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The thing that has been stuck in my head is this idea of "knowledge work". My loose definition for this is the rise of the kind of role where your value as an employee is making key decisions based on your expertise and also executing on those decisions to produce outcomes.
It's different from other kinds of work that are missing some element. There is lots of skilled work, where you still get marching orders handed to you. Or work where you make lots of decisions that go into a process executed by others.
But the kind of work where the plan is always high level and vague, and you are expected to create clarity at the same time as trying to deliver with speed and quality. That is a unique kind of role. And I need think we are learning how difficult it is to measure success.
One of the many challenges with this kind of work is figuring out what kind of leadership structure it needs. What is the role of managers, and what does it look like for them to be effective in this kind of environment? This is not a solved problem.
Bat area startups went through their phase of seriously questioning whether we even need managers. Thankfully, we re-learned that lesson and backed away. But there aren't many new approaches as far as I've seen. Just back to the old thing that no one really liked.
Engineers in particular are gaining more autonomy to make their own decisions because they are the only ones who can execute on the work. I talk to a lot of managers who increasingly feel like they don't have the levers or the leverage to truly be responsible for the outcomes.
But a lot of companies aren't happy with their engineering teams. Because they can see that the team isn't taking the time to understand enough context to really understand and focus in on business goals.
Not to mention a (real or perceived) lack of urgency. This is at least partially because engineers can see they don't get paid enough for the value they produce. Startup employees especially are getting more savvy, and they can tell that the math doesn't really work out.
All of this is coupled with a movement towards greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a former boss in HR Tech. He said employees are demanding greater job satisfaction. Across the board.
The modern manager is asked to deal with all of these realities and still produce consistent outcomes for the business. It's wild. And at some point I realized it wasn't actually reasonable. Something has to give.
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