I’ve been thinking a lot about Dale’s post about managers needing to appreciate the work. Appreciation isn’t enough, unless I’ve misunderstood Dale’s post about John Levy‘s quote.
To be an effective manager, you have to understand how the work is organized, how to prioritize the work, how to assign the work, how to give people feedback about their work, and how to manage the risks inherent in that work. If you manage project managers, you need to understand the variety of project lifecycles and coach your project managers on when to select which lifecycle. If you’re a development manager, you need to understand how risks can prevent you from accomplishing the work, or when certain people are not capable of taking on a certain design or problem-solving effort. If you’re a test manager, you need to understand which test techniques are most appropriate under which circumstances. If you’re a mid-level manager with responsibility for several groups, you need to understand how each group’s work contributes to the entire work product(s) you have responsibility for.
Maybe this is what Levy meant as appreciation, but it’s more than simple appreciation; it’s understanding of the dynamics of the function(s) or project you’re managing. But it’s not the ability to perform the work. You don’t have to be able to manage projects or write code or develop tests; you have to understand the tradeoffs and handoffs people make, and for that you need to be able to not just appreciate the technical work; you need to understand the dynamics of the technical work so you can speak the language of your technical staff.