The management method for knowledge workers by Joel Sposky

Joel writes here about software developers and hightech teams however, in the end they are knowledge workers. As Drucker has reminded us, Knowledge workers are everywhere – doctors, lawyers, scientists, social workers, teachers, software developers. Just a few excerpts from this three part series. Read the whole thing.

The Command and Control Management Method – Joel on Software

In life or death situations, the military needs to make sure that they can shout orders and soldiers will obey them even if the orders are suicidal. That means soldiers need to be programmed to be obedient in a way which is not really all that important for, say, a software company.

In other words, the military uses Command and Control because it’s the only way to get 18 year olds to charge through a minefield, not because they think it’s the best management method for every situation.

In particular, in software development teams where good developers can work anywhere they want, playing soldier is going to get pretty tedious and you’re not really going to keep anyone on your team.
[…]
In software development teams everybody is working on something else, so attempts to micromanage turn into hit and run micromanagement. That’s where you micromanage one developer in a spurt of activity and then suddenly disappear from that developer’s life for a couple of weeks while you run around micromanaging other developers. The problem with hit and run micromanagement is that you don’t stick around long enough to see why your decisions are not working or to correct course. Effectively, all you accomplish is to knock your poor programmers off the train track every once in a while, so they spend the next week finding all their train cars and putting them back on the tracks and lining everything up again, a little bit battered from the experience.

The Econ 101 Management Method – Joel on Software

Robert Austin, in his book Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations, says there are two phases when you introduce new performance metrics. At first, you actually get what you wanted, because nobody has figured out how to cheat. In the second phase, you actually get something worse, as everyone figures out the trick to maximizing the thing that you’re measuring, even at the cost of ruining the company.

The Identity Management Method – Joel on Software

When you’re trying to get a team all working in the same direction, we’ve seen that Command and Control management and Econ 101 management both fail pretty badly in high tech, knowledge- oriented teams.

That leaves a technique that I’m going to have to call The Identity Method. The goal here is to manage by making people identify with the goals you’re trying to achieve. That’s a lot trickier than the other methods, and it requires some serious interpersonal skills to pull off. But if you do it right, it works better than any other method.

The problem with Econ 101 management is that it subverts intrinsic motivation. The Identity Method is a way to create intrinsic motivation.
[…]
In general, Identity Management requires you to create a cohesive, jelled team that feels like a family, so that people have a sense of loyalty and commitment to their coworkers.

The second part, though, is to give people the information they need to steer the organization in the right direction.

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