Candy Management EDUKWEST Academy

Beware of Candy Management

Editor’s Note: First appeared on wojtekskalski.com.


Some time ago at Brainly we coined term ‘candy management’ to describe a management style characterised by the following qualities:

  • implicit focus on good atmosphere over good results
  • very soft management style – lack of pressure / push for results
  • same management approach to the team members regardless of their seniority/skill level
  • giving much freedom to the team members in terms of both goals (or subgoals) and means to achieve them

Candy Management can be frequently found in startups who often promote anti-corporate culture without features considered to be typical for big corporations like: top-down management, harsh bosses, efficiency focus, hierarchy, official style, rat race, tedious tasks and so on. If this goes to far it’s easy to overlook the fact that startups should be even more oriented on results than big companies due to scarce resources.

I am not against awesome creative atmosphere that you can find in many startup teams. At least as long as it works and helps startup achieve its goals. Atmosphere is a mean, not a goal itself.

Atmosphere is a mean, not a goal itself.

Outcome always comes first. Fun – second. Outcome is a function of many factors including team effort, experience and motivation but also unpredictable technology changes, competitors’ moves or pure lack. The way you work with your team should depend on context – their seniority or current company priorities. For example novices in a field require much more guidance, well-defined tasks and often even micromanagement, than experts who perform better on their own and without supervision (see Dreyfus model for more details). If setup is wrong you should iterate with it. Being nice and giving freedom may work in some cases, but in others – may not. The most flawed thing about candy management is taking loose atmosphere for granted and putting means above goals.

Great atmosphere is always a result of great performance.

Great atmosphere is always a result of great performance. The opposite implication may or may not be true – it depends. It’s worth to give it a try but do not let yourself get overly attached.


Picture by Kevin Tao via Flickr

Wojtek Skalski is currently Head of Growth & Product at Brainly, global social learning network attracting over 60M unique users monthly. He is agile, lean, data-driven and results-oriented professional, continuously in search of the philosopher's stone of the online product development. Some remarks from this journey can be found at wojtekskalski.com.