Camille Fournier on making boring plans

Lead Time Chats: Season 2, Episode 1 Takeaways

Kicking off Season 2 of Lead Time Chats, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, talks to Camille Fournier, Managing Director at Two Sigma and author of The Manager's Path, about making boring plans.

Camille and Jean discuss:

  • Limited innovation tokens and how to decide where to spend them (hint: it’s not on cool tech)!
  • What boring plans actually look like, especially when you do need to upgrade to more interesting tech so your team doesn’t fall behind.
  • Rolling out company-wide platform updates as rigorously as you would plan for an external launch
  • How to manage up and build credibility that you’re delivery value when undertaking long-running technical projects

Takeaways from Camille

A boring plan recognizes more than the technical implementation

“First of all, it looks like a plan at all. It looks like a plan that recognizes the migration part of this work that isn't just the technical implementation.

So I think that's table stakes, right? A lot of people don't have a plan at all. Let's be honest, engineers are not great at planning. I'm not great at planning, but we all have to do it at some point. A lot of times you get a plan for a system and it's like, here's all the cool technical stuff that we need to do to build this. Great. That's a good baseline, but you have not addressed what we do once we have something that we think is working, right.  A boring plan is going to have a lot of that technical stuff. It's going to recognize the systems that you need to integrate with. It's going to recognize how do we get assurance that this thing can scale.

It's going to recognize security and stuff like that. Right? Well, then it's also going to recognize that even once we get to something we think is working, we now need to talk to people. We need to have target alpha users, people that are going to use this thing.”

Reward people on your team that do the tedious drawn-out work

“You just have to make sure that you can reward people who do the long drawn-out work. This stuff often falls down when you have a culture that only rewards, "I just I did the alpha launch of this. And then I did the alpha launch of that." The alpha, you know, it takes 20% of the time as opposed to getting all the way to GA.

And so you do have to be thoughtful culturally about not over-rewarding the people who only do the new stuff and forgetting about the people who actually do the tedious work to finish it, because then you just end up with like a graveyard of alpha beta products that have never quite gone to GA.”

Find high-profile alpha use cases to build credibility

“You've also got to figure out how to deliver value incrementally during the process if you can. You're doing something that needs to be long running. You're doing it for a reason. It's going to provide some value. What is a high-profile use case, high-profile new product feature, high-profile system that needs to scale, high-profile data processing, that is really struggling, but you're like, we're going to do the alpha version of this with that team or for this thing. And then we're gonna launch that, and we're going to show how awesome this is. And that is going to be part of the way we get the credibility and coverage to do this long running project, because we are not just saying we're going to deliver value in two years.”

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Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

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S2 E1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans
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