“We had solved a lot of the hard problems, “ says Jeff Hammerbacher, one of the first data scientists at Facebook, who left in 2008 to start Cloudera, which makes data analytics software. “I kind of knew what it would look like in five years, and the mission was primarily going to be around efficiency and operations and not new stuff.” How Zuck Hacked The Valley, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 27, 2012.
“The problems aren’t technical!” That was one of my early first insights that got me interested in management. Think about the size and complexity of running the Facebook site and the hundreds of millions of people it serves everyday. Of course the technical challenges are overwhelming, but Facebook’s team took it on and so far have mastered it.
So what is the challenge now? From Jeff above, it was the fear that things would get uninteresting, unchallenging. They might settle into just making it work well every day and not do things that are new and innovative.
I’ll add one more fear. Once the technical challenges are out of the way (or take a back seat) the management challenges take over. And I’m not talking about real management challenges but instead the inevitable increase in posturing, positioning and competition for recognition and promotion.
In one large established Fortune 50 company I observed that for many of the VPs their main accomplishment in their career was … getting promoted. This happened while the “mature” company was on a long slide to eventually being broken up and sold off in pieces.
For more see A Successful Manager But Never A Successful Project?
Are your project challenges due to the hard problems or are they issues that come from the culture of the organization?