Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Herding Cats

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. (H L Mencken)

Managing in a software company, especially a start-up, can be challenging. People attracted to a start-ups are either ambitious overachievers, where winning is everything, or they are right out of college and they are all about winning. It's no surprise that there is such a gaming atmosphere around start-up office environments, with the arcade machines and table top tennis in the hall for a quick competition fix.

So these are the overachievers, the 120% crowd, the people that don't take the ball and meander around with it, they go look for the ball and find it and score the touchdown. These are not the 9-5'ers these are the "it ain't over till the fat lady sings", "what ever it takes", part of a bigger team, a bigger ambition, a bigger picture than, "I'll be late for dinner". These are the people that don't bring problems to the table and complain and ask what is to be done, these are people that mention the problems that lead to the solution they are putting on the table.

These are the people that build something from nothing. These are the people that build teams where there was nothing but a place holder. These are the people that build companies, create jobs, and provide families a way of life.

These are the people that don't focus on whether the technical support line is working but think about how they are going to get live online support working and just in time help into the applications and provide a package of premium support that can help grow revenues.

These are the people that are thinking 10 years ahead of their competitors 3 year strategic plan. These are the people that produce market leading products. These are the people who have to be #1. These are not the people who think it's OK to be #12 if everyone is happy in the company.

These are the winners, the entrepreneurs, the job creators, the fabric of the American Dream.

So why is managing in a software company challenging? Because managing in a growing software company means hiring staff as you grow. Hiring staff is a complex problem, and returning to Mencken's quote, for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. For every hire you make there is probably one right person, that is how rare they are, and everyone else is clear and simple and wrong.

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