Estimated reading time: 3 mins
I was in a deep-thought moment and struck upon this analogy!
Managing Techies is like driving a car because…
- You have to steer it, but you shouldn’t try to turn the wheels yourself – techies need direction and guidance, but really don’t want you to do their job for them, so don’t attempt it. A common mistake made by new managers in IT is to want to control everything and make every technical decision. Bad Mistake. Techies like their room and need to express themselves – notwithstanding any policies or best-practice you mandate.
- Knowing what gear the car is in helps – like a car, techies won’t reach top speed if it’s in the wrong gear. Managers must be able to sense the morale of their team quickly to provide motivation. Increasing workload is pointless if the team is feeling overworked or under-valued. Equally, easing off allocating tasks is the wrong thing to do if the team is ready for a challenge.
- Regular servicing is essential – techies are a curious bunch as we all know. They (we?) require a lot of attention and need to be taken care of. Manager who hold regular one-to-one meetings with the team see that this is time well spent as they will hear about the many issues that get in the way of productive work. Techies are not unique in this way, but in my experience they require more attention than most workers.
- Keep your eyes on the road ahead – technology is a constantly changing environment, so today’s technology will be obsolete tomorrow. IT Managers keep their eye on the developments in technology to ensure they build skills and capabilities in their team to keep up, preferably ahead of the curve. Like driving, the further you can see clearly ahead, the greater you can anticipate changes in the environment. I spend about 2 hours a week reading industry magazines and websites to keep in touch with recent technology developments as they move from ‘hype’ to business adoption. In doing so I can anticipate the research my team will need to conduct to understand the skills gap.
- Use Turning Signals – a change in focus or direction of the team, or even an adjustment to a process or procedure, should really happen after some kind of signal. Changing direction suddenly can create chaos in teams, as well as in traffic. Techies are fervently wedded to their choice of technology, sometimes religiously. A trivial change to you might mean the sky if falling in to someone else. Managers can ease in changes by socializing proposals and ideas before they’re put into action so that subordinates have time to adjust and accept the changes. This also gives subordinates an opportunity to contribute to the proposals, or challenge them.
- Use Your Mirrors – a synonym for looking back occasionally. Managers should perform regular reviews of processes, of team performance or after projects have completed, for example, to gain learning. Technology is complex, as are technology people, so reviewing the past gives managers and subordinates valuable information on what worked, and what didn’t. If you don’t look back, you don’t know where you’ve come from.
- Constantly check gauges – savvy managers understand the importance of frequently using detailed information to measure the performance of the team, such as using 360 degree feedback to measure perception of performance by colleagues, or monitoring key performance indicators (such as faults found, support tickets outstanding, etc). Managers don’t just manage by feel and anecdotes alone, just as you wouldn’t sensibly drive without a speedometer, fuel gauge or oil pressure gauge.
- Crank up the speed = increase the risk – managers must understand that the faster they want a piece of technical work done (beyond reasonable expectations), the greater the risk to the quality or cost of the result, and the greater the damage if it goes wrong. Having said that, it can increase the satisfaction and most people like a challenge.
That’s eight reasons I’ve come up with using this analogy. Can you think of any others?