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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review: The Messy Middle

 The Messy Middle is a book about entrepreneurship. Rather than being one about raising money, etc., it's almost entirely about the development of a startup past the initial stages but before being fully successful as an independent entity or being sold. The author started Behance, which was bought by Adobe, and sprinkles his narrative with anecdotes and stories from both his time managing Behance and as a transformative middle manager at Adobe.

The book covers many topics, but the management sections are interesting. In one particular case, he compares a well functioning team to that of a human body system, and describes a well-jelled team as having a healthy immune system, which would wholesale reject any transplant of a foreign entity (such as an new leader being injected into the mix). He describes the manager's role there as helping to suppress the immune system so that the new transplant can contribute. I will note that like many managers, at no point does he consider promoting someone from inside. (And in this particular case, he had been long time friends with the new manager and had faith that it would work out without tearing the team apart)

I switched from the audio book to kindle format in the middle of this book, but there were many anecdotes in this book that were geared entirely towards the product manager, rather than the engineering leader. One thing that particularly stands out is the fact that he considers the most important piece to be self-motivation, mentioning that startups are usually so hard that if you can't motivate yourself you absolutely will not finish.

There are huge sections about motivating yourself, optimizing processes, and right at the end a few notes about getting advice from third parties before any kind of sale happens. It's definitely good stuff and worth your time to read. There's the usual amount of self-aggrandization from any successful entrepreneur, but also enough useful stuff that I wouldn't consider it a problem.

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