Think about the last moving story you heard. The last emotional video you watched. The last powerful book you read. What do they all have in common? And how is that common denominator related to managing a team? I never would’ve thought stories might inspire management style, but that’s exactly what happened with me. Because when you’re running a small team, you learn to be resourceful. After all, you need all the help you can get.
My team’s task isn’t trivial: We’re building day trading bots. If that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Walking through this as a team requires some creative machinations, believe me. I mean, training is a problem — thanks to the steep technical learning curve. Plus, motivation is a problem — the failure rate is astronomical. And the best part is there’s nothing to measure against. What makes a good trading bot team? How do they work? How fast do they move? What challenges do they typically run into? We don’t know. Because there are almost none out there.
Hence we had to write our own playbook. And one of the things we kept coming back to was strict ownership. You see, some tasks in the domain of trading are incredibly complex. Breaking them up doesn’t work. It’s best if the same people work on the same task from start to finish. So what we ended up doing was owning different parts of the project individually. The feature became our feature. And that influenced our discussions in interesting ways.
That’s where the stories I mentioned in the beginning come in. What do all those stories have in common? They’re worth more than the sum of their parts. Think about it: That poignant story isn’t just a collection of words. It’s also the message. It’s also the delivery. The video isn’t just a bunch of sounds and clips joined together. It’s the flow of a narrative. It’s the voice of the creator. Powerful stories are worth more than the parts that make them. And that’s exactly what I realized about an effective small team.
When we started owning features, we sort of became the features. We started empathizing deeply with the problems those features solved. We started seeing different angles of the same problem, and bringing them to the table for discussion. Eventually, this deep, high-quality collaboration made the whole much more powerful than the sum of its parts. Connecting the rabbit holes is an insanely insightful endeavor.