Noah Brier | May 15, 2022

The Executive Edition (5/15/22)

On teams, basketball, and Saville Row

Recommended Products

An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management

A book that discusses different aspects of engineering management, primarily focusing on systems and problem-solving within technical and engineering teams.

On the Four Types of Teams:

I thought this was well-put from An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management:

A team is falling behind if each week their backlog is longer than it was the week before. Typically, people are working extremely hard but not making much progress, morale is low, and your users are vocally dissatisfied.
A team is treading water if they’re able to get their critical work done, but are not able to start paying down technical debt or begin major new projects. Morale is a bit higher, but people are still working hard, and your users may seem happier because they’ve learned that asking for help won’t go anywhere.
A team is repaying debt when they’re able to start paying down technical debt, and are beginning to benefit from the debt repayment snowball: each piece of debt you repay leads to more time to repay more debt.
A team is innovating when their technical debt is sustainably low, morale is high, and the majority of work is satisfying new user needs.

Just started the book. Enjoying it so far. (NRB)

On Basketball Management: 

This Truehoop piece on the culture of the Miami Heat versus the Philadelphia 76ers kicked off an interesting conversation amongst my basketball friends. A lot of it is about the Heat’s ability to find diamonds in the rough—players who end up playing big roles despite not being drafted high or going to top-tier colleges. Narrowly it’s about the difference between the two teams’ abilities to develop these players, but more broadly, it’s about the power of narratives in sports. 

There are a lot of NBA teams who talk about culture, but there are very few teams who can look back over the last twenty or thirty years and say they’ve actually created one. A culture made up of the current crop of players that doesn’t survive their departure isn’t a culture at all (or at least it’s not what these teams want it to mean). The Brooklyn Nets talked lots about their culture, and then they traded all their players and got rid of their head coach to make Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving happy. 

In the NBA, at least, you can count the number of teams on one hand that have an owner that has empowered a general manager to do their job without meddling. Likewise, those GMs are much more likely to empower a coach to make hard decisions (like giving young players additional time) without worrying about their job next season. The Heat are one of those teams. Pat Riley has been managing the team for multiple decades, and their coach, Erik Spoelstra, is clearly empowered (this was made most clear when Lebron was on the team).

With all that said, culture is a narrative like anything else, and Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra may not have kept their jobs if players like Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Jimmy Butler hadn’t found their way to Miami. Like all things, it’s important to be careful how much you read into any story. (NRB)

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