Five Tips for Tactical Management

Sometimes, you just need to get on with the work. You need to give yourself some breathing room so you can think for a while. Here are some tips that will help you tackle the day-to-day management work: Schedule and conduct your one-on-ones. Being a manager means you make room for  the people stuff: the one-on-ones, the coaching and feedback or the meta-coaching or the meta-feedback that you offer in the one-on-ones. Those actions are tactical and if you don’t do them, they become strategic. As a manager, make sure you have team meetings. No, not serial status meetings. Never those. Problem solving meetings, please. The more managers you manage, the more critical this step is. If you miss these meetings, people notice. They wonder what’s wrong with you and they make up stories. While the stories might be interesting, you do not want people making stories up about what is wrong with you or your management, do you? Stop multitasking and delegate. Your people are way more capable than you think they are. Stop trying to do it all. Stop trying to do technical work if you are a manager. Take pride in your management work and do the management work. Stop estimating on behalf of your people. This is especially true for agile teams. If you don’t like the estimate, ask them why they think it will take that long, and then work with them on removing obstacles. If you have leftover time, it’s time to work on the strategic work. What is the most important work you and your team can do? What is your number...

Management Myth #8: I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work

“You know, if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself,” Clive muttered as he strode down to his office. Susan looked up from her desk and sighed. She stood, followed Clive down the hall, and knocked on his office door. “What? I’m a little busy right now!” he replied and turned back to his computer. Then, he turned to Susan and said, “Explain this part of the framework to me.” “No.” He looked at her, raised an eyebrow, and said, “No? I’m your boss.” “That’s right. You’re the manager, but you’re not asking me as my manager. You’re asking me someone who’s going to go in and do some damage, as opposed to some help. I’m the technical lead. If you have a problem with what’s going on technically, you’re supposed to talk to me. You’re supposed to talk to the team. Why are you not talking to me? Why are you not talking to the team? Why are you messing with the code?” “Did you see what Todd did?” “Yes.” “You can stand there calmly and say yes? You’re not freaking out?” “No, I’m not freaking out, because the team and I solved this problem this morning, which is more than you have done. Whose problem is this to solve?” “Uh, yours and the team’s.” “Thank you. And did you ask me or the team how we were solving the problem?” “Uh, no.” “So, you missed that Todd and Cindy are pairing on the fix for this problem, that we already have a patch on the production server, and that Dick and Samara are...

Management Myth About Managers and Technical Work

My most recent management myth is up on Techwell, Management Myth #8: I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work. I see managers catch themselves in this one all the time. Maybe you do too. Maybe you disagree with me. Comment over there, please. BTW, This article is a partial attempt to answer the question, “How technical should a manager...

Management Myth #7: I am Too Valuable to Take a Vacation

I caught up with Fred, a friend of longstanding, just before what I thought would be his normal two- to three-week vacation in August. “Where are you going this year, Fred? Are you bicycling or white water rafting? Or something else exciting? I can’t wait to live vicariously through you again!” “I’m not going anywhere this year, JR,” Fred said dejectedly. “I’m way too valuable to take a vacation.” “Who said that?” I stood there with my mouth open in astonishment. “You need your vacations. They energize you. And people like me actually want to see your vacation pictures!” “Nope. I’ve decided. I’m a manager now. If I take a vacation, who will make all the decisions? How will my team know what to do? I’ll just stay here and make the sacrifice. No more vacations for me.” “Fred, are you sick? Did you lose all your money in the stock market? Did Jeannie leave you and take the children? Is there something seriously wrong?” “No,” he said in his best Eeyore voice. “My team members depend on me. I can’t let them down. I must support them. I must. I must.” As Fred ambled down the hall, I stood there dumbfounded. Fred is laboring under a fairly common myth—that they are the only drivers and decision makers for their teams. That’s a dangerous belief. First, because it means that you can never delegate work to the team and trust them to do the work. Secondly, because it means you can never work yourself out of this job to another job. Third, because it’s not true, regardless of the...

Taking a Vacation Soon? Read This

If you are planning a vacation, read my next management myth, Management Myth #7: I Am too Valuable to Take a Vacation. It doesn’t matter where you are in the organization, you need to take a vacation. And, you need to totally remove yourself from the day-to-day grind when you do. Read...