Shit umbrella vs shit funnels

Shit umbrella vs shit funnels
3/4/2014 4:19:37 AM

I had not really heard the comparison of a “shit umbrella” vs a “shit funnel” but after having lived it and having words to describe the different types of managers it becomes amazingly obvious when you are in an org that has one vs the other.  This topic has been covered many times before so I will be happy in making you aware of some really good reads.  I just learned about these two types of management styles…so perhaps you haven’t heard of this before.

This recollection of a shit umbrella came about at a SXSW festival here in Austin at the “Gmail Behind The Scenes” panel.  Gmail product manager Todd Jackson said “You can either be a shit funnel or a shit umbrella”.  Apply the notion of a shit funnel to every manager you have ever had that put the woes of the world on his worker bees.  Every course change, date change, scope creep, and break in process that the team members feel causes them un-due grief.  This causes them to be inefficient in their day to day tasks.  Instead, keep the ship up right and pointed in the proper direction and shield your troops from as much chaos as possible.  Morale will improve!

Other reads:

Funnels vs. Umbrellas

In the Umbrella model, which is what I believe is absolutely necessary for success, you have a critical role in protecting the product, the team and your customers from these well-intentioned but harmful forces.  Now, please don't misunderstand.  Not all requests are harmful.  Some will help, and many won't matter one way or the other.  So you'll need to pick your battles.  For those battles worth fighting, the techniques I described in my earlier article are intended to help you do this in a constructive and effective way.

3 suggestions for engineering managers

The dichotomy between umbrella and funnel is first off a matter of attitude— a matter of whether you as a manager consider your primary purpose to be looking good in front of your own boss or being a good boss to the people who report to you.

The use of the term “Shit Umbrella” (an alternate perspective on the shit)

Take a deep breath. It's not Shit. It's the energy and chaos and spirit of People Doing what they Honestly Believe is the Best Thing They Could Be Doing. It's trying and sometimes failing and learning in the process. It's not perfect but what person or job or life is? Close your eyes and trust.

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