/Will Larson

STAR Method For Interview Questions tl;dr: Will offers the STAR template as a framework to respond to interview questions e.g. "Tell me about a time when you had to change your organizational structure to solve an important problem?” STAR: (1) Situation surrounding your task. (2) Task you undertook, or were assigned, to address the situation. (3) Actions to accomplish the task. (4) Results of your actions.

featured in #329


Moving The Finish Line tl;dr: "Executives are evaluated based on their perceived outcomes rather than actual outcomes." Will discusses this common issue and how it’s hard to force a poorly run company to become better run, but easy to make local improvements on your team. It’s a bit harder to allow those local improvements to spread organically. 

featured in #317


Mailbag: Resources for Engineering Directors tl;dr: Brie provides 10 personal templates for "more efficient progress towards your goals and make the experience of getting there more satisfying." Examples include Ongoing Stack Rank (OSR), “It’s Only The Weekend When” Post-It, “What I’m Proud Of” Scrapbook. 

featured in #310


Hard To Work With tl;dr: "I’ve seen a staggering number of folks fail in an organization primarily because they want to hold others to a higher standard than their organization’s management is willing to enforce." When this issue is escalated, "the manager transforms the performance issue into a relationship issue." Will discusses his approach to resolve the issue.

featured in #300


Trunk and Branches Model for Scaling Infrastructure Organizations tl;dr: Early on in your company’s lifetime, you’ll form your infrastructure organization: a small team of 4-8 engineers. Later on, you'll have 70 engineers across 8-10 teams. Those are both stable organizational configurations. The transition between the small to the large team can be difficult and unstable, and Will provides us with a playbook on how to execute it. 

featured in #297


Mix And Match Mental Models tl;dr: Will believes being too attached to any given mental model is what distinguishes managers perceived to have good judgment from those perceived to have bad judgment. "Run a problem through one mental model, and then another. If both models agree on the problem or approach, then great. However, if they disagree, spend time digging into why. There’s something valuable to learn there." He shows us how he's approaching headcount planning this way. 

featured in #285


Inspection And The Limits Of Trust tl;dr: As a leader, you must trust your team. However, trusting your team can, a times, be at odds with helping them succeed. Human error or bad processes can come into play. Will uses "inspected trust:" when someone "brings a problem or a concern to you, trust them that there is a problem, but give yourself space to independently verify their interpretation of the problem." He highlights various ways of doing this.

featured in #278


Notes On The Kool-Aid Factory's Planning Issue tl;dr: This article covers management planning breaking them down into the following: vision, reality, decisions, the plan & accountability, and execution preparedness. Starts with the goals of planning, such as: (1) Focus on the right global priorities. (2) Ensure clear ownership. (3) Coordination across shared workstreams. (4) High shipping velocity. 

featured in #266


How To Find Engineering Leadership Roles tl;dr: Senior leadership roles are often unposted and delegated to exec firms. Will outlines several ways to find such roles: (1) Through peers. (2) Exec recruiters through your network. (3) Crowd-sourced searches, such as small mailing lists. (4) Twitter.

featured in #262


How To Safely Think In Systems tl;dr: Will believes the most valuable leadership skill is "how to think correctly," inspired by the book Thinking In Systems. Despite many considering themselves as system thinkers, they "model casually." Will provides 3 rules for thinking in systems safely: (1) When your model and reality conflict, reality is always right. (2) Models are immutable, but reality isn’t, it's always changing. (3) Every model omits information; some omit critical information.

featured in #260