Steve Jobs would practice Management By Walking Around. It’s somewhat ironic that the once-a-smelly-hippy turned CEO of Apple with no business school experience, and an attitude of anathema to traditional management school, would practice such a commonly-espoused management technique.
It’s simple but powerful technique – just get up from your desk, walk around, roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and perform work with other team members. It’s got more than a twinge of populism to it. You’ll learn a boatload about the day-to-day of your team members. I think relating to your team is one of the most important (and fun) parts of work at a startup.
Cliche as it is to draw a parallel with an icon as legendary as Steve Jobs, I can’t help but relate. I don’t have an MBA either. Relative to other technical team leaders, my formal credentials may leave some with a perception of something to be desired. But my management style has a foundation elsewhere: I care, alot. I think about the project all the time. In fact, I can’t turn it off.
I like to think of this as ‘Management by Thoughtfulness’. My engineer mind is always spinning in the background. Thinking of my team. Thinking of our systems. Reconciling the business objectives with the latest technical initiatives.
I’ll often have an insight during a run, a beer with a friend, or during some other mental garbage collection activity. It’s not uncommon to wake up in the middle of the night with a stroke of insight. A generation ago, I’d have had a pen and paper by my bedside. Instead, one of my favorite new tools to manage this process is an iPhone app, captio. It passes the information into my gmail, where I can more easily process (or discard) it at the office. I can rest easy, knowing that my (less than average), memory won’t forget the idea.
The 2nd half of this process, which is somewhat more nebulous and personal, is to manage the ideas back at the office. I manage my todos via my inbox — and I’m a big fan of gmail GTD to keep track of priorities. From there, the idea enters my personal workflow. But that’s probably somewhere within the scope of another post.
Management by Thoughtfulness: Spin your engineer mind in the background 24 hours / day — manage ideas by priority during the workday.