This is a book about “soft skills”.

As engineers & creators, problems are vague and certainty is rare. Still, large problems mean we need multiple people to move in the same direction.

In that environment, how do we all work better together and with the other teams in our organization?

The book proposes a very gentle and empathic model of teamwork they call HRT which I think is reflective of the authors’ Google backgrounds.


The goal of this book is to help people spend more time creating and less time fighting – by improving their ability to collaborate with other people.

Selected Book Outline

Three pillars - HRT

Almost every social conflict can ultimately be traced back to a lack of humility, respect, or trust.

Related Skills:

Team Culture

Your team’s culture is much like a good loaf of sourdough: your starter culture (your founders) inoculates your dough, and as the team grows, out pops a great loaf of bread. …It’s a set of shared experiences, values, and goals unique to every engineering team.

Communication Patterns:


If you’re trying to design something new, try to include no more than five people in your meeting. It’s practically impossible to make decisions with more than five unless there’s only one person making the decisions.

Good rule of thumb.

Design Docs:

Issue Trackers:

A bug tracker is just a specialized “internet forum”. It shares most properties with email lists and the same best practices apply.


Bringing it all back:

Taking some time to pay attention to communication creates a team that will spend more time writing and shipping product and less time arguing about what product to ship.

Every Effective Team Has a Leader

If the manager makes it obvious that she trusts her employee, the employee feels positive pressure to live up to that trust.


Leadership Patterns:

Different People Need Different Things

People are like Plants. Some need more light, some need more water, and some need more fertilizer

Intrinsic / Extrinsic Motivation

Depending on where people are, take different actions.

              Bored       Excited
          |                         |
Self-     |    in a       sweet     |
Directed  |    rut        spot ⭐   |
          |                         |
          |                         |
Scattered |   adrift      Look!     |
          |              Squirrel!  |
          |                         |

As a leader, you can try to apply either motivation or direction:


Poisonous Behaviors

(This section of the book appears heavily weighted by OSS experience, but I’ll try to summarize based on team product development)


Despite a short term loss, do you truly believe the project will benefit in the long run?

…if not, take action.

Do you believe the conflict will ultimately resolve itself in a useful way?

…if not, take action.

Genius is such a commodity these days that it’s not acceptable to be an eccentric anymore.

Final Thought:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance

As a leader:

Your job is to be intolerant of destructive behaviors and to be explicit about your expectations of Humility, Respect, and Trust.

The Art of Organizational Manipulation

Most people work in… bureaucracies and need to employ certain… techniques to get things done effectively.

AKA: politics, social engineering.

How things ought to be:

  1. Your manager
  2. The corporation beyond your manager
  3. (that’s it)

How things are:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


Users & Product

If you want to get new people to use your software, you have to care about their emotional perception of your software.


What is your product like to a newbie?

Focus on the user, and all else will follow.

Three Pillars:

  1. Marketing – perception of your software
  2. Product Design – easy, fast, and functional
  3. Customer Service – long term user retention, growing the product in the right direction


Final Notes

I hope this summary was as helpful to you in deciding whether to read this book (or reminding yourself of its contents) as it was helpful to me as a review mechanism.

If this was useful to you, please let me know how @SimplGy.

Similar Posts

If you liked this post, share it on Twitter

« Previous:   •   Next: »