Scheduling and Non-Hierarchical Management

These two essays have been doing the rounds of late, and for good reason:

Paul Graham’s comparison between the schedules of Managers and the schedules of Makers (creatives). The gist? A manager’s day is divided into hour-long blocks of time, makers work in much longer, relatively unconstrained and non-discrete units of time. The problem is in making these two work together.

When you use [the manager’s schedule], it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done. […]

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

With the philosophy that a manager is more servant than dictator, Aaron Swartz offers tips for non-hierarchical management (via Kottke). This is specifically for startups, he suggests, where the tradition ‘org chart’ is flipped upside down, but these tips seem sound no matter what the organisation:

  • Management is a (serious) job
    • Stay organised
  • Know your team
    • Hire people smarter than you
    • Be careful when hiring friends
    • Set boundaries
  • Go over the goals together
    • Build a community
  • Assign responsibility
    • Vary responsibilities
    • Delegate responsibly
  • Clear obstacles
    • Prioritize
    • Fight procrastination
  • Give feedback
    • Don’t micromanage
  • Don’t make decisions (unless you really have to)
  • Fire ineffective people
  • Give away the credit
  • Few people are cut out for this