Reminiscing and engineering managers

Today I learned about “reminiscing”:

Under pressure, most people retreat to their area of highest perceived historical impact, even if it isn’t very relevant to today’s problems. Let’s call this reminiscing.

Will Larson

The post goes on to list some examples, and one stuck out to me:

Engineering leader drives top-down re-architecture of the company’s software. […] They’d be better served by addressing the cultural or skill-gaps culminating in the reliability problems instead of trying to solve it themselves

I see this with engineering managers often. When things aren’t going smoothly, an EM has two options:

  1. Jump in and take over the work
  2. Find and fix the “cultural or skill gaps” at the source

The first option is the accidental diminisher approach, and the second is the multiplier approach.

Now’s where you ask: “shouldn’t you do both?” But therein lies collateral damage. If you take over, you’re telling your team you don’t trust them, and you’re robbing them of goopy growth opportunities. (But that doesn’t mean you need to pretend you aren’t worried!)

Working “on the team” instead of “in the team” even when the crap is en route to the fan is the long term play. Anything else is reminiscing.

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