Issue #54, 29th November 2013

This Week's Favorite


The New Visionaries: Kris Gale
15 minutes read.

Every time I read Kris Gale's thoughts on building software organizations, I'm constantly amazed by the innovative approach they're taking at Yammer. It's also a strong reason why I enjoy writing this email every week, to spread this kind of ideas. No matter how busy you are this week, I heartily recommend this post!

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Culture


Tear It Down
10 minutes read.

Michael Lopp with a great post on the 3 archetypes of leaders in a company. While it makes it easier to understand the value of each type, it also raises an important question - how can we measure each role's value and more importantly, how can we change the organization structure, when those leaders tend to hold a lot of power in their hands? Personally, I believe that a company's true DNA shows up when senior management have to make hard decisions: I hate to see companies where the CEO or one of the VP prefers to stand aside and "let the team deal with it". Things such as culture, acting upon your core values and constantly adjusting your structure are not something we can resolve on a local scope. Having a variety of cultures and core values spread among different teams might feel great for the short-term, but it will always burst when a misalignment becomes a bottleneck. It's hard to scale a company when dysfunctional middle-management are holding things down and senior management prefer to let it resolve on its own.

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How We Built a Lean Startup Inside a 200 Person Company
12 minutes read.

Brilliant hacks and lessons learned by Layla Foord of Microlancer. Reducing risk by letting your employees use the product (killing the chicken & egg problem), or start with anonymous site that does not link to your brand are great hacks to validate needs and pricing models faster. What I loved most about it, is the questions they've used in every step of the way to make sure they're moving in the right direction. If you happen to be in a similar state at work, use their questions to de-risk your investment, prioritise work and cut down features.

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Peopleware


Hours in the Day
5 minutes read.

"This (working overtime) isn’t a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for stagnation." - a great reminder by Brian Casel. Working on things that impact our growth, may it be users, revenue or scaling the company, is probably the most important skill to master. What do you do to make sure you're time is spent on things that move the needle? My personal trick is asking one question - "okay, now what?" - say you need to implement some solution or make a change in the company, you can ask your customer or boss "say this is done, now what? How would you use it? How would it change your day?". This way, I can understand the value they seek for, without actually implementing the solution just yet. Next step would be to offer a simpler way to reach that core value, with less investment of my time. It doesn't always solve every productivity issue, but it's a great way to make sure I understand what's important and what's nice-to-have.

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What We've Learned About Interviewing Engineers
10 minutes read.

This post contains the complete interview process, including purpose, funnel, concrete interview questions and amazing tips for scaling your interview process by using tools such as CoderPad.io (awesome, especially if you're hiring for a distributed team!). The only advice I would add is to try to create a reference for someone in the company - "in terms of skills, he's very much like Sarah. He's smart, with vast experience and it shows. In terms of personal traits, he's just like Joe, I think people here would love his humor." This way, people could try to judge these assumptions on the next interview with the candidate and make sure everyone feels the same about the candidate's skills and personality.

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Use Project-Based Interviews Instead of “GitHub”
5 minutes read.

Writing a test candidates can do at home is a great way to learn about their technical skills, without wasting their time driving to your office or yours. I did it for a few years, and I really saw the value in it. It works tremendously well if the A) test is relatively short (up to 1 hour to complete, in avg.) and B) you've built a great selling pitch you can use to make them want to join you. John Resig (of Khan Academy) shares their story, applying it at KA. Also worth reading the comments.

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Inspiring Tweets


@kgale: Reporting on the Status of Tasks in Progress Is Rarely Helpful, and if It Is, It's a Sign of Harmful Dependencies in the Organization.

@ashmaurya: Having More Passion for the Solution Than the Problem Is a Problem. #Runninglean

- Oren

P.S. Can you share this email? I'd love for more people to experiment and improve their company's culture.

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