Gerald Weinberg’s advice for Technical Managers

The September 18th 2004, People and Projects newsletter from SDMagazine carries an interview with Gerald Weinberg. Extracts:

SD: What’s the most important piece of management-related advice anyone has ever given you?

GW: If you blame your employees, you’re a bad manager. You hired them, accepted them, supervised them, and directed their training. You’re responsible. If you don’t like what’s happening, look to your own behavior. But, if there’s credit to be given, it’s theirs.

SD: What about when a manager has been hired into a group where some or all employees were already hired by someone else?

GW: You don’t take a management job passively. Before you accept the position, you interview everyone in your group, and you get them to sign on with you, or you sign them off — or you don’t take the position. I don’t know why managers don’t understand that. They take on new assignments like high school kids on their first blind date.

SD: In your opinion, why do so many software projects go over budget or fail to meet their original requirements?

GW: There’s no single reason, but here are probably the top three:

1. The original budget, schedule and requirements were totally unrealistic, due to the inability of people to speak truth to power.

2. The original budget, schedule and requirements were totally unrealistic, due to the inability of people to understand and acknowledge their own limitations (which we all have).

3. Even in those rare cases that people pass those first two hurdles, they lose emotional control during the project when something goes wrong — and something ALWAYS goes wrong. In 50 years, I’ve never seen a project where something didn’t go wrong. When it does, the project’s success is determined
by the leaders’ ability to manage themselves emotionally.

SD: If you were to find yourself on a development team, reporting to a project manager, what qualities would you want that manager to have?

GW: I’d want that manager to be a congruent, adult human being, capable of learning from others and his or her own mistakes.

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