Berkun reading group discussion

MakingThingsHappen > Chapter 16: Discussion and Questions

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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott Berkun | 86 comments Mod
Start here.

message 2: by Ravi (new)

Ravi Gangadat | 37 comments This chapter has held up and I wouldn't change anything. Power and politics are areas where I continue to struggle at. How many engineers have read any books, essays on politics? When I interview engineers and look at their course work, most of them never took a course on politics.

During the early stages of my career, I had limited understanding of politics and how it affected me in the work place. Similar to Scott when he first started at Microsoft, I was agnostic about politics and thought that I was above it. My view of the world was that a handful of VP's were in an ivory tower insulated from the real world making decisions that didn't make sense.

I didn't understand politics in the work place until I had a one-on-one conversation with a VP that ran a 500+ engineering organization. During my conversation with him, I learned that he had more constraints on him than I did. He had to deal with scope creep among many projects, answer to the CFO who thought he was the CIO, answer frequent questions such as - "You have 500+ resources and you can't find someone to make a one line code change", reporting to business areas with conflicting interests and priorities, etc... It was an "aha moment" for me.

My key takeaways in priority order

1. "There are two basic choices you have: make your playing field a safe and fair place for smart people to work, or allow the problems and symptoms of the larger team to impact your world." It is really hard to create an environment for your team to do their best work. Proactive leadership is harder than reactive leadership. "Making Things Happen" has added more tools to my toolbox that will help me create a better work environment.

2. It's hard to understand how meaningful your work is unless you understand the constraints your superiors face. When I started to see these constraints, it helped me find alternative solutions to problems especially political ones.

3. I loved Scott's analogy of "Politics is a kind of problem solving." I never looked at it that way. Maybe if we "gamify" politics, it will help engineers understand political interactions better.

Scott, thank you for giving us your time and answering our questions. I have learned so many new things after re-reading "Making Things Happen." Happy ten year anniversary!


message 3: by Scott (new)

Scott Berkun | 86 comments Mod
Thanks Ravi. You deserve a special prize for hanging in there! Appreciate you going the distance.

message 4: by Shiran (new)

Shiran (gingi0) | 13 comments In many ways this chapter is a perfect bookend to a terrific book. But politics and power are an undercurrent throughout all the subjects in the book. After all, "project management" is a bit of a misnomer. Really, what PMs do is people management, empowering team members to communicate and work effectively and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts (in that sense, it's what makes this a terrific parenting book as well). And, as the chapter explains, politics is the fine balance between personal interests and project and organizational goals. I almost wish that the chapter were placed in the beginning of the book as an introduction to the topic of people management.

Scott: By the way, I was also puzzled by the quote "much like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (Pocket, 1990), you’ll feel the urge to shower after you read it.” What did you mean by that? :)


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