I was talking to a co-worker this morning, about some of the challenges involved in managing a software project at a startup. We were sort of in agreement that many books on this subject barely apply to startups, particularly highly innovative startups, because much of their advice tends to be to “avoid X” where X is something that a startup can not avoid. For example:

  • The number of available workers will generally be much lower than the ideal number of concurrent tasks, forcing them to context-switch frequently between tasks.
  • The smaller number of workers also means less skill duplication, so there will be a greater difference in two workers’ effectiveness at performing the same task.
  • Requirements will be fluid and schedules will be tight, with very limited ability to push back as the books recommend.
  • Such startups tend to have a greater percentage of workers with extremely high skill levels and independent tendencies. When they go into the weeds, they go way into the weeds. Lower-skill workers are actually easier to manage in this regard.

Given these specific challenges, and others, I have a question for my readers. Do any of you know of any books or articles on managing projects in these kinds of environments, from either a manager’s or worker’s perspective? Or does someone need to write some? I don’t really consider myself qualified, but I’d be willing to throw some thoughts on this site over the next however-many months if there’s a void to be filled, and I’d even welcome suggestions – perhaps even random griping – on the subject. Any thoughts?