Management Training Program

Fog Creek Software Management Training Program by Joel Spolsky:

Finally, when you’re really really good, they let you hang around with Yussef on the ovens. Yussef was about 100 years old and so good at running the ovens it was scary. When Gabbi tried to show me how to solve the problem of bread sticking to the conveyer belts on the way out of the oven, he ran back and forth like a lunatic for ten minutes, turning knobs, pulling levers, redirecting heat, and burning a few hundred loaves while he struggled to get things under control.

But Yussef, facing the same problem, turned one tiny knob on a seemingly-unrelated chimney about one degree to the right. It made no sense, he couldn’t explain why it worked, but it did: it solved the problem instantly and suddenly perfect loaves started popping out. It took me another couple of years to really understand the complex relationships between heat and humidity inside an 80 foot tunnel oven, but it would have taken ten more years before I could solve problems as well as Yussef did.

From the Lion of Lean (an interview with James Womack):

So I said to the Toyota executive, “You’ve only got two or three suppliers per category, and you never take bids. How do you know you aren’t being ripped off?” So this guy, who was around 60, gives me an incredibly frosty look and says, “Because I know everything.” Everything? “That’s my job,” he says.


Reading “Because I know everything” brings to mind an arrogant blowhard to many in America (I think). Probably because most who would say that, are arrogant blowhards. But when someone has worked (a Toyota executive or a baker) for 40+ years in the same area those words can have quite a different meaning than a 31 year old MBA working in his third industry. Managing with constancy of purpose and long term thinking can make a big difference.

Joel Spolsky runs a software company with a different vision than most owners or managers. I don’t think he attempts to follow Deming or Lean Thinking or Ackoff. He has very interesting ideas on managing, that he developed himself, as far as I know, and those ideas are very similar to those of Deming…

Thus: how do we develop the next generation of managers? We don’t really want to hire MBAs, because there’s too much evidence that MBAs substitute book-learnin’ for common sense or experience. We’d much rather hire someone who created and ran a profitable lemonade stand than someone who has taken two years of finance courses at Harvard, especially since the Harvard MBA is going to think he knows a lot more than he really does.

Our latest thinking is just to train a new generation of leaders from the ground up.

To that end, today we’re launching an experimental new program, the Fog Creek Software Management Training Program.

I think this would be a great opportunity for the right person.

A sample of some of his management philosophy.

Hitting the High Notes:

For the last five years I’ve been testing that theory in the real world. The formula for the company I started with Michael Pryor in September, 2000 can be summarized in four steps:

Best Working Conditions → Best Programmers → Best Software → Profit!

It’s a pretty convenient formula, especially since our real goal in starting Fog Creek was to create a software company where we would want to work. I made the claim, in those days, that good working conditions (or, awkwardly, “building the company where the best software developers in the world would want to work”) would lead to profits

Bionic Office:

The monthly rent for our offices, when fully occupied, will run about $700 per employee. The build-out was done on budget and paid for almost entirely by the landlord. I suspect that $700 per person is on the high side for software developers throughout the world, but if it means we can hire from the 99.9 percentile instead of the 99 percentile, it’ll be worth it.

3 thoughts on “Management Training Program

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