Casting Lines

Early in my time at Facebook I realized the hard way that I couldn't do everything myself and for things to be sustainable I needed to find ways to work with other people on the problems I cared about.

But how do you do that in practice? There are lots of techniques from various courses, training, tips... In this note I'm going to explain the technique I'm using the most that has been very successful for me: "casting lines".

So you want something to happen, let say implement a feature in a tool. The first step is to post a message in the feedback group of the tool explaining what the problem is and what you want to happen. It's fine if it's your own tool. The objective here is that you have something you can reference when talking to people, you can send them the link with all the context. It can also be an issue on a github project, a quip, a note... the form doesn't matter as long as you can link to it.

If the thing is already on people's roadmap or already implemented under a gk, then congratz, you win. But most likely it is not.

This is where you start "casting lines". The idea is that anytime you chat with someone, whether it is in 1-1 meetings, group conversations, hallway chat... and the topic of discussion comes close (for a very lax definition of close), you want to bring up that specific feature: "It would be so awesome if we could do X". At you see the reaction. If that person feels interested, you then start to get them excited about them building it. Find ways it connects to their strengths, roadmap, career objectives... and of course send them the link.

In practice, the success rate of this approach, in the moment, is small because people usually don't have nothing to do right now and can jump on shipping a feature that they never thought about. But if you keep casting lines consistently in all your interactions with people, at some, point someone will bite.

The more lines you cast, the more stuff are going to get done.

While this technique has been very effective at getting things done at scale, there are drawbacks to this approach. The biggest one being uncertainty around timelines. Unless someone bites, you don't know when something will be done. Some of my lines are still up from many years ago.

PS: while researching for this note, I learned that the fishing technique shown in the cover photo is called "Troll Fishing".

If you liked this article, you might be interested in my Twitter feed as well.
 
 

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