Chapter 40. How Do Individual Contributors Get Stuck?

Camille Fournier

As a new manager, you will become responsible for providing feedback to the people on your team. If you aren’t a naturally critical person but you want to give someone a valuable insight, you might find this task daunting. To that end, I suggest the following:

Pay attention to how they get stuck.

Everyone has at least one area on which they tend to get stuck. An activity that serves as an attractive sidetrack. A task they will do anything to avoid. With a bit of observation, you can begin to see the places where your team members get stuck. This is a super power for many reasons, but at a baseline, it is great for when you need to write a review and want to provide useful constructive feedback.

How do people get sidetracked? How do people get stuck? The lists that follow (which are not comprehensive) can get you started.

Individual contributors often get sidetracked by:

  • Brainstorming/architecture: “I must have thought through all edge cases of all parts of everything before I can begin this project.”

  • Researching possible solutions forever (often accompanied by desire to do a “bakeoff” where they build prototypes in different platforms/languages/etc.).

  • Refactoring: “This code could be cleaner and everything would be just so much easier if we cleaned this up… and this up… and…”

  • Helping other people ...

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