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Published at Sun Sep 24 2023 in
Rows HQ

2023 W38 - Managing Managers 2

Blog - clock

Every week I post about one thing that happened at Rows. We're building in public!


So, we're about to revamp our monetization. Our current pricing model is reminiscent of a test from 2019, and now it's time for a big upgrade — a better free plan, more valuable paid plans, and new features too!

Our plan is to ship this until the end of September. We generally don't time challenges, but this one has a clear date because of the necessary coordination with existing users etc etc (plus, it's money, and we're in that year 2023).

In our management meeting last week, a team member pointed out that this date is creeping up, is at risk, and then proposed we make a cut in scope. The team in charge added that the culprit are two important details which are pretty complex. As a founder, I felt a clear pressure to decide whether we delay the launch or trim the feature set.

But I didn't decide either. It makes no sense for a founder or CEO to take the easy way out:

  • The team is smart → They should decide.

  • The team has better info on the problem. In fact, the "cut the scope vs delay the launch" is a wrong framing, because both options are a defeat and they also obscure important details at play. → They should clarify the risk, options, and decide.

  • Team members are the ones who are going to implement this set of features and live with them, and potentially improve the speed with their decisions → They should decide.

  • It's not a group decision. The team should take a quick internal meeting, breathe in and out a few times, and then choose what's best and propose to us. Others should focus on their launches. → They decide.

  • Our launch date was an arbitrary point on a time scale. That point became my expectation, which doesn't change. Making an arbitrary change in scope or in the launch date makes management the "ramp off" to ambitions, which is the opposite of what a founder should do. → I should support positive plans.

The team took an hour and then showed what they wanted to do:

  • Other teams are contributing to the effort as they stepped up;

  • There's now a better sequencing of activities, and one of the two details will be pushed back.

  • We also reorganized the team schedule and some activities.

The project will launch soon enough.


In general, we take leadership seriously:

  • Managers shouldn't take decisions that their teams can do on their own. The reverse is also true, so you should always participate in a decision where you have unique value to add.

  • When people decide on their own, they push themselves and create a stronger commitment with themselves and colleagues. As a founder, my job is to provide individual feedback if I think people aren't ambitious enough!

  • There is a terrible incentive to cut some slack to the best performers and best managers. "They already do so much. I won't piss them off." But the best talent can make the most of feedback, and can take the most feedback, so you have to give it to them.

  • Solutions happen inwards, not upwards or outwards. "Time and scope" aren't people, so you can't really blame them. When you get into expectations management mode, you run a risk of lowering expectations, and eventually screwing up users or becoming irrelevant. Solving the issues is the only good solution.


On completely unrelated news, check out the collection of webcomics and memes which we hang in our office's walls. Which ones are we missing? Send suggestions of the best stuff!


See you next week

- Humberto