The importance of observing and learning

Sat, Oct 15, 2022       2-minute read

A while back, I got rejected at interview for a Head of Engineering role. The reason? They couldn’t tell what models or theories I would implement were they to hire me.

As it happens, there’s a very good reason they couldn’t tell what I would come in and change: I knew almost nothing about the company.

You might think the expectation was reasonable—any executive, head-of, or senior leader coming into an organisation should have very clear plans on how to improve that organisation, right? That’s why they’re being hired, after all.


Well, it takes longer than a few hours to gather the relevant information and context to be effective. Maybe you’ll be in a good position by the end of your first month on the job, but it could easily take longer.

There’s a reason people talk about the ‘first 90 days’. It’s the amount of time you generally need to sit back, observe the chaos everyone is taking for granted, and use your prior knowledge and experience to form a sound plan to make things better.

If I’m interviewing someone who claims to know exactly what changes to make before they’re even through the door, that’s a massive red flag. If I let them in and they follow through, they’ll make assumptions, change things they don’t fully understand, and piss off everyone who works for them.

Effective leaders take the time to observe and learn before acting.