to their area of highest perceived historical impact, even if it isn’t relevant to today’s problems. "When you see your capable CEO start to micromanage words in a launch email, or your talented CTO start to give style feedback in code reviews, take it for what it’s worth: they’re reminiscing. If you dig deeper, they’re almost certainly panicking about something entirely unrelated."

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Fewer, Happier Incident Heroes tl;dr: "A few long-tenured engineers, who happen to have the explicit access credentials to all key systems and implicit permission to use them, help respond to almost all incidents. These folks become increasingly load bearing, as few others acquire the knowledge, and access credentials, to respond when they’re not available. Fast forward to the future, and one of these key responders leaves the companies, which creates more load on the remaining responders." Will discusses how to solve this.

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One-On-Ones With Executives tl;dr: "Often when an organization is going through some turmoil, executives think to themselves, “Ah, I should have some one-on-ones with the team so they can hear how we’re handling this.” Will advises those asked to have a 1-1 with execs: (1) If you’re not sure what’s happening, let the exec take the lead. (2) Try to figure out why the meeting is happening before you’re in the meeting. (3) Know that the executive will very likely have an agenda, but sometimes have no agenda at all, in which case it’s very helpful to have prepared ahead of time. And more. 

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'Drawing Your Three Maps' Exercise tl;dr: The quick exercise is designed to better understand your engineering organization from various perspectives. Will explains how to draw a locator map (where are you?), a topographical map (how hard is it to go nearby places?), and a treasure map (where are the places that are really worth going?)," designed to show opportunities to improve your processes. Will also shares what he leant from the exercise.

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Bar Raisers, Hiring Committees, And Other Complex Ways To Improve Hiring Quality tl;dr: Will discusses pros and cons of each. His "default advice" on the topic of increasing quality of organizational hiring is: (1) Introduce structured approval when you introduce your second hiring manager in a function. (2) Wait until organization trust grows sufficiently weak that there’s significant skepticism about hiring quality across teams, then introduce a hiring committee. (3) Avoid introducing bar raising unless you have a clear thesis on why the other approaches won’t work out.

featured in #348

How To Estimate Disk Space tl;dr: Will recalls one the best architecture interviews he's been in, "where the candidate was able to significantly narrow down the possible solutions by asking for a few details: queries per second, expected number of rows, and necessary columns." Will demonstrates how he would approach this question. 

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Downturn Career Decisions tl;dr: "My general advice to folks would be to stay where you are as long as you’re reasonably happy day to day and feel like you’re learning at a good rate. Even if your effective compensation has declined a bit, it’s very hard to determine if the compensation at any other company will hold up either. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re unhappy for non-compensation reasons, then of course you should find another role." Will provides advice to both managers and ICs on navigating career decisions in the current climate. 

featured in #332