What's the status?

If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, this would be it. And if you're anything like me, it will help you too. Get out of the weeds.

The devil is in the details

I can vividly recall one specific moment from my past. It was a Tuesday on a sunny summer day and my project manager asked me where I was with the feature I was working on. Fired up, I blasted from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds and kept going, rambling about some technical issues that we came across but which we overcame, some new things we found and which we had to take into account and some more things we needed to think about. "So, we're good?" - he asked hesitantly. I don't think I've ever noticed the confusion on his face and that I haven't actually answered his question.

Just recently I had a similar experience. This time, however, I was on the other side of the table. The moment my colleague proudly went through all the intricacies of his progress I felt lost. And then it hit me: so this is what I've been doing all my life.

What's the status

Typically, developers work on a single feature at a time. Managers, on the contrary, do many different things at the same time. In my job, for example, I have several responsibilities. One of them is ensuring that we're building the right things and ship them timely. So when asking about the status update, I'm actually looking for an answer to three questions:

  1. Are we still moving according to the plan?
  2. Is there anything in your way?
  3. If so, do you need any help?

It's not that I'm not interested in the tech behind our work. I've been building things all my life and secretly I still tinker with code. I have skilled colleagues and I trust their judgment. I don't need them to justify their decisions to me. All I need to know is if we're still proceeding according to the plan so that I can coordinate everything else and both devs and myself can get back to more important work at hand.

Get out of the weeds

So the next time your non-technical colleague asks you for a status update, try it. Answer the three questions I mentioned earlier. If they will want more details, they'll ask for them. But more likely they won't and they will leave you to your work knowing you have it under control.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash