Managing teams

Articles and posts about managing technology teams

You can’t wear the manager and the developer hats at the same time

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Computerworld Columns, Managing projects, Managing self, Managing teams | 0 comments

Here’s something that never works out well: A small project comes along, one that doesn’t necessarily need a full-time project manager. So it’s decided that one of the developers on the project can double as the project manager. After all, who better understands what needs to be done than the developer? That’s true, and many developers do make good project managers. There’s no inherent conflict between the type of person who makes a good developer and one who makes a good project manager. They’re both detail-oriented and results-driven. But it’s simply not possible to be a...

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Motivating the mercenaries

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Computerworld Columns, Emotion & cognition, Managing projects, Managing teams | 0 comments

Technology projects have long been staffed with a combination of employees and contractors, but now the balance is shifting toward heavier reliance on hired guns. If you’re a manager who’s being told to bring on contractors rather than hire full-time staffers, you need to be prepared for the implications of having a team that skews toward the temporary. Your focus is on getting your projects done, regardless of who is doing the work. To get there, you’ll need to motivate your people to perform, no matter where their loyalties lie. OK, I can hear your objections already:...

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The gifts and costs of working with ‘them’

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Computerworld Columns, Managing projects, Managing teams | 0 comments

Project postmortems, engaged with honesty and brutal dispassion, are among the most powerful tools for professional (and life) development. They offer a rare opportunity to claim the gifts of insight that lie dormant in experience. So I’d like to share some useful postmortem reflections at the end of an exhilarating and exhausting two-year project of writing a book with a co-author who is decidedly not one of us geeks. Writing a book is a grueling process, not unlike developing a technical system. It starts with vague and incomplete requirements, passes through stages of exciting...

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Even if you can’t measure it, you still must manage it

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Computerworld Columns, Managing teams | 0 comments

The other day, after speaking to an audience of technical people about the importance of building good relationships at work, a young help desk manager asked, “What metrics should I monitor for that?” I realized that he was trying to reconcile the importance of relationships with a conflicting tenet of his managerial faith that says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” We geeks love that idea. It meshes with our preference for objectively verifiable facts over squishy subjectivity. We find metrics comforting, having been taught to expect...

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Changing the Subject: The Real Power of Managers

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing sponsors & politics, Managing teams | 0 comments

If you want to really help your organization, one of the more subtle things you need to learn to do is to effectively change the subject. Over the years that I’ve advised technical managers, young and old, some patterns have become apparent. One is that most seem to go through a series of distinct stages in their understanding of the role of manager. There are different stages for different aspects of the role, but the patterns are relatively consistent. When it comes to beliefs about managers’ roles in information flow, the pattern is interesting and instructive. Stage 1: The...

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Fixing problems vs. fixing them in stone

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing teams | 0 comments

Tech people are steeped in the ways of problems. It’s one of the fundamental organizing principles behind nearly everything we do. We find problems, define them, analyze them and solve them. So it’s not surprising that when we move into managerial roles, we view ourselves as management problem-solvers. We fix people problems. And that’s often where the problems begin. Managerial issues usually first manifest as some sort of crisis: A project deadline is missed, a budget is blown, a client or user is unsatisfied, or a business process is broken. And, as good problem-solvers,...

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Sometimes It Takes a Tyrant to Support Collaboration

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Managing teams | 0 comments

Sometimes a manager needs to be a tyrant. On rare occasions, anything less is a disservice to one’s organization and an abdication of responsibility. Even the most open, consensus-oriented manager needs to be prepared to use dictatorial powers now and then. Those of you who are regular readers of this column are already familiar with my biases. My philosophy tends to fall toward the collaborative end of the managerial approach spectrum, where the other end of the scale is authoritarian. Knowledge work requires the free flow of information, ideas and, yes, knowledge. But on some things,...

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