Avoid making decisions. Linus dixit

May 30, 2007

I just discovered this article on Linux kernel management style written by Linus Torvalds. It’s amusing and ironic in the best Linus style. For example, his first recommendation:

First off, I’d suggest buying “Seven Habits of Highly Successful
People”, and NOT read it. Burn it, it’s a great symbolic gesture.

I think these paragraphs summarize quite well the core of the philosophy:

So the name of the game is to avoid decisions, at least the big and painful ones. Making small and non-consequential decisions is fine, and makes you look like you know what you’re doing, so what a kernel manager needs to do is to turn the big and painful ones into small things where nobody really cares.

It helps to realize that the key difference between a big decision and a small one is whether you can fix your decision afterwards. Any decision can be made small by just always making sure that if you were wrong (and you will be wrong), you can always undo the damage later by backtracking. Suddenly, you get to be doubly managerial for making two inconsequential decisions – the wrong one and the right one.

Later he talks about how to put blame and criticize. I do strongly agree on how sense humor plays an important role here.

Some humor can help pad both the bluntness and the moralizing. Going overboard to the point of being ridiculous can drive a point home without making it painful to the recipient, who just thinks you’re being silly. It can thus help get through the personal mental block we all have about criticism.

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  2. can the manager avoid making decisions?


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