I stumbled across the above video, it was so nice to see the metronomes eventually syncing with each other when the platform was not rigidly grounded. I could not stop thinking about the parallels in organisational culture when a previously organically grown company wants to scale up quickly.
When I interact with lateral hires in different organisations most of them have one common jitter in their mind is how they are going to gel well in a new place especially the ones which are growing fast. A lot of places have rigid mindset from existing people about new ideas from new people even though they were newbies once. This mindset is a killer to absorb new experiences, ways of doing into the culture and have will set a cold, rigid foundation. It will eventually lead to many factions who will align based on their line of thoughts instead of a coherent organisation.
How can we have the kuramoto model kind of an effect in an organisation. We do not have to do anything extra, all we need to is have our existing people in the organisation avoid this killer statement – “This is not how things are done here”. If we avoid saying this, then there is an inherent curiosity to see what new comers bring to the table and also set a mindset to accept proven things in existing organisations.
Gardening is a good way of spending some quality me time and also in the process get used to accept things that take time, observe effects over weeks and months on our actions. As much as we like to see benefits of what we have sown immediately in the literal sense, nature’s template has its own way of doing things and it takes time. The harder you push by chemicals and interventions, you get nice blooms and fruits in a quick turnaround time but it prevents subsequent blooms forcing you to start again from scratch. We have to become a gardener if we want to grow a garden and know ways of sustaining a beautiful one, there are no shortcuts, just good practices and know hows.
If I look outside of software engineering, leaders grow from being an individual contributor in that field. I have met engineering managers who are so strong in their fundamentals that they would get back on the field and do a great job. In contrast, software engineering is plagued with leaders who cannot code. Adding more salt to the injury is the 3 day certifications that empower an individual to become a manager and deliver software projects without an idea of what it is to build a good software. These type of managers have no leverage other than compensations and brow beating to push people hard to the breaking point to get things delivered.
Proliferation of computing means every company is becoming a software company. What was purely electronics and mechanical is getting software driven. This means that managers in those companies are managing teams without knowing what is going on. The worldwide infamous example is crashing of airplanes due to software’s decision without pilot knowledge. In recent times a lot of electric vehicles catch fire and started making headlines, it has also resulted in loss of lives. We have been using battery powered devices in our pockets for so long, they don’t catch fire, why should these vehicles catch fire. The answer lies in pushing hard on the engineers, when the managers don’t know what is going on resulting in severe defects in engineering.
Leadership is hard, it takes years of practice on a field to become a leader. Software engineering leaders have to be in such a way that they are able to understand the implications of decisions on tech debt, design and architectural tradeoffs, quality assurance etc instead of blindly going behind an arbitrary deadline laced with fat bonuses.
When hiring from campus for the last many years, I had noticed a pattern that is useful to keep in mind when choosing the college to go for recruiting depending on the slots you get. The earlier prime slots mean you get good performers and is a steady decline in the overall quality of the talent pool. People who do well in college irrespective of their school performance is something indicative of how they may do in office as well. School is largely structured and has a fixed week by week milestone to go along. College on the other hand throws in some subjectivity and derails a lot of people in the initial days when they move from structured to semi structured environment.
As life moves on subjectivity creeps in and structure to lean on to disappears. This is especially true for knowledge workers. When hiring, the biggest mistake people do is to look at the present state but not the trajectory of people’s growth and performance across different situations. Graduate talent pool can be represented as below.
Do not confuse the word ‘good’ with ‘topper’. Though subjective ‘good’ just means that comfortably cruising across the semesters without repeated failures or consistent low grades in college or in the top 25th percentile at school. Hiring the top right quadrant is the most desired and in demand. I have observed the next pool of candidates whom the hiring manager target are the top left quadrant where they are just doing ok in college but had done well in school. By default, those who did well in school will always be associated with bigger & elite brands in education so there is a lure to these brands.
My experience has been different, I prefer to concentrate on the bottom right straight away during the hiring season. This pool of candidates had a bigger growth trajectory compared to other cohorts and have realistic expectations in terms of what future has to offer and often are eager to prove themselves in a more unstructured environment. Hire for the growth mindset, not the association to a big brand.