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Three Decision-Making Frameworks for Eng. Leaders (and beyond)
So, on Thursdays, we’ve decided to give you mental models, frameworks, books, and tools we’ve mentioned on the podcast (or that we’re geeking about atm).
This week we start with three simple decision-making frameworks/mental models eng leaders can use to help their teams.
Let’s get into it.
1. Jason Warner’s Diamond
Use for 👉 Establishing a decision-making framework in your org that promotes openness and confidence by allocating decision-making guidelines for different job positions.
Decision-making is crucial for any function, and Jason Warner's Diamond (from episode three) illustrates how this can be done for the entire org.
It challenges the idea of purely top-down or bottom-up decision-making.
Decisions come from both the top (strategic, exec only) and bottom (tactical, experimental). The middle translates top-down decisions into action and aligns bottom-up decisions with the company's strategy. This is crucial since mismatches often start here.
Embracing a structure where decisions aren't just top-driven can be liberating, especially with the right amount of trust built in.
It leads to faster decision-making, scaling, and, fittingly, dealing with crises. Ultimately, companies should find a balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches for success.
TL;DR: Most decision-making happens in the middle of the org. Embrace this to scale faster.
2. The Eisenhower Matrix
Use for 👉 Determining the required time and the number of participants for a decision prior to initiating the process.
The Eisenhower Matrix, developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, focuses on two aspects of decisions: importance and urgency. Using this matrix or similar variations can help you make better choices and save time at work.
Eiso uses it a little differently at Athenian.
Instead of urgent vs important, they look at reversibility vs impact.
This simple shift is a solid starting point for decision-making, helping you figure out how much time to spend on it and who should be involved.
Inspiration for this matrix came from this article by Farnham Street. 💛
TL;DR: The higher impact and harder to reverse a decision is, the more time and people you need to bring in.
DJ Patil’s White House Card
Use for 👉 A quick daily reminder of what you need to deliver and a reflection on how you could improve.
Engineering is all about getting things done – building quickly, iterating, and creating fantastic products.
However, as a leader, it's essential to take a step back and think not only about the short-term but also the medium and long-term. Keep it real and make sure you're covering all your bases.
A great example of this is what Former U.S. Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil, had in his White House notebook:
The card reads:
Dream in years
Plan in Months
Evaluate in weeks
Prototype for 1x
Build for 10x
Engineer for 100x
What’s required to cut the timeline in ½?
What needs to be done to double the impact?
We love this checklist because it’s tailored specifically to engineering leaders, and it is a great tool for stepping back and reflecting on your purpose.
TL;DR: There is no TL;DR for such a simple and straightforward list! 😄
If you like these, here’s an article with three more and a deeper look into the frameworks from this post!
Next Tuesday a new episode of Developing Leadership comes out, where we explore the infamous midwit meme and how it applies to engineering leaders today!
Don’t miss it!
Developing Leadership is powered by Athenian. We are introducing a winning approach to engineering metrics that can help you empower your teams to autonomously improve. If you want to learn more, go to athenian.com
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