The Weekly Hagakure #21

“Leadership is about recognizing that there’s a greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.” - Bill Campbell

The last couple of months have been intense for me, engaging with multiple companies searching for my next full-time role, while mentoring some amazing folks at the same time. It’s been exhausting, but all of it a great learning experience. And I have met some pretty cool people along the way.

I’m happy to say the effort paid off and I have now found the next step in my career. In a few weeks I will be joining Sharpist as VP Engineering, and become part of a great team working for a mission that couldn’t be more aligned with my own. I feel the Learning & Development space will continue to see a lot of innovation, and that more and more companies are realizing that developing their people is ultimately the biggest driver of business outcomes. I couldn’t be more excited to start working to help that become the norm in the workplace.

And with that, onwards to this week’s content.

3 Articles

✍️ The reality of being a Principal Engineer

A lot has been written lately about what is a staff, principal or distinguished engineer. I loved Silvia Botros take here for two reasons: first, because she highlights that the way companies frame the role shows what they value and reward; second, because of her clear-eyed view that no problem is purely a technical problem. And that is a key insight in this particular conversation.

✍️ Your code may be elegant

Pragmatism should be a key competency of anyone in tech. This post by Leon Fayer may be almost a decade old by now, but it didn't age one bit — and it's a perfect illustration of what pragmatism is. The reality is that our job is not simply to develop software, but to do so in the context of enabling a business to reach its goals.

✍️ Documenting Your Decisions

We make hundreds of decisions every day, most of them unconsciously. A few of those do have deeper consequences, though, and being clear on the context behind them is extremely helpful. Because, as Joseph Jude writes in this short but meaningful post, "a decision is meaningful only within the constraints in which it was made."

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2 Videos

📺 How to make a sandwich

Giving and receiving feedback probably takes the cake as the thing that everyone agrees is great, few actually do it, and even less do it well. Dan North does an exceptional job here of looking at feedback as a system, getting us to really question our motives to even give it, and providing a few simple frameworks to help everyone do it consistently better.

📺 Success Tips with Google's Annie Jean-Baptiste

Google's Head of Product Inclusion, Annie Jean-Baptiste, has just published Building For Everyone, a book outlining how Google strives to build inclusive products, which I'm dying to read. In this short video, Annie gives us 6 important reminders on how to build a confident career. For example, did you ever stop for a moment and noticed how any great relationship always has a reciprocity aspect to it?

1 Book

📚 Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom DeMarco

Although the word “slack” has literally become a verb in recent years due to the rise of a well-known communication platform, it has other interesting meanings. One hints at laziness, the other at the idea of leaving space. Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency is about the latter, and I couldn’t recommend it more for anyone attempting to run successful technology teams and organizations.

Last week, I suggested Switch here in this space, a book that is all about change. It may not be as obvious on the surface, but Slack is also a book about change. Or rather, how without slack, change becomes difficult or impossible. That's unfortunate, because the ability to change in the face of an ever-shifting landscape is critical.

In Slack, DeMarco effectively writes an ode to middle managers enveloped in the idea that it is with them that "organizational memory" rests and learning occurs. If you never contemplated the crucial difference between efficiency and effectiveness, this book makes it very stark. It argues that the frenzied race for efficiency and resource maximisation has, among other things, starved middle management and, with it, the capacity for organizations to actually be effective.

There’s quite a bit more than that to explore within this short, but important, read. Humorous and entertaining, yet retaining a (very) serious edge, it delivers an important message, and it is sure to challenge your existing worldview in meaningful ways (it certainly did mine). And maybe, just maybe, you will start to consciously look to add slack to your teams like your business depends on it.

Because it does.


🙌🏽 Thank you for reading! Enjoyed this week’s edition? Have feedback on how I can make this more valuable to you? I’d love to hear it — my DMs are open on Twitter or just write a comment below.

✍️ Find some of my own ramblings on tech and org stuff over at The Evolutionary Manager.

👉 You can also follow me on Twitter @prla