The Titles Zero-Sum Game

“Titles don’t cost money.” I’ve heard that more than once from executives who were trying to justify different promotions and structures they’ve arrived at. Titles might not require a budget and indeed do not require cold hard cash to pay for. Nevertheless, I’ve seen them wreak havoc in teams in the long term. That is […]

The Fallacy of Meeting Expectations

Coding is magic. Leading an engineering organization is like being in charge of a cadre of brilliant wizards. At least, it should be. The experienced and calloused tech executive has learned—often the hard way—that things are not as easy as they seem. As the team grows, complexity prospers. The intrinsic perfectionism engenders a vicious negative […]

Ego Check: Tech for Tech’s Sake

People in R&D are sometimes unaware of the great power they hold over the company. Can you imagine the VP of Sales saying, “We have so much sales debt that we have to redo our playbook for three months and only then get back to selling”? Want to wager how long it would be between […]

You Don’t Need a “Tech Strategy”

One of my pet peeves as a consultant is being approached by prospects asking for help with establishing their tech strategy. At first glance, it might seem an obvious fit: I work with tech executives, and I offer Sentient Strategy® workshops. The crux of the problem is that by the time you’ve decided to compile […]

Fast Iterations, Slow Progress

“Sorry, can’t talk on Friday, it’s really tight. We have our sprint planning.” How often have you said that to someone? The sprint planning and wrapping up ceremonies at many companies end up taking almost a full day every couple of weeks. That’s 10% of your time! Despite that huge investment, after all of that […]

Less Principal Engineers, More Product Engineers

We’re obsessed with amassing more and more senior engineers. I don’t think I’ve talked to a single tech executive in the past year (and I’ve spoken with hundreds) that wasn’t bemoaning the lack of senior talent. I get it: when you onboard someone that already masters the tools and stack that you’re using, it can […]

Transparency or Anxiety

I’m guessing you’ve heard the story about Sheryl Sandberg and PowerPoint before. She was getting tired of meeting after meeting with slides and said she wanted “no more PowerPoint.” She naturally meant this just for internal meetings with her, not an overarching ban, but her team understood her wrong. They grew frustrated as they tried […]

The Disagreement Quota

We cannot always agree on everything. I’d be the first to vouch for the importance of speaking up, candor, and chutzpah for the formation of a healthy culture. Nevertheless, there are disagreements, and then there are disagreements. How should you tackle the different situations? To develop a mental model for handling disagreement, I refer to […]

Empowering Constraints

There’s virtually no chance that you’re reading this and don’t already know that the key to unlocking your team’s effectiveness is empowering them. I don’t see many tech executives who need to be told this. You can directly see that when you don’t empower them and don’t delegate, you end up micromanaging them, and they […]

Restoring Trust

Let me share one of the open secrets of consultants: sometimes, a big part of our work relies merely on listening to people in the company and what they have to say. I routinely hear from CEOs and executives that the situation is “great” and that there are no issues regarding X. Then, I sit […]