Thursday, May 19, 2011

If I have to tell you what to do...

The recent This Developer's Life podcast features the StackOverflow team discussing pressure and how they dealt with the site's unexpected downtime in October 2010. About 31 minutes in, Scott Hanselman interviews Jeff Atwood, and Jeff revealed an eye-opening insight into how he runs his company. Speaking about his team, he remarks:
If I have to tell you what to suck.
He prefaces that statement with an assurance that it's tongue-in-cheek. But there is truth behind that statement. He goes on to say he "unleashes" his team, and expects them to come to him with ideas that he can "simply sign-off on." He maintains the vision and keeps them moving in the correct direction. Unlike a traditional work environment where the boss tells the subordinate what to do, here the team's drive comes from the bottom-up.
I found this fascinating. I want to work that way. Being a solo-developer at my company, I play both roles to a degree, setting the direction for a project while trying to come up with creative ideas to enhance it. But working alone it is hard to validate whether the way I work would fit within a team environment. It is really motivating to have this insight on how this successful company (for which I have a ton of respect) operates.