Book Image

The Successful Software Manager

By : Herman Fung
Book Image

The Successful Software Manager

By: Herman Fung

Overview of this book

The Successful Software Manager is a comprehensive and practical guide to managing software developers, software customers, and the process of deciding what software needs to be built. It explains in detail how to develop a management mindset, lead a high-performing developer team, and meet all the expectations of a good manager. The book will help you whether you’ve chosen to pursue a career in management or have been asked to "act up" as a manager. Whether you’re a Development Manager, Product Manager, Team Leader, Solution Architect, or IT Director, this is your indispensable guide to all aspects of running your team and working within an organization and dealing with colleagues, customers, potential customers, and technologists, to ensure you build the product your organization needs. This book is the must-have authoritative guide to managing projects, managing people, and preparing yourself to be an effective manager. The intuitive real-life examples will act as a desk companion for any day-to-day challenge, and beyond that, Herman will show you how to prepare for the next stages and how to achieve career success.
Table of Contents (21 chapters)
Title Page

Does being a manager mean managing people?

Despite what the word itself suggests, being a manager and having to manage people is, in fact, a misnomer. The modern English word is derived from the Latin word manus, which means hand, as in control, and does not include the meaning of man, as in a person. The meaning of the word manage in common usage has today evolved to essentially meaning to be responsible for, and in control of, a bunch of stuff.

I'll start by saying that managing people is something you should always prepare yourself for, because, regardless of whether direct team management is part of your role, you will always have a part to play in managing stakeholders, who are people. However, it's best not to confuse people management with stakeholder management, which is a topic all on its own and will be covered later in this book.

Back to the original question: does being a manager mean managing people? The answer in fact depends upon your exact job or role. Using the broad categories – Team / Development / Project Manager – that we've previously set out, your involvement and level of people management responsibility will differ at various times. Let's explore this question of people management one step further now by thinking about Maslow's hierarchy.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

It's vital that you, your team members, as well as other managers, understand and agree on their responsibilities. This means defining what responsibilities people have, and where they begin and end for each person.

This clarity is important because it sets everyone's expectations accordingly. This sounds simple and easy but in reality, it is exceedingly difficult. There are several reasons why it's more difficult than it looks, and not the least of these is because people's needs change all the time!

Specifically, we are talking about higher-level needs, as defined in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, of which you can see a representation in Figure 1.2. These are essentially emotional needs, which sit above the basic physiological needs such as air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. Our basic physiological needs change all the time, from our choice of food to where we live, so, as you would expect, the higher level needs also change. Moreover, these higher needs are complex and deeply personal:

Figure 1.2: Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs

An example of applying the concepts from Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be dealing with a friend, because what you do to make them happy is different depending on their physical and mental state.

If they're sad, they may need a shoulder to cry on. If they're happy, they may need someone to share and celebrate with. If they're tired, you might provide them with somewhere to rest. Sometimes, however, what they really need is the opposite of what you might think! Your very tired friend might need some fresh air and exercise to reinvigorate them, rather than you simply providing them with somewhere to rest!

You don't have to be a psychologist

Being a people manager doesn't mean you have to become a professional psychologist or therapist. But like being a good friend, you need to be understanding and adaptable to their needs. It's about understanding their needs as well as your own, and, at times, putting their needs before yours. Knowing the boundaries of both your responsibility as a people manager, and what your team member does and doesn't want to share, is also particularly important. Everyone needs privacy, and everyone's ideas and limits of privacy are different.

I have discussed some very deep and personal thoughts and issues with individual team members, which include positive and negative feelings, ranging from delight and love, to hate and grief.

However, it's important to note that some team members prefer only to discuss work and keep most things private, and in general, there's no right or wrong, or even a magic formula for this. It's about what feels appropriate for you and them.

One aspect that is often forgotten about is the possible gap or overlap between people managers. In an era where we are all constantly busy and time-poor, there is a real risk of having only superficial, ticking-the-box, transactional dialogue. Far worse, a one-to-one meeting turning into a monologue with only the manager talking! Moreover, since people management is all about understanding and giving your team member what they really need, this can be counterproductive.

This is especially true in a matrix management structure, where a person can have multiple managers. If the managers involved are not clear on what aspect they are responsible for, or neglect that responsibility, then the person ultimately may not be managed appropriately. Conversely, as the old saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." If a person is ill and cannot come into work, having multiple managers call to ask, How are you? or What's wrong? will most likely be counterproductive.

The art and science of people management is a remarkably interesting and broad topic, and while there is no magic formula or one-size-fits-all approach, there is an entire range of research and tools. Like a good developer, a good manager will also have a suitable toolkit, which we will discuss in more detail throughout this book.