I have never been very good at organizing the work of other people. Yet I have managed to do a few things with which I am pleased, and in just a few I was a lead contributor. These are some recollections about how I manage to contribute in such situations.

In the cases which come to mind There was some new unconventional collection of old ideas that needed implementation. There were a few others, two to four, that shared the vision. In one case, Tymnet, there was a series of development stages each of which yielded an important benefit to the company. The longer term vision guided our short term rapid hacking of a system so that the resulting quick and dirty system could evolve into the grand scheme. Upper management did not see much beyond each stage but as development progressed we gained credibility. Most of the original vision indeed materialized in a largely gradual evolution of the network. For the record, I contributed no more than half of the vision, which was developed in just a few months of conversations during which we should have been doing something else.

The other project I will mention here was Keykos. Keykos lacked early stages which would yield benefits to the company. The roots of the vision were over a period of nearly a year when weekly scheduled 3 person bull sessions yielded the outlines of Keykos. We built on earlier capability designs but also developed new insights on the application of capability ideas.

That process was interrupted for a couple of years for the development of other urgent technologies. Then there came a time when the company was doing well and the Keykos project began officially with three people; I was the only one from the original team. The new team members came with backgrounds from other areas but there were only minor disagreements which were each resolved by the implementer of each section. Indeed I didn’t really assign projects to the other two. They understood the whole and we proceeded in tandem with, of course, much discussion and consultation. The other parts were not done quite like I would have, but they fitted together very well. The design was small enough so that each of us had a thorough understanding of the whole. This was due in no small part to the fortuitous availability of Augment, together with a new contagious passion for careful documentation of external properties of our product.

Another notable but more conventional time was when I managed a few operating system developers who enhanced operating systems from external sources. I had the main role of preventing either the programmers or marketing people from unduly irritating the other. This was in conjunction with guiding development in line with market needs.

In the current project I feel that I lack the elements which have helped me succeed in the past. I think that Bootstrap’s goals are vital but I have not developed the visceral sense of what needs to be done. The leader of the project needs to command considerable knowledge of available technology, where I have typically instigated new technology and we will not have time for that for some while. Nor am I good at seeking, motivating and coordinating others who do have these talents.