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The Manager's Guide – #62
Weekly Summary Edition – Happy Halloween!
No spoilers this time, the article itself is a set of short bullet points. A lot to learn from it!
I've been involved in spacecraft and space systems design and development for my entire career, including teaching the senior-level capstone spacecraft design course, for ten years at MIT and now at the University of Maryland for more than three decades. These are some bits of wisdom that I have gleaned during that time, some by picking up on the experience of others, but mostly by screwing up myself. I originally wrote these up and handed them out to my senior design class, as a strong hint on how best to survive my design experience… — David Akin, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland
Employee engagement surveys, executive 360s, performance reviews, NPS results...the list is long and growing, and the reports keep piling up. There's no shortage of feedback, and some leaders feel like they're drowning in it. What's happening here, and what can we do about it?
🌊 A surplus of information leads to a scarcity of attention, making efficient allocation of attention essential.
💡 Most information costs are borne by the recipient, not the producer.
🔄 Leaders often feel overwhelmed by feedback from various sources like surveys and reviews.
🔍 Feedback provides data and information, but deriving knowledge and understanding requires effort.
⏳ Careful thought and reflection are needed to convert feedback into useful knowledge and understanding.
📊 Management information systems often fail by providing too much irrelevant information.
🧭 Wisdom, distinct from knowledge, is rare and essential for increasing effectiveness, not just efficiency.
❓ It's vital to reassess objectives and ask why certain actions are undertaken.
🎭 Organizational culture plays a crucial role in the proliferation of feedback systems.
🙋♂️ Personal contributions to information overload should be evaluated and possibly reduced.
💼 People Leaders have a key role in managing feedback systems and interpreting data.
🧠 Transforming data into wisdom requires focused attention and the cultivation of habits to manage information overload.
🕒 Saving one hour per day can accumulate to an entire month of work time annually.
🤖 Optimizing daily tasks, especially through automation, can significantly increase efficiency.
💻 For Git/Terminal workflow, use autocomplete for past commands, create aliases, and manage Git files efficiently.
🖥️ In coding, utilize shortcuts for tracing code and navigating between locations; GitHub Copilot can aid in code autocompletion.
📓 Store new learnings in a structured way, like using Notion, to create a “second brain.”
✅ Use tools like Todoist and Slack for offloading ideas and tasks to keep your brain free for creativity.
👀 Employ visual communication tools, like CleanShot, for clearer and quicker explanations and approvals.
🔑 Use a password manager for convenience and enhanced security.
🪟 Implement window management tools like Rectangle to save time on manual resizing and positioning of windows.
💭 Slowly incorporate new tools into your workflow to avoid overwhelm and find what works best for you.
When unreasonable requests are followed up with, “but you could have just said no!”. Exploring the clashes of ask culture and guess culture, at home and at work.
🤔 Ask vs. guess culture reflects different approaches to communication and requests.
🌐 The concept was introduced online in 2007 by a user named tangerine on Metafilter.
🗣️ In ask culture, people openly request what they want, regardless of how unreasonable it may seem.
🤷 In guess culture, requests are only made if there's a high likelihood of a positive response.
🏠 The clash of these cultures affects both personal and work environments.
📖 Examples include scenarios like asking for help with moving; responses vary greatly in ask vs. guess culture.
🌍 Cultural and generational differences often align with these communication styles.
💼 In western corporate work, ask culture is predominant, but many employees come from guess culture backgrounds.
🚀 Navigating these differences requires understanding and adapting communication strategies.
🛠️ For guess-culture people in ask-culture environments, strategies include asking for help openly and getting comfortable with potential rejection.
The State of Tech Salaries – 2023
Hired’s report has plenty of interesting findings, but here are the 5 key ones:
The inflation rate continues to cool, but a period of higher interest rates and in-creased costs for goods and services have tempered salary gains from the last four years. US tech salaries have seen the largest year-over-year decline in the past five years. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, US tech salaries have dropped to their lowest point during the same period. Workers are grappling with this change in the face of competition for roles.
Engineering Managers commanded the highest salaries in both the US and UK, while engineers with specialized skills in AI, security, data, and machine learning show the most demand.
Companies are following the exodus of talent from higher cost-of-living (CoL) areas, as well as sourcing remote candidates in lower CoL markets, but in fewer locations overall. By focusing on fewer markets, some companies have opened new offices for in-person collaboration versus remote teams spread across borders.
Generative AI appears to be threatening junior talent, or those with less than four years of experience the most, but also presents an opportunity for new roles and applications.
In general, enterprise and midsize companies have pulled back on remote flexibility for new roles, while eSMBs and SMBs have increased their appetite for remote talent. Experienced candidates largely prefer remote, but have been more open to alternatives in this hiring environment.
“We are too small.”
“We are too big.”
“We are in retail.”
“We are in health care.”
“We are a non-profit.”
“We are in highly regulated industry.”
In short, “We are special.”
🌟 Uniqueness Bias in Leadership: Leaders often think their organizations are unique, providing excuses to avoid change.
📖 Influence of 'How Big Things Get Done': The book by Flyvbjerg and Gardner discusses the impact of uniqueness bias on leadership.
🤔 Common Misconception: Leaders overestimate how special their organizations are, missing opportunities to learn from others.
💡 Margaret Mead's Insight: The phrase “You're unique, just like everyone else” highlights the paradox of perceived uniqueness.
🏢 Organizational Uniqueness: While every organization has unique aspects, it's often exaggerated by leaders.
🚫 Barrier to Learning: This bias prevents leaders from seeing the true nature of their organizations and learning from others.
📚 Overcoming Bias: Leaders need to overcome uniqueness bias to learn and improve their organizations effectively.
🔄 Need for Openness: Adopting an open-minded approach is crucial for leaders to benefit from others' experiences.
📉 Reality Check: Most organizations aren't as special as they think, underscoring the importance of learning and adaptation.
⚙️ The author contrasts the management of forests with factories, noting that forests require a cultivation approach rather than an engineering one.
🏭 Factories are described as stable systems with predictable inputs and outputs, emphasizing efficiency and repeatable processes.
🌐 Forests are complex, self-regulating systems with fuzzy boundaries, contrasting with the predictability of factories.
🌱 Leading an organization is likened to cultivating a forest rather than controlling every aspect like a chess master.
🔄 The article suggests that problem-solving in an organization (forest) involves pattern recognition and fostering environments, unlike the cause-and-effect approach in factories.
🤝 The coexistence of engineering solutions and natural processes in forest management is advocated, stressing balance and sustainability.
🧠 The author sees a need for people to recognize when to use engineering skills and when to apply more holistic, “forestry” approaches in organizations.