Dueling Principles

People sometimes confuse direction with dictation, both as an IC and a manager. One technique I often use is dueling principles. They are delivered two at a time and are contradictory. I ask the individual to use practical wisdom and judgment to make the final decision using the principles as guides. Here some examples I have used recently (in no particular order):

Work Principles

#On the one handOn the other hand
1When possible, promote from within rather than bring in external leadership.Don’t put people in a position if they can’t handle it.
2Each person is responsible for their own work-life balance. Push back when you can’t work any more/harder. Sometimes, we need to go above and beyond to achieve a short term goal.
3Always manage expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver.Don’t be so conservative with your estimates, that you kill the project and mislead leadership.
4Be proactive. Try things. See if they work. If they don’t you learn, fix, and move forward.Don’t make choices that lock you into a bad path in the future
5Designers are responsible for the end-user experience, not PM or Eng. We are collaborative and pragmatic. We will work with different parties to find the best solution given the constraints.
6Be pragmatic. The best UX is not always the right solution. Inspire. It’s our job to imagine a better way to do things and convince people.
7Show your video in Zoom. We are all humans who crave connection.Unless you can’t

Design Principles

#On the one handOn the other hand
1Easter eggs and fun are awesome!Don’t make it a circus. Stay classy San Diego.
2Consistency is more important than usabilityUsability is important!
3Things should be as simple as possible.But not simpler. (Don’t overcomplicate, but include enough to make it work)
4Great products are customizableBut use sensible defaults

There are many more, but I advise you to come up with your own list. Maintain a set of principles that help guide you. The point is that you can have too much or too little of anything. Balance is the key to a good life, a good product, and a good career.

If you have an interesting dueling principles, I would be eager to here it in the comments.


Whatya think?