Resources for Product Leaders #4
Our ever-expanding jobs, minimum viable process, and coordination challenges in large organizations.
If there’s one essay I think you should read this week, it’s Kurt Armstrong’s Repair and Remain. Kurt runs a “one-man autodidact home-repair business and part-time lay ministry at a little Anglican church”, and he has some advice that applies to so many areas of work, life, and relationships. It all starts with this:
Repair and remain. Work with what you've got. Sit still for a moment, take stock, make some changes. Big changes, if necessary.
You really have to read the whole essay, but the gist of it is that sometimes (well, most times), “the next thing” is not the best option. Instead, stay a while—and change what you need to change—but don’t bail:
That's how I work, and it's what I advise. I don't know how things are going to turn out in your life or in your marriage or with your kids. Nobody does. Maybe it will all get a whole lot worse, who's to say. But a brand-new house won't fix your troubles any more than a fresh start with a fascinating new somebody will.
How is this a “resource for product leaders”? Because the advice he shares is also applicable to everything from organizational design to roadmap planning. I am sure you will find something in here that you can apply to your role this week.
Anne Helen Petersen wrote a really good newsletter on the future (and inequality) of work, that’s another must-read for every leader:
It’s not that people don’t want to work. It’s that their jobs feel, for whatever reason, unsustainable: unsustainable for their mental and physical health, but also unsustainable for their family, and their longterm survival. Many people actually really like the work that they do, if they were, indeed, allocating the bulk of their time to doing that work. And they do could do it so well, for so much longer, with so much more creativity and precision, if they were just doing that one job, instead of the three currently required of them.
At Wildbit we always try to stay vigilant about invisible work—the stuff that our teams do that’s not tracked in JIRA or somewhere else, the stuff that makes people feel like they are overwhelmed and overworked. So we have a regular cadence as part of our planning cycle to bring invisible work out of the shadows and make sure it’s accounted for.
How can you help reduce the invisible work that your team members do? It is a great first step to combatting the problem of the ever-expanding job.
Here’s another newsletter recommendation (I feel about newsletters the way I know many of y’all feel about podcasts), this time by Tim Casasola who writes:
What is the minimum amount of process we need to create to get the job done in a way that meets our goals? That’s a minimum viable process.
I especially appreciate the practical team exercises he proposes to help reduce unnecessary process.
Short but thoughtful post by Lorin Hochstein about the coordination challenges in large organizations:
You can take a bottoms-up approach to the problem where you have a collection of teams that work autonomously. But the challenge there is getting them aligned. In theory, you hire people with good judgment, and provide them with the right context. But the problem is that there’s too much context! You can’t just firehose all of the available information to everyone, that doesn’t scale: everyone will spend all of their time reading docs. How do you get the information into the heads of the people that need it? becomes the grand challenge in this context.
I am still a big fan of Team Topologies as a way to accomplish this kind of coordination effectively across an organization, but there is, of course, no one-size-fits-all approach to organizational design. We’re all just doing our best here!
That’s it for this edition. If you’re looking for something fun to listen to to help make your day a little brighter, I recommend Hatchie’s new album Giving the World Away. I’m not a huge pop fan, but this is dreamy and lovely.
Have a good week, everyone!