Matt's Log - October

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Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot more about management, mentorship and leadership. I generally want to write blog posts about some of these thoughts but for the most part I don't think I would be able to put together something the size of some of the amazing blog posts at randsinrepose, however I still wanted to spend some time writing and thinking out loud about some of these concepts in a medium slightly different from Twitter.

I plan on writing a few of these posts that I am calling Matts Log, captains log sounded far too nerdy, and couldn't find anything better in a short amount of time. These posts will be fairly sporadic, and may not share whole points let alone content that would even be worthwhile to read for anyone else besides myself.

How to work back from the finish line to the starting line

This train of thought was one which I had hoped to expand out to a full blog post, which I may still do however its far easier to jump to the point here in one of these updates than to write a full post for it.

The mindset was one of having a fairly decent mental model for the finish line of a fairly large and expansive objective our team is looking at, and trying to find out where the starting line is. I feel like I have recently fell into this process of thinking about problems in terms of larger and larger time and effort scales, which has made it difficult for me to see the fine details.

The more you zoom out of a problem, often I find it harder to be able to zoom back in and see the next 5 steps.

My manager and I talked about it in one of our recent one on ones, and something we realized is the pattern of taking the concept and beginning to slice it up into smaller and smaller chunks better allows us to zoom back in on the implementation details.

So the new thought process I will be trying out for this large project is to start by asking the following question:

What are all the questions we don't have the answers to?

Create a list of these questions, no need to determine the answers for them yet, then follow that up by asking the following question to others on your team and other smart coworkers:

What are all the questions we don't know to ask?

Then, begin to break the questions down into smaller and smaller chunks, organizing them by weight of the question on a scale of 0 to 1 (with 1 being a difficult question to answer and 0 being a question that is already answered) and their dependency (i.e. we can't answer question 1 before knowing the answer to question 2).

Once you form a graph of the questions, and their dependencies, take the largest valued question that has no dependencies but is blocking other questions and solve that one first.

Then work your way through the tree prioritizing questions that unlock many other questions and those which have a high value assigned to them.