The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 60

Debate! Flat vs. Hierarchical Organizations

with Farhan Thawar & Jerry Krikheli

Sep 14, 2021
Welcome to our community’s FIRST DEBATE! Farhan Thawar (VPE @ Shopify) & Jerry Krikheli (Sr. Director of Engineering @ Facebook) hash out which org structure should rule them all… Should you go flat? Or should you become a hierarchy? In this debate, you'll hear how each structure impacts culture, innovation, and velocity!
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SPEAKERS

Farhan Thawar VP of Engineering @ Shopify

Farhan Thawar is currently VP, Engineering at Shopify via the acquisition of Helpful.com where he was co-founder and CTO. Previously he was the CTO, Mobile at Pivotal and VP, Engineering at Pivotal Labs via the acquisition of Xtreme Labs. He is an avid writer and speaker and was named one of Toronto's 25 most powerful people. Prior to Xtreme, Farhan held senior technical positions at Achievers, Microsoft, Celestica, and Trilogy. Farhan completed his MBA in Financial Engineering at Rotman and Computer Science/EE at Waterloo. Farhan is also an advisor at yCombinator and holds a board seat at Optiva (formerly Redknee).

"When you look at any startup, when you think of innovation coming from like the ground up... Those startups don't start off with a hierarchy, right? They don't say, 'wait a sec... we're going to set up this... and we'll have a manager... And then we'll have an individual contributor...'

They try to set up to be as flat as possible because that's how, most people feel it will create an environment which is more innovative, or the ideas can be treated as more equal."

- Farhan Thawar

Jerry Krikheli Senior Director Of Engineering @ Facebook

Jerry Krikheli is the VP of Engineering at Houzz where he oversees all infrastructure, platform, and engineering across Consumer, Marketplace, and Industry Solutions initiatives. Prior to Houzz, Jerry was an engineering director at Google responsible for developing early versions of the display ad serving infrastructure and launching YouTube ads as well as video ads on mobile apps. He has a passion for building high-performing systems, products, and people.

"If you have inept or inefficient managers, then you can end up having a very inept or an efficient organization. The middle management actually becomes the most critical piece of a hierarchical organization.

If you get that right, then you get excellence recursively. And if you get that wrong, then you get mediocrity recursively.

- Jerry Krikheli


This Episode Is Brought To You By

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Show Notes

  • The rules of the debate (2:45)
  • Opening Statement: Why hierarchical organizations? (3:39)
  • Opening Statement: Why flat organizations? (6:25)
  • Culture in flat organizations (9:09)
  • Culture in hierarchical organizations (10:55)
  • Culture rebuttals (14:19)
  • Innovation in flat organizations (19:49)
  • Innovation in hierarchical organizations (22:01)
  • Innovation rebuttals (24:57)
  • Velocity in hierarchical organizations (26:05)
  • Velocity in flat organizations (28:42)
  • Closing Statements on Flat vs. Hierarchical (30:16)

Transcript

The Rules of the Debate

Patrick: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us today. For our audience for everybody tuning in both parties have agreed ahead of time on the rules and format of the debate. They actually have not heard any of these rules. So this is the first time they're being proposed. But for the sake of this conversation in the metaphor, they've agreed to these rules ahead of time.

So here are the rules. We expect a clean debate, no funny business, especially no touching of the hair or face. Each person will get two minutes for an opening statement. And then we'll get into a few topics chosen by the candidates. So we'll talk about culture, innovation, and velocity.

And then each candidate will get two minutes for a closing statement. We may have an opportunity for a question from our town hall. So if you were in the audience, have a question, submit them ahead of time. They'll be screened by our committee to make sure that they are. Good to go.

Uh, So with that, Jerry, since you won the coin toss backstage... you'll be going first. So gentlemen, to begin our match, what I need you to do is to fist bump the screen, and then we'll begin.

Opening Statement: Why hierarchical organizations?

Patrick: Boom. Okay. Now let's jump into our opening statements,

Jerry, since you've won the toss, you'll be going first. So Jerry kick us off, make us an opening statement about hierarchy as an org design structure.

Jerry: Well, thanks so much, Patrick. So first of all, let me just say that in any organizational design, there's a lot of different options and it's not necessarily that one organizational structure is better than another. It's more that it's critical to know which organizational structure is better. And when to use which style in this particular case, I'll try to argue that I think a hierarchical organizational style, although, in some ways less popular because it has more of a derogatory connotation because it's hierarchical... actually provides a lot of flexibility in terms of scale.

Because in general, you can actually incorporate a flat organizational style into a hierarchy as well because many large organizations have siloed teams or have different parts of the organization that are run completely independently.

And if you think about a hierarchical organization as a tree structure. Then within each branch of the tree, you can actually practice a flat organizational style as well. You can have a pretty large fan out in each branch of the tree and give a lot of independence to whoever the manager is for any given branch.

Another advantage I would say of hierarchical style is that it easily allows for geographic distribution and a variety of talent composition. If you have a flat style and you have a large variation in talent. It's pretty difficult to move quickly. Because you're not going to have every person comparable to all other people, whereas in a hierarchical organization if you want to have a ninja team, you can easily accommodate for that and collect the group of ninjas, have them execute in specific areas with full autonomy, and then have the rest of the organization unchanged.

More importantly, it easily allows for geographical and nowadays remote distribution, because it's very easy to pick specific projects, place them in particular geographies and have them operate independently.

And finally, a flat style becomes harder and harder to manage as the N, the number of people in that organization, scale. It becomes more difficult to communicate and it becomes more difficult to coordinate.

You end up having like end-to-end communication as opposed to one-to-one communication or org to org communication. Which is why in most larger organizations or when organizations scale. If you look at the structure for governments, or if you look at the structure for corporations, or even the military, for that matter. In most instances, kind of human society has evolved into a hierarchical structure just because it tends to naturally... size tends to naturally gravitate in that direction.

Opening Statement: Why flat organizations?

Patrick: Jerry. Thank you so much for your opening statements. Farhan, your opening statements. I'll leave the floor for you.

Farhan: Great. Thanks. Jerry, I can't believe you said government is a good example of hierarchy! I think you're just walking right into a trap there! We all know that governments are not actually designed to get many things done in an effective manner. So I think maybe you're... you're giving me some points there!

So the reason I really admire the flat structure, is actually because what you're seeing is a... you don't want to have a big distance between the CEO and individual contributor.

I've definitely been in many situations whereby you've got a management chain that has a broken telephone effect. And in many companies that end up diluting the information that goes back to the CEO.

I remember this at a large company I worked at about 10 years ago, where we would have red light, green light, yellow light on our slides showing how things are going. And red lights would turn to yellow lights as it went up the chain and would eventually be green lights when it got to the CEO.

And so I think there's information lost there. When you look at really effective leaders, you'll find that they tend to cut through any sort of hierarchy that's in place anyway. So if you look at like a Warren Buffet who has 250 direct reports, actually, because he sets individual compensation for all of those CEOs and there is no hierarchy in between.

When I was running a startup called Extreme Labs, I had 120 direct reports. It was actually quite manageable. And the reason for that is people tend to fall back on the management techniques and they just use it as like a checklist.

So for example, you know, maybe people have read somewhere you should have one manager for 10 direct reports, five managers to a director. So they just blindly implement these things without understanding what they're trying to implement. And I think that's the downside to hierarchies. That it just tends to be set at some... in someplace in the company as a standard, and then everybody rolls it out. Whereas it should be different for different teams and can be much, much flatter.

I remember you, you came from Google. I know Google had a few experiments around having 30 or 50 direct reports to a manager as an experiment to see. Could we get more done? There's actually a great line. One of my friends from McKinsey says, which is "Managers create work for each other."

So when you have managers and they may work for other managers, that's not real work! Customers are not seeing that impact. And actually, all it is is just sucking up the air in the room. And we know that there's no way to actually figure out what part of that work is effective because you know, smart folks will just do work right? For 40 hours a week. And you'll never know if that's actually manageable.

So what I would say is there are actually ways to create a flat structure, shorten the distance of communication to the CEO and have people really enjoy their, their work life. I know that at Extreme Labs, many of my former employees come back and say that they wish they could find that type of environment again because they were able to get so much done without any managers in between.

Culture in flat organizations

Patrick: Thank you so much Farhan. Jerry, thank you again for your statement. So you both have laid out a good high-level case for why for hierarchy or why, why for flat.

So for the next portion of our debate, we're going to be diving into a couple of specific topics of a couple of key categories.

Our first category is culture. And so for this Farhan, I'd like to turn to you first to give you an opportunity to answer. And then Jerry you'll have an opportunity to rebuttal as well.

So Farhan, can you talk a little bit more about culture as it relates to a flat organization?

Farhan: Sure. I would say the biggest takeaway for me in a flat organization is that what you try to figure out is where the individual contributor is getting feedback from and how they're learning in the organization.

In many companies, people feel like the craft leader can only be the manager. And so they're learning directly with the manager and the manager is probably spending one to two hours a week with that person and helping...

And maybe, you know, if you read high output management, right. That one or two hours of input can be very valuable and it can maybe drive 20 or 40 hours of work. But that's not always the case.

And I saw this again, working at large companies where my one-on-one was over a three-year period where I wouldn't say led to any useful output. Even though I was doing them every week.

Versus in a flatter organization, you tend to be... you tend to set up a structure where you're learning from your peers. And with your peers you're actually... if it can be high fidelity and intense, you can learn from them on 20, 40 hours a week because you're collaborating so much.

And the flat structure really allows this, especially when you've got many, many more people than just five or 10 in your peer group. Imagine 40 50 in my case, a hundred, 120. Warren Buffet has 250. Right.

All of that... they're learning from each other. And that actually I find is much more effective from a cultural standpoint, because it's part of... it's not part of the one-on-one that happens once a week, it just happens as part of your everyday working hours.

Culture in hierarchical organizations

Patrick: Thank you Farhan. Jerry, your response?

Jerry: Sure. So first of all, let me kind of address the government issue. It's not that all governments are bad. It's just governments with bad people are generally bad.

And I think that's also emblematic of... if you think about a hierarchy... at the end of the day, it's not so much the problem that the problem is not that there's a hierarchy.

The problem is that if you have inept or bad managers in the hierarchy, then they create worse and worse organizations or they apply a "Peter Principle" where in general, if you keep promoting and promoting people within a hierarchy and you know that you promote them to a level of incompetence, then you end up having only incompetent people in management levels. And that's a terrible way to run an organization.

I think Google, to some extent, solved this problem explicitly by only promoting people to the next level when they've already been functioning well at that level. And that essentially guarantees that you don't end up in this Peter Principle, where you have inept managers.

On the contrary, you ended up taking people that are very capable at the level below and are already operating at the level above. And then you put very capable people at a level higher to mentor the people below them.

I think one thing from a cultural perspective that a hierarchy allows is it enables multiple cultures to evolve within a single organization. Because if you think about a hierarchy and you have various branches, each branch has actually allowed to have its own culture and to develop its own culture. Typically in a flat organization, you certainly have an evolution of culture, but that culture tends to be monotonic because if you have too many cultures at the same time, it becomes much more difficult to get things done.

And so you end up having an environment where you ended up having to hire a lot more people that are very similar and have similar viewpoints because otherwise, it would be difficult for them to execute.

Naturally, in a hierarchy, each branch of the hierarchy can hire different types of people and you can have multiple cultures that kind of coincide at the same time.

As I mentioned at the same time, it is a lot easier to scale a hierarchical organization because even if one branch is dysfunctional, it doesn't mean that all branches are dysfunctional. They're somewhat independent in that regard. And you can see this in many organizations, especially... even large successful companies have departments that are very successful and very efficient.

And in some cases, you even have departments in a hierarchical organization that has a very large fan-out factor. To Farhan's point, I used to manage 30 people directly before we... Just, it became untenable from an individual perspective and you couldn't assign as much attention.

But that's why I began to become more of a believer that at some point, in order to scale effectively, you need to have some sort of a hierarchy because Google did start out with a model that used to have a very, very large fan-out per director. And it became detrimental to the individual contributors underneath that Director. Because although they had complete independence, they had very little attention and you could give them very little feedback as a consequence.

I think in a hierarchy, you have a lot more of an opportunity to have a diversity of different cultures and you have a lot more of an opportunity to have diversity of management styles.

For a manager, the most important thing is just getting the management, right. Because I think Farhan aptly pointed out, that if you have inept or inefficient managers, then you can end up having a very inept or inefficient organization.

And so the middle management actually becomes the most critical piece of a hierarchical organization. If you get that right, then you get excellence, recursively. And if you get that wrong, then you get mediocrity recursively.

Culture rebuttals

Patrick: Thank you, Jerry... Farhan, I like to give you 30 seconds for response rebuttal if you'd like to respond.

Farhan: Sure. Yes. So, you know, back to the government point, I think what I was saying there is that it's not a model that most companies try to emulate, right? Like, "Hey, this is the hierarchy that we think is an efficient organization."

On the feedback point, what I think makes more sense is to develop a feedback culture whereby the teams and the customers, and the peers are giving feedback. So you're not dependent on like trying to get 30 or 15 minutes with your manager, which allows you to have that much, much larger fan out.

And I would say the last thing is... I mean, we do the same thing at Shopify, which is like we want to make sure that people who get promoted perform well in the level before they do get promoted. But it's still because of a management layer, possible in any company to hide more easily when there are lots of managers around because there is all sorts of work that can be generated from that level.

Patrick: Jerry, do you have a response?

Jerry: Yeah. I mean, I think at the end of the day in any organization, the excellence of that organization is going to be a function of the people in the organization and the management. Top-down, I would say management culture of the organization.

If the management believes in effective middle management and they hire and try to optimize for that, then you're going to get a pretty well functioning organization.

To Farhan's point, if you drop the ball and you start promoting people based on popularity or based on whoever can get along with the most number of people, as opposed to who can effectively lead organizations and obviously have is collaborative. Then you end up getting much better results, even as you have larger and larger organizations.

Naturally, the more people involved in anything, the more difficult it becomes, right? In some ways, not to get kind of too political, but the more people that vote for something, the harder it is to make a decision on something because there's a lot of opinions in the room. And so in that regard, when you have hierarchies or when you start to break things down, that's like problem-solving.

If you, if you break things down into pieces or you divide and conquer, it's easier to solve a piece of a problem than to have more and more people try to solve the same problem at the same time.

I think even within flat organizations, you naturally end up selecting a subset of those... of the people in the organization to make some key decisions. Otherwise, you just end up having endless debates. And it's very difficult to draw consensus as the number of N increases in any given debate.

Innovation in flat organizations

Patrick: Thank you, Jerry.

I think that segues into our next topic really, really naturally. So topic number two, we wanted to touch on was innovation. And so you just laid out a little bit of a case of more opinions, equal more time. Which to extend that a little bit means maybe less innovation.

And so, I think, to open this up, I'd say Farhan, if you'd like to open up about flat organizations as it relates to innovation, the floor is yours.

Farhan: Yeah. It actually segues nicely because Jerry said something that I think I'm super worried about, which is... that you want to break ties or have opinions of like the hierarchical leaders matter more than the individuals on the team. Right? Because they're used as tiebreakers.

I think that's dangerous because what you really do want is like an idea of meritocracy and you want that, whatever the management layer looks like, whether flat or more hierarchical, to be more like air traffic control to help the teams not run into each other. Versus saying, well, I'm the director and I'm the most senior person here. So let's go with my opinion.

And so the same idea makes sense for innovation because you do want to have the best ideas float to the top. And from what I see in some of your arguments, Jerry, I think you can still get them without having to worry about a very strict hierarchy.

So for example, you could have multiple teams working on things, that doesn't mean that they have to have individual managers to manage them.

Even though it might be a team of, like I said, I was running a team of 120 people which were probably 60 different teams. So it didn't matter that they didn't have the individual managers.

I think that the idea of 'mistake making' and allowing the teams to make their own mistakes and not being like rubber stamped or accountable by a manager is actually a very important concept. Because right now in big companies, what happens is you work on some project and then some executive wants to put their stamp on it or have to have sign off on it. And very late in the project, they might overrule some, you know, decision that was made very early, early on in a project.

Versus, having a flatter hierarchy and actually saying to the manager, "Hey, your job is not actually to be accountable. It's to actually run this machine."

Let the responsibility be pushed down to the individual by individual teams. And if THEY go out, get feedback, and or fail... that's okay. Because that's part of the experimental culture we're trying to build.

Innovation in hierarchical organizations

Patrick: Jerry, your response.

Jerry: Sure. I don't think that there's anything inherently wrong in a hierarchical organization that prevents managers from not necessarily being decision makers, but more like decision facilitators.

I think that there is a presumption in hierarchical organizations. And in fact, I would say that's almost a hierarchical organization done wrong when the person at the top and recursively applied every person in a management position has to have a stamp of approval.

In a good, well functioning, hierarchical organization, every node of a tree ends up having an opinion. And in some cases, you know, anybody who's at the vertex, could be a facilitator. And in many cases you allow everybody... and if you have a team you can have even a large fan out. And the manager basically plays the role of gatekeeper where they're allowing everybody to have an opinion.

And so you could have a meritocracy of opinions, synthesize all of those opinions. And then either roll them up or present the top three to your manager and subsequently, so on and so forth. So it doesn't necessarily have to be that the manager is always the decider. In fact, some of the best managers are the best listeners.

And so they essentially facilitate the conversation across their teams and they make sure that every person on the team has an opinion that's being heard and given an opportunity to speak. And then take the best ideas and either have them be voted on by a group or collect as many as possible and then present them to their manager and sub-test so on and so forth, until the best ideas surface.

I think the failure of execution in such organizations is specifically when you have managers that function in a hierarchical style. And then it's the job of an organization, whether it's flat or hierarchical, to weed out managers that have those tendencies because I think that's where the failure occurs. It's not so much that the problem is the hierarchy. The problem is the execution within the hierarchy itself and how you end up executing.

Lastly, I think that ideas or how ideas are generated is more philosophical. If the organization is open and allows for a natural democracy of ideas, then any individual, regardless of how far down in the chain they are... if they're given an opportunity and their managers present it such that they're given an opportunity to escalate their ideas, then those ideas will naturally gravitate to the top. And I've seen that happen even in fairly large organizations or smaller organizations that grew organically.

When you had good people presented with good ideas, then those ideas ended up escalating. The problem occurs is when the manager either presents those ideas as their own. Or only prefers their own ideas to be escalated for the sake of getting themselves promoted or whatnot. And then you end up having a cultural failure. But that's more of a person failure. But those are just bad managers, as opposed to the structure itself being inherently in a position that doesn't allow people to express their opinions or have those opinions escalated up.

Innovation rebuttals

Patrick: Thank you, Jerry. Farhan, I'll give you about 30 seconds for a response, and then I want to make sure we have time for, our third topic.

So Farhan your, your response.

Farhan: Sure cool well, yeah, I think like Jerry, I'm agreeing with you on some of those points, except that, that you really have to thread the needle. Like a lot of your comments are around like, "well, you have to have good managers and well, you have to promote correctly and well, you have to hire correctly..."

and I think you know, not every company is like a Shopify or a Houzz that can get those things right. So that you've got a management layer in there that is effective and can help all of the, you know, company execute.

In most cases, all of those things actually anywhere it's super hard to do. So while it's nice to say, Hey, yeah, you just have to do this X, Y, and Z. I find it in practice extremely difficult, and some orgs can get it right and some can't.

The other point I'll make is that when you look at any startup, when you think of innovation coming from like the ground up, those startups don't start off with a hierarchy, right? They don't say like, 'wait a sec, we're going to be set up like this and we'll have a manager. And then a individual contributor... '

like they try to set up to be as flat as possible because that's how they, you know, most people feel it will create an environment which is more innovative or the ideas can be treated. as more equal.

Velocity in hierarchical organizations

Patrick: Thank Farhan. Jerry, I wanted to call to one thing you had mentioned beforehand about the process of rolling up ideas and the meritocracy of ideas.

Our third topic is about velocity. I think one, one criticism that may come up of that process may be around velocity... so I was wondering if you could make opening remarks on our topics about velocity as it relates to hierarchical organizations.

Jerry: Sure. I'll sort of make one comment in terms of startups. And the reason that startups have higher velocity is that they typically have almost by definition most startups start small. That's why they're called startups. And so it's easier to have faster velocity when there's fewer people and opinions in the room. In some cases there's even prevailing thoughts around if you want to make a project go faster, reduce the number of people on the project as opposed to increase the number of people on the project.

So I do think that there's fundamental benefits to having a smaller group. And the smaller the number of people that you have involved. The more I actually do believe that you can have flat style versus a hierarchical style.

At the same time I think that if you have a major initiative that you want to pursue, in some instances having a hierarchical organization allows... although maybe it's bad too, put it in the terms of command and control... It's easier to have directives in a hierarchical organization because you can funnel them down more efficiently.

And then if you have every layer of the organization sign off on those directives. Or everybody believes that this is the right path for the company and this is the right direction. And as Jeff Bezos puts it, if, you know, "Even if people that disagree, they disagree and commit."

You ended up having fairly efficient execution within a larger organization. And so you can steer a fairly large ship well, if all the different layers within that organization align on a particular goal.

However, from an innovation perspective it becomes trickier because by definition, the larger the organization, the more ideas get generated. In many cases, it's easier to lose specific ideas somewhere in the process.

But from a velocity perspective, if you're trying to execute on a large project then having a hierarchy, in some cases, is a lot easier to get that execution done. Then, if you have 200 people that you have to convince to go in a particular direction and every single person has their own opinion, because by definition, there is no leader involved.

Imagine how many sidebar conversations you have to have? Because by definition in a meritocracy, the merit of any one given individual's idea has to be better than all the rest. And so you have a lot of convincing to do and a lot of people to persuade, versus in a hierarchical organization, where if you pick a direction and you can convince only the managers in that organization, that this is the right path. And they sign off on it. Then you can kind of get that execution going a lot faster.

Velocity in flat organizations

Patrick: Thank you, Jerry. Farhan, your response.

Farhan: Yeah, I think it's, again, a bit dangerous to think that the authority only comes from being someone's manager. I agree with what you said about having certain sets of folks who you can help convince, who can then help convince like other people in the organization. I'm just worried that the only way to do that is because you've got the title of manager or director, or it has to come like top-down.

One of the best ways I've seen innovation... combination of innovation and velocity flourish, is that you've actually got people who are best situated to make those kinds of decisions. And they don't necessarily have to be a manager. Right. So imagine even just squads of a team who have like, whether design, engineering, and product and different leaders emerged from that. Not HR leaders, not like direct reports, but actually leaders with opinions or they're best situated to make decisions around either designing UX or technical decisions or product decisions.

And I find that those teams tend to thrive because there is a push and pull between those peers versus saying, well, "Hey, from the top, where I'm doing this and because I'm, your manager is why you should do it."

And so I think that you can get that same sort of effect. And remove the extra potential depending on the organization... baggage that comes around with managers, because you're, those are people who are necessarily, or maybe only in part contributing to the actual output of the product. Versus individual contributors who're all working to build the thing, right?

When you've got lots of layers and those people are not directly involved in building the thing. It's just a strict overhead.

Closing Statements on Flat vs. Hierarchical

Patrick: Thank you Farhan.

So we want to transition to closing statements to give you both one minute at a time to, to end this. I want to break the fourth wall a little bit and just say like, this has been so much fun having this conversation with, with both of you. And I know that both of you have been able to played along and had a lot of fun and taken, you know, the extreme of your position. I think it's just really powerful and, and looking at the chat and what's going on there, I think people have seen this conversation is really refreshing and different and really enriching because you two have really put a lot of critical thought into, into these positions.

So this has just been a ton of fun, just breaking the fourth wall. But so with that to bring it back in... all right. I'd like to give the two candidates one minute for closing statements.

So for this one, we'll have Jerry, you can kick it off with your closing statement.

Jerry: Sure. As I mentioned at the beginning, I think as fun as it is to debate flat versus hierarchical, I think the most critical thing is to know. You know, it's less about which style and to know when to use which style.

And obviously, I think if a team is small, then you're able to get away with having a flat organizational style. As the team scale, or as the company scale a hierarchical style makes a lot more sense and provides a lot more flexibility.

More importantly, if you have diversity of talent and not everybody is as good as everybody else. Or to Farhan's point, if not, you know, everybody is a Houzz engineer or a Shopify engineer or a Google Facebook engineer. And you end up in instances where the managers are more capable than the individuals then I think hierarchical organizations actually provide for much more efficiency in that particular regard.

But even if you do have ubiquity of style and everybody has fairly comparable skills, I still think that hierarchical organizations scale in an easier fashion, as long as you have effective managers that are open, transparent, and allow the facilitation, and also the transference of ideas up the chain.

Lastly, it's very important to have managers be multipliers rather than adding cruft into the ecosystem or just basically being dead weight. A good manager is a good multiplier. And so if they have four people on their team. Then the net output will be more than four or five, whatever it is.

A bad manager is essentially just add overhead. And in that particular regard, yes, a hierarchical organization wouldn't be as efficient if the managers within that organization aren't as efficient.

And so ultimately just comes down to hiring good people, whether it's a flat organization or a hierarchical one.

Patrick: Thank you, Jerry. Farhan... your closing remarks.

Farhan: Cool. Thanks Jerry. Yeah, I think that... and then Patrick,

I think that there is a, there's a point there that I agree with Jerry, which is that you have to choose the right structure based on what you're trying to build at the time.

What I would say though, is I would tend more to start with flat for as long as possible and likely push it much farther than most people would. Because I do feel that there are people who automatically move to some other desired state much too early.

So the idea that, "Hey, after I have 10 engineers, I probably need a manager or after I have 50, I probably need a director..." I think is misguided.

Of course people matter. Not everyone wants to, or feels like they want to be capable to have like a hundred direct reports or so.

I remember talking to the VP of Engineering at Twitter, they had 83, he had 80 direct reports before it split. I think most people should try to push it farther than they are comfortable with because of the velocity increase. Because of the ability to have everybody working on the product vs. people trying to manage the people who were working on the product.

And so my default view is go flat. Try to figure out of course have great people. Like everybody wants great people. Easier to say than, than to do... but to have a flatter structure than a, than a hierarchical one, whenever that trade-off comes about.

And then of course, as you have to break it off... even for me at 120, I had to break it, break the model and start putting in more management. But I think it's different for not just situation. But different per person, depending on what company you're in.

And I think we should push it much farther to flatter. Versus if you do a survey it's probably 99% hierarchical and 1% flat in the world. I think it should be much more the pendulum swing much more towards flat for the next little while, while we figure out what that structure could mean.

Patrick: Jerry, Farhan, thank you both so much for your sportsmanship and for having fun with us while diving into such a critical topic. I mean, there's so many interesting lessons at the extremes of these strategies, and I think you two did an incredible job about really pulling out some of the most powerful and interesting considerations and essentials of, of pursuing these different strategies and just appreciated your final remarks about choosing the one that works best for your situation and your strategy.

I think that's a very powerful way to close the debate. Now it's up for the world of engineering leaders to decide!

Jerry: Thanks so much, Patrick, for hosting!

Farhan: Thank you. Great!

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