As we grow, we'll increase the number of managers at PostHog. Here's what a manager at PostHog looks like.
Defining the role of manager
A manager at PostHog has two tasks:
- Making sure their direct reports are happy and productive
- Setting the right context for direct reports to do their job
A manager at PostHog is not responsible for:
- Setting compensation (we have transparent compensation)
- Setting tasks for their direct reports
- Creating a career path (career paths should be transparent and documented, and for now centrally managed)
- "Approving," whether that's projects, expenses, days off or accounts (people should have admin access by default to most things)
- Giving feedback (managers give feedback in their capacity as individual contributor, but so does everyone else)
What does setting context mean?
At PostHog, we exclusively hire people that are the best in their field. That means managers won't need to spend time telling their direct reports what to do.
However, for those people to make the best decisions, they need context. That context can be:
- what a customer said was or wasn't important to them
- what the metrics are saying needs to be improved
- what another team in the organisation is working on
- what the overall goals are for PostHog
The shift here, and the biggest difference between PostHog and other places, is that in the end it is up to the individual to make the decisions. All you can do as a manager is set context. From there, you'll have to trust that we've made the right hiring decisions and that the individual is able to execute on that. If they can't, we have a generous severance policy.
Decisions aren't just about buying a piece of software or choosing a color for a button. It's also about what to work on, what to invest time in, or where to take entire parts of our product.
Again, we've hired the best people and have high talent density, so we trust everyone to make these kinds of decisions.
As a manager, it's tempting to see yourself as the sole owner of all the information, and give it out sparingly. People will come to you often with questions (because they don't have the context) and when they do you'll get more validation that holding all the context yourself makes you an Important Person.
What managers should aim for at PostHog is to make themselves obsolete. Share as much context as possible, preferably in written form in a public channel. That way everyone will be able to do their best work.
Because of the relatively short list of tasks that managers have, management at PostHog is a part-time job. That means everyone, including the CEO and CTO, still spend the majority of their time on practicing what they do best (which likely isn't management!).
As an engineer, you wouldn't respect the opinion of someone who can't code on a coding specific question. As a designer, you really want your manager to have an eye for design. As an operator, you want to be managed by someone who has scaled a business. That's why it's important for managers to keep practising their craft.
Management tasks do come first, as giving context to your team tends to have a multiplying effect vs getting one more PR out. After that though, it's back to work.
There are teams at PostHog that need to work across functions, so we have an anti-silo approach when it comes to the tasks that people work on.
- Task setting happens transparently in Small Teams. Anyone can read notes from or show up to any of the sprint planning meetings.
- Anyone can give feedback to anyone else on their priorities, and it's our expectation they do so.
- Every Small Team has complete control over what they ship.
This has the added benefit of cross functional teams forming as needed, whilst people having a specialist manager (i.e. an engineer managing engineers) as far as we are able.