I threw this out on Twitter:
@StartupLJackson If a manager can get 2x out of a team of 10, that’s 10x right there.
— Allen Cheung (@allenmhc) May 12, 2015
Despite how it sounds, I wasn’t being flippant, but it is a succinct way to think about management, particularly how managers impact their teams and the company at large. Managers don’t – or rather, shouldn’t – produce directly, and so the main way to quantify their value is around their effect on the people around them.
Compared to the (somewhat mythical) concept of the 10x software engineer, how managers can be 10x is even harder to define. The 10x engineer may be able get there via writing more efficient code, faster, and producing tools that enable others to do the same. The 10x manager works through their people, and achieves their objective by increasing aggregate efficiency.
This definition dovetails nicely into that managing bigger teams can further swing the level of production; the fulcrum of the pendulum shifts up and has a greater impact either way. Above a certain level, it becomes less about coaching individuals, and more about instilling the right processes, practices, and culture across the organization.
Scaling people: it’s just as challenging and can sometimes be way more interesting than systems.