Management 101

I have had a boss since I started working back in the early eighties. I have been a boss and been someone who oversees work as well. During the past 20 years or so I came to believe that the front line manager is the most important job in just about every industry and especially in the software industry. Much like my parenting philosophy, a manager can do little to improve their employees, but they can really mess things up. Why is it that so many manager choose the path of messing thing up? I guess they were never taught management 101. I will attempt to give a primer.

Management’s primary job according to Deming (if you have the book “Out of the Crisis”):

  • Appreciation for the overall system in which work is done
  • An understanding of variation – and the true relationship between cause and effect
  • Constant pursuit of learning (improvement) through designed experiments
  • An understanding of the psychology of people

Thanks to google I found this:

  1. Take time to consider.
  2. Keep mind open — mouth closed.
  3. Obtain information without disclosing position.
  4. Reward people with praise for telling you what they believe to be fact — whether correct or not.
  5. Consider alternatives. Discuss pros and cons.
  6. Make decision — stay the course — support all involved.
  7. Change plan if new information makes it necessary.
  8. Keep confidence of management and customer. Tell the truth, no matter how painful.

These sources are a good start. I will add a few thoughts to Deming’s last point (the most important in my opinion). People, although complex, behave in fairly predictable ways. A person’s productivity correlates to to unmeasurable things: their morale and the skill they have at the task. If they like what they are doing their morale will be higher than if they are forced to do something they disagree with. Skill can be learned, but only if the person wants to be better. If they want to be better you have to get in their way to stop them. 

If you manage people then I believe your number one goal is to make them as productive as possible. Given the above it would seem obvious that you want people who like and are good at what they do. So the primary job is for you to identify those people and GET OUT OF THEIR WAY! I am amazed at the ways managers get in the way. They ask the person to do the task the way the manager wants it done (see above comment on what that does to the employee’s morale) because the manager THINKS they know better because they are the boss. This is so sad, but I see it happen so much that I think it is a pattern. The other thing I see is a manager who can not tell who the talent is. They look for people that are like themselves and make them the A-team and treat the others as second class citizens. Unfortunately this happens because upper management uses the same technique and it propagates down to all without a clue. Those with a clue tend to leave the organization.

I am sure I have glossed over things and simplified somethings too much, but I would love to hear other opinions.

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One Response to “Management 101”

  1. Eric Peterson Says:

    The folks who wrote this book completely agree with you. It’s one of the books that has influenced my thinking about employment the most.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First,_Break_All_the_Rules

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