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Great Management of
Technical Leads
Why are you here?
Separate discipline, but still
technical.
Job was never to write code.
My expectations of new
leads…
(Or what you should expect from yours.)
Congratulations! If it’s
broken, it’s your fault.
most common reasons why gamedev sucks
• Studio closures
• Canceled projects
• Bad projects
• Unhappy gamedevs
• Overworking gamedevs
• Unrealistic expectations
• Layoffs
• People who are incompetent at their jobs
• Favoritism
There is no formula.
Formula: Figure out what
doesn’t work and do less of
that; Figure out what works well
and do more of that.
I expect you to be a champion
for the direction you’re given.
I expect you to find the right
problems to solve.
I expect you to find the right problems to
solve.
• Is there anything you think we should remove from our development
process?
• What decisions of the past do you feel get in our way?
• Where do you believe we are asking the wrong questions?
I expect you to delegate
You help someone else to be
the best person for the job
Congratulations! If anyone on
your team is off in the weeds,
it’s your fault.
I expect you to provide clear
values to your team.
You should be able to answer (for yourself)
• Why are you here?
• Why games?
• What does success mean to you?
• What is most important to you about the player experience?
• What is most important to you about the development experience?
• What frustrates or irritates you most about the player experience?
• What frustrates or irritates you most about the development experience?
• What frustrates or irritates you most about yourself?
• What are three things that you would like other gamedevs to say about you?
• What are three words you would use to describe your point of view on technical issues?
• What are three words you would use to describe your point of view on personal development?
• When was a time when you felt a lead personally let you down?
• When was a time when you felt a lead really helped you out?
I expect you to establish a
clear direction for your team.
If no one can disagree with
what you’re saying, you’re
probably not saying anything.
I expect you to set clear
expectations for your team.
“What would frustrate me if
not done or not done well?”
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring the expectations of and for
each of your gamedevs are realistic
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
22 of 45
I expect you to define problems
and constraints for your team,
not solutions.
Your team will spend more time
with the problem, more time
with their tools, more time with
the data than you possibly can.
Problems not solutions
• When you get back something that doesn’t work…
• Articulate problem
• Clarify constraints
You have accepted responsibility for…
...encouraging each of your gamedevs to
use their own judgment in their work
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
26 of 45
You have accepted responsibility for…
...being honest with each of your
gamedevs and yourself about the state of
the game
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
27 of 45
I expect you to know what
everyone on your team is doing.
Congratulations! If your team is
not growing and improving, it’s
your fault.
I expect you to understand
your team.
I expect you to put as much
effort into the gamedevs on
your team as they put into their
work.
You have accepted responsibility for…
…talking to each of your gamedevs about
their progress
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
32 of 45
One-on-ones (general framework)
• Let them know whether or not they are meeting your expectations.
Do not put this off. Do not avoid this discussion.
• Answer any questions your gamedev may have. Listen to any
feedback.
• Ask probing questions.
• I find 30 minutes to be a reasonable guideline. Times can vary greatly
from gamedev to gamedev and situation to situation. Sometimes 10
minutes is perfect. Sometimes you need an hour or more.
You have accepted responsibility for…
...helping each of your gamedevs to do
exactly what they want to do with their
professional careers
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
34 of 45
One-on-one questions
• What concrete, specific feedback would you like to have about yourself?
• What has been the same for a long time that you think needs some more
attention?
• What do you find most difficult?
• What do you find most frustrating?
• Where do you feel like you are being held back?
• Is there anything you feel is wasting your time?
• What do you think I need to be more aware of or paying more attention to?
• What do you think you need to be paying more attention to?
• What do you consider your next big career step? What are you doing to get
there?
You have accepted responsibility for…
...taking measures to at least evaluate
any potential problem any of your
gamedevs may point out
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
36 of 45
Regular team meetings too.
(Not status updates.)
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring what you say to each of your
gamedevs is trustworthy
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
38 of 45
I expect you to develop a
leadership team.
I expect you to be continuously
training your team.
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring each of your gamedevs have
opportunities to learn and grow
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
41 of 45
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring nobody in the studio is
holding any of your gamedevs back from
improving themselves in substantial ways
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
42 of 45
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring each of your gamedevs’ time
at the studio has improved their skills
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
43 of 45
I expect you to help your team
define their own goals and
vision.
You have accepted responsibility for…
...ensuring each of your gamedevs have
the opportunity to contribute to
decisions that affect them
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
45 of 45
I expect you to hold each of
your gamedevs accountable for
their performance.
You have accepted responsibility for…
...reminding each of your gamedevs to
hold themselves to high quality standards
and encouraging them to expect the
same
Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com
Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility
47 of 45
Accountability: When things aren’t working
• Set clear expectations. Double down.
• Don’t be vague; Don’t cushion the blow.
• Tackle problems early and hard. Small problems lead to large
problems.
• Make sure they can articulate expectations back
• Keep good notes. Share them.
Congratulations! If your team
doesn’t trust you, it’s your fault.
The minute you do not fear
abusing power you stop
becoming a good human leader
of people and start turning into
a monster ruling a tiny fiefdom
by force.
I expect you to treat your
gamedevs like adults.
I expect you to ensure each of
your gamedevs are treated with
respect.
I expect you to address the
ethical concerns of any of your
gamedevs.
I expect you to protect the
health of each of your
gamedevs.
(Not babysitting.)
Congratulations! If you don’t
become a good lead,
it’s my fault.
All of those things I expect from
you, you should in turn expect
from me.
Challenge me.
• What do you think I need to be more aware of or paying more
attention to?
• Is there anything you’re doing that you’d like to bring attention to or
for me to take more interest in?
• Name one thing you might do differently in my position.
I expect you to have a 90-day
plan.
I expect you to focus on
developing yourself as a lead.
I expect you to aggressively
seek feedback.
Collect and review honest
data, somehow.
I expect you to ask for help.
I expect you to have some
doubt.
Congratulations! Good luck!
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads
Other references
Madelaine Beermann http://linkd.in/1H0IvE3
(Leading High Performance Teams)
Keith Fuller http://www.fullergameproduction.com/
(Consultant Extraordanaire)

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#GDC15 Great Management of Technical Leads

  • 2. Why are you here?
  • 3. Separate discipline, but still technical.
  • 4. Job was never to write code.
  • 5. My expectations of new leads… (Or what you should expect from yours.)
  • 7. most common reasons why gamedev sucks • Studio closures • Canceled projects • Bad projects • Unhappy gamedevs • Overworking gamedevs • Unrealistic expectations • Layoffs • People who are incompetent at their jobs • Favoritism
  • 8. There is no formula.
  • 9. Formula: Figure out what doesn’t work and do less of that; Figure out what works well and do more of that.
  • 10. I expect you to be a champion for the direction you’re given.
  • 11. I expect you to find the right problems to solve.
  • 12. I expect you to find the right problems to solve. • Is there anything you think we should remove from our development process? • What decisions of the past do you feel get in our way? • Where do you believe we are asking the wrong questions?
  • 13. I expect you to delegate
  • 14. You help someone else to be the best person for the job
  • 15. Congratulations! If anyone on your team is off in the weeds, it’s your fault.
  • 16. I expect you to provide clear values to your team.
  • 17. You should be able to answer (for yourself) • Why are you here? • Why games? • What does success mean to you? • What is most important to you about the player experience? • What is most important to you about the development experience? • What frustrates or irritates you most about the player experience? • What frustrates or irritates you most about the development experience? • What frustrates or irritates you most about yourself? • What are three things that you would like other gamedevs to say about you? • What are three words you would use to describe your point of view on technical issues? • What are three words you would use to describe your point of view on personal development? • When was a time when you felt a lead personally let you down? • When was a time when you felt a lead really helped you out?
  • 18. I expect you to establish a clear direction for your team.
  • 19. If no one can disagree with what you’re saying, you’re probably not saying anything.
  • 20. I expect you to set clear expectations for your team.
  • 21. “What would frustrate me if not done or not done well?”
  • 22. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring the expectations of and for each of your gamedevs are realistic Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 22 of 45
  • 23. I expect you to define problems and constraints for your team, not solutions.
  • 24. Your team will spend more time with the problem, more time with their tools, more time with the data than you possibly can.
  • 25. Problems not solutions • When you get back something that doesn’t work… • Articulate problem • Clarify constraints
  • 26. You have accepted responsibility for… ...encouraging each of your gamedevs to use their own judgment in their work Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 26 of 45
  • 27. You have accepted responsibility for… ...being honest with each of your gamedevs and yourself about the state of the game Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 27 of 45
  • 28. I expect you to know what everyone on your team is doing.
  • 29. Congratulations! If your team is not growing and improving, it’s your fault.
  • 30. I expect you to understand your team.
  • 31. I expect you to put as much effort into the gamedevs on your team as they put into their work.
  • 32. You have accepted responsibility for… …talking to each of your gamedevs about their progress Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 32 of 45
  • 33. One-on-ones (general framework) • Let them know whether or not they are meeting your expectations. Do not put this off. Do not avoid this discussion. • Answer any questions your gamedev may have. Listen to any feedback. • Ask probing questions. • I find 30 minutes to be a reasonable guideline. Times can vary greatly from gamedev to gamedev and situation to situation. Sometimes 10 minutes is perfect. Sometimes you need an hour or more.
  • 34. You have accepted responsibility for… ...helping each of your gamedevs to do exactly what they want to do with their professional careers Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 34 of 45
  • 35. One-on-one questions • What concrete, specific feedback would you like to have about yourself? • What has been the same for a long time that you think needs some more attention? • What do you find most difficult? • What do you find most frustrating? • Where do you feel like you are being held back? • Is there anything you feel is wasting your time? • What do you think I need to be more aware of or paying more attention to? • What do you think you need to be paying more attention to? • What do you consider your next big career step? What are you doing to get there?
  • 36. You have accepted responsibility for… ...taking measures to at least evaluate any potential problem any of your gamedevs may point out Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 36 of 45
  • 37. Regular team meetings too. (Not status updates.)
  • 38. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring what you say to each of your gamedevs is trustworthy Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 38 of 45
  • 39. I expect you to develop a leadership team.
  • 40. I expect you to be continuously training your team.
  • 41. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring each of your gamedevs have opportunities to learn and grow Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 41 of 45
  • 42. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring nobody in the studio is holding any of your gamedevs back from improving themselves in substantial ways Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 42 of 45
  • 43. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring each of your gamedevs’ time at the studio has improved their skills Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 43 of 45
  • 44. I expect you to help your team define their own goals and vision.
  • 45. You have accepted responsibility for… ...ensuring each of your gamedevs have the opportunity to contribute to decisions that affect them Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 45 of 45
  • 46. I expect you to hold each of your gamedevs accountable for their performance.
  • 47. You have accepted responsibility for… ...reminding each of your gamedevs to hold themselves to high quality standards and encouraging them to expect the same Mike Acton @mike_acton macton@insomniacgames.com Gamedev Studio Leader Responsibility 47 of 45
  • 48. Accountability: When things aren’t working • Set clear expectations. Double down. • Don’t be vague; Don’t cushion the blow. • Tackle problems early and hard. Small problems lead to large problems. • Make sure they can articulate expectations back • Keep good notes. Share them.
  • 49. Congratulations! If your team doesn’t trust you, it’s your fault.
  • 50. The minute you do not fear abusing power you stop becoming a good human leader of people and start turning into a monster ruling a tiny fiefdom by force.
  • 51. I expect you to treat your gamedevs like adults.
  • 52. I expect you to ensure each of your gamedevs are treated with respect.
  • 53. I expect you to address the ethical concerns of any of your gamedevs.
  • 54. I expect you to protect the health of each of your gamedevs. (Not babysitting.)
  • 55. Congratulations! If you don’t become a good lead, it’s my fault.
  • 56. All of those things I expect from you, you should in turn expect from me.
  • 57. Challenge me. • What do you think I need to be more aware of or paying more attention to? • Is there anything you’re doing that you’d like to bring attention to or for me to take more interest in? • Name one thing you might do differently in my position.
  • 58. I expect you to have a 90-day plan.
  • 59. I expect you to focus on developing yourself as a lead.
  • 60. I expect you to aggressively seek feedback.
  • 61. Collect and review honest data, somehow.
  • 62. I expect you to ask for help.
  • 63. I expect you to have some doubt.
  • 81. Other references Madelaine Beermann http://linkd.in/1H0IvE3 (Leading High Performance Teams) Keith Fuller http://www.fullergameproduction.com/ (Consultant Extraordanaire)