Book :: The Messy Middle

Finally finished up The Messy Middle.

Enjoyed it, took some notes and more than a few screen shots.

The book is very short chapters which is cool but also means it is easy for me to put it down and then sometimes I take a few days to pick up.

The books is sectioned into three parts – Endure, Optimize, and Finish.

I also loved the middle gray section that was all about product management.

Anyways – good book. Check it out.



As a follow up to Rework – the Basecamp boys have released :: It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work.

Like all the books from these guys they are very small chapters with a concept laid out in each chapter so that makes it a quick read. Also you mileage may vary as to how possible it is to implement all the stuff they lay out since the vision they have is always slightly extreme.

My view is I take a few concepts and try to see if I can change my habits or shape my team some.

This book lays out the base premise that work should stay at work during the normal hours and that folks should not work over the weekends, should take holidays and learn to approach everything more calmly. Agree however an individual may not be able to pull much of this off if their bosses don’t buy into any of it.

I think a lot of what they say is true about cutting corners, not sleeping enough, and just trying to do too much.

As a product guy I used to implement some of this – no shipping on Fridays, keep releases simpler, and just try to ship good work even if you didn’t get as much in as you wanted. I have always thought this was my pillar to product management but it amazes me how many CEOs just don’t get it. As a CTO many times I was just trying to protect my team from management and their dumb ideas for how to manage product. So product people can find some nuggets around how to do this a better way but management has to buy in.

I love their concept of office hours – where management is available at certain times each week and available for any sort of AMA. Versus constantly booking meetings and having check ins. I like this one. Might try to implement this.

I love disagree and commit. So many times there is the notion of moving forward with someone else’s idea and getting behind it but you may not agree with it. Versus continually arguing about it and wasting more time than moving on and learning.

There is a bunch of others. I may go back through and note the ones to try and build on since the book is full of them but not easy to put all in motion.

I figure the middle ground around their core concepts is where I fit in for the most part.


My thoughts on the Ellen Pao book – reset

Pick up your copy here –

Wow. I wonder if some of what transpired in this book lead to the whole breakup of Kleiner in any way. I have lost a lot of respect for them as a firm but I also wonder how many firms also act or operate like this. My bet is many more than people think.

Although Ellen may have lost her case I would argue that this whole movement was partially kicked off by her case and the work she is doing with Project Include will ensure that real change will happen.

I loved the book and was great to get her account of what she experienced since none of that really came out during the trial – it shows you how a trial is all about the legality of stuff and the truth is elusive. It is such a disappointment to know how some of these high power people operate and how even the women will turn when money is involved. Sad.

With the book behind me, I am back to trying to see what I can do personally to make a difference. It isn’t easy – on one hand people could just start being decent and guys could start by being normal and inclusive. So in some sense back to just being fair and equal but part of me thinks that it is too late for that. If you look around you will generally see that things are not equal – the business world is heavily slanted to men in many respects.

Given this my view is that I cannot just strive for equality, I need to try and compensate to make a difference. I have to be conscious of my own bias and do what I can to make a better environment for all the females around me in my life and work. Why – because for too long there has not been enough fairness or equality so now we are coming from behind. Only way to fix it is make up for lost time and the fact that most environments whether intentional or not are normally not equal footing for females.

I see this everyday with my girls – the bias that boys have for what a girl can do and what a girl cannot do. My son does it all the time without thinking much about it and I constantly have to remind him that apart from basic anatomy – girls can do what boys can do. Stop putting them in a box. One can easily see that is starts with young boys and if you don’t correct them it won’t change. Back to my premise – we as adults need to over emphasize in all situations to make sure the world is better for everyone. My belief is that the world is largely messed up because men have been dominating it for far too long.

Now let me leave you with my own story about one of the people in the book.

Back when I worked at Weblogic there was period of time that we were trying to raise some money. That period happened to coincide with KPCB launching their storied Java Fund –

WebLogic had practically invented the enterprise Java market for Java on the server so of course KPCB called us and we had numerous meetings. The gist of it ended with a certain partner, the fund manager, telling us that Java was not meant for the server and that the enterprise market would never give up their old school C to play with Java. Okay. Now Sun was partially to blame for this since they were involved with the fund, had their own competing technology but they also showed off Java initially as a GUI while shipping stuff that was slow on the server. This is stuff WebLogic had fixed but it took some time for the enterprise to get the drift.

Anyways – WebLogic ended up raising money and went on to sell to BEA and later BEA sold to Oracle for close to 10B. I think the WebLogic exit made more money than the entire Java Fund did but who is counting.

Post the BEA acquisition during one of the Java World conferences, I happened to be manning the booth since we were expecting Bill Janeway to stop by. Let me quote something from his wiki page:

In 1992, the firm funded the launch of OpenVision Technologies, which subsequently merged with VERITAS Software in 1996. In 1999, Warburg Pincus also was the founder and sole investor in BEA Systems. Warburg Pincus eventually distributed its positions in both companies to its limited partners, realizing total returns of $750 million in VERITAS shares and $6.5 billion in BEA shares on investments in each of approximately $50 million.

50m to 6.5B.

Bill made a lot of cash from BEA which was partially because of the WebLogic product line.

Bill did cruise by and we had met many times before so we instantly started chatting but I was actually more interested in who was tagging a long with him – none other than Ted Schlein. Bill introduced us and asked if the Java Fund happened to look at WebLogic. Ted said he didn’t recall digging into it but of course I had to interject to say that yes we had met since I was the one doing the demos and that Ted had passed declaring Java dead on the server. I also went on to say that the one WebLogic deal probably would have done better than the entirety of the Java Fund portfolio. Bill had a good laugh about it but Ted didn’t look too amused.

That was my first taste of VC.