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One of the things I think about when analyzing organizational behavior is where something falls on the supportive vs controlling spectrum. It's really impressive how much they're on the supportive end here.

When organizations scale up, and especially when they're dealing with risks, it's easy for them to shift toward the controlling end of things. This is especially true when internally people can score points by assigning or shifting blame.

Controlling and blaming are terrible for creative work, though. And they're also terrible for increasing safety beyond a certain pretty low level. (For those interested, I strongly recommend Sidney Dekker's "Field Guide to Understanding Human Error" [1], a great book on how to investigate airplane accidents, and how blame-focused approaches deeply harm real safety efforts.) So it's great to see Slack finding a way to scale up without losing something that has allowed them to make such a lovely product.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Understanding-Human-Error...




Having recently escaped from a "control and blame" environment, this is also horrible for releases as left unchecked, more energy is expended trying to double-down on architecting for perfection in fault tolerance. Risk aversion goes through the roof cripples decision making, and before you know it your entire team of developers have become full time maintenance coders, you stop innovating and spend cycles creating imaginary problems for yourself and begin slowly sinking.

We had a guy who more or less appointed himself manager when previous engineering manager decided he couldn't deal with the environment anymore, his insistence on controlling everything resulted in a conscious decision to destroy the engineering wiki and knowledge base and forced everyone to funnel through him-creating a single source of truth. Once his mind was made up on something, he would berate other engineers, other developers and team members to get what he wanted. Features stopped being developed, things began to fail chronically, and because senior leadership weren't made up of tech people-they all deferred to him-and once they decided to officially make him engineering manager (for no reason other than he had been on the team the longest-because people were beginning to wise up and quit the company), the entire engineering department of 12 people except for 2 quit because no one wanted to work for him.

Imagine my schadenfreude after leaving that environment to find out they were forced to close after years of failing to innovate, resulting in the market catching up and passing them. Never in my adult life have I seen a company inflict so many wounds on itself and then be shocked when competitors start plucking customers off like grapes.


For those for whom this excellent description has resonance, I strongly recommend the book, "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men". [1] It's nominally written about domestic abuse, but its descriptions of abuser psychology and its taxonomy of abuser behaviors have been really helpful to me in a work context.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Why-Does-He-That-Controlling-ebook/dp...


This extends to other aspects of their ecosystem. I've shipped applications for most of the major app ecosystems and Slack's was literally the _only_ one where it really felt like they wanted to help me get things set up correctly and help me ship something.

The reviewer rejected my Slack add-on twice, but was really nice about it, gave specific reasons, encouraged me to fix it and reapply, etc.

A very pleasant experience compared to some of the other systems where it feels like you're begging to be capriciously rejected.


Yes, I did some translation work for a global engineering company whose approach to achieving "zero fatal accidents" was exactly what you suggest. Instead of placing the blame on people for not following the rules, they identify the ultimate cause and fix the problems with their systems that made the accident possible in the first place.




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