Listening to the team - Steve Rowe
“Features, Timeframe, Budget, and Quality; Pick three”. It’s usually possible to hit all three of the first choice as long as you are willing to sacrifice quality.
The dictatorial manager is the person that just says, “You will have the following specs done by this date.”
- This is the pointy haired boss from Dilbert. When the team raises objections, this manager is unphased. They stick to their position.
- The best members of the team have mobility and will leave. This slowly guts the team of the most capable people and the project slowly fails. At a quality company this manager will be seen for who he is and removed from such responsibility.
The persuasive manager is less obvious but nearly as bad.
- This is the manager who convinces their team that it can do the impossible. In this case they don’t dictate an impossible situation, they merely get the team to agree to it.
- This manager is usually a really nice guy who just can’t say no. Instead they ask people nicely to sign up for everything marketing and upper management ask for. Their team likes working for them, it just can’t figure out why it is so over-worked.
- The quality of the project suffers as the team goes into an over-worked haze. Team does not leave except through burn-out. They don’t blame the manager because signing up for the work was their idea.
- The quality will be low.
- People stop caring once they are made to attempt the impossible. The team will be much weaker the next go-round because all of the good members leave through disgust or attrition.
A better model is to listen to the team. A team will usually give signals if they think they are being asked to do too much. The wise manager listens to this and adjusts plans accordingly. This is the genius of systems like Scrum and Agile development.
If a manager senses that the workload is too much, it is their responsibility to reduce it. As much of a manager’s job should be spent deciding what not to do as deciding what to do. This may generate heat from upper management who wants everything in a limited time, with a fixed budget, and at the highest quality. Helping upper management understand the situation and even taking the pain if understanding is not conveyed is the responsibility of the manager. If failure is inevitable, it is better to fail in a place of your choosing (that with the least impact/priority) rather than risk failure on a broader scale at a later date.