Thursday, July 14, 2011


Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led” - Warren G. Bennis

Have you ever had a bad manager?  It seems that’s like asking, “Have you ever woken up in the morning?”  There’s the micro-manager, the mean-manager, the missing-manager, Bill Lumbergh and more.  Most of us have been in situations where we’ve been unhappy with our boss.  It’s often easy for an employee to berate the faults of their manager.  But what if you are the manager?  How often do you ask yourself “Have I ever been a bad manager?” 

One of the biggest problems I see across industries is that managers don’t spend enough time focusing on leadership and management skills. They are always too busy worrying about deadlines, budgets, deliverables and the enforcement of procedures like time sheets, expenses reports and project status updates.   They don’t study management in the same way they would study a technical challenge.  Managers lose sight of the personal leadership aspect of their job which should actually be their foremost concern.  This blog aims to help address that problem.

I remember when I was young and naive I thought to myself “Managing is easy … you don’t have to do any of the actual work!”  Boy was I wrong.   As I took on more management responsibilities in my career I realized just how difficult it can be.  Many engineers that transition from an individual contributor role to management find themselves in this position.  They have a technical degree and a long career of hands-on engineering work and are then somehow often assumed to be the ideal candidates for management.  That’s not to say engineers can’t be great managers (eh hem), but many are at least initially lacking the training and skills to be effective managers.   If managers can take the time to purposefully study their new craft, their team will thrive and the manager will share in their success.  

When I reached the point in my career when I transitioned from an individual contributor to a manger I was determined not to be a stereotypical technical manager without people skills.  I dedicated myself to exceeding in this role and to constantly be learning and open to change. So I set out to absorb all the information I could through reading, classes, observation and of course lots of practical experience (often involving trial and adaptation).  And so this blog was born out of two purposes:

1)      To share my findings with the world so others may learn and help the development of themselves and their teams
2)     To be a better manager myself by writing and teaching 

This blog will answer many of the questions I had as I was becoming a self taught manager such as:  How do I keep employees motivated?  How do I hire the right people?  How do I keep people properly positioned for success?   How do I determine promotions and raises?  How do I ensure quality?   I will also discuss concerns that I have in my career that I am still working through as my own self training continues.     

Some future topics for this blog include:   Hiring, Orienting, Types of Power, Delegation, Transparency, Risk Management, Agile, Scrum, Interviewing, Salary Negotiation, Promoting, Quality, Documentation, Off-shoring, Remote Teams and much more.

I’ve learned that while many management techniques are universal, there are some attributes to software development that warrant some unique approaches.  The world of software development with its ever changing requirements, technologies and timelines doesn’t make for any less pressure on a new manager.  Most of the topics we cover here will be applicable to most management positions; however the focus will be on software engineering teams and often on transitioning from engineering.

I have no management degree, no books to my name, but I do have a proven track record in building and managing successful software engineering teams and a strong desire to learn and to teach.  I hope you’ll find this blog useful and I encourage your comments to keep this effort collaborative. 

Now back to my TPS reports … 


  1. I agree that outstanding individual contributors are often assumed to be good candidates to manage projects that fall into their area of expertise or excellence. However in reality it's not usually the case. They are likely good individual contributors because they are technically superior and work well in a team, these are very different skills from those needed to lead a team. I too am in the position of being a self taught manager and in my opinion, J2EE development was a lot easier and more natural to master. It's actually easy to observe this in many development teams where they often have several great developers and no great managers. I look forward to reading your findings.

  2. Thanks for the comment Tim, I have also seen and been a part of teams like this with great developers and without great managers. I have a backlog of blog posts already written so I can hopefully post on a semi-regular basis.