Managing Technology

From Slashdot – Implementing the Bureaucratic Black Arts?

The Art of War (Score:5, Interesting)
by mollog (841386) on Sunday October 02, @03:34AM (#13693886)

Holy cow, this is a hot button for me.

Re-orgs are a way of life where I work. The directive of an effective manager to his/her developers is “Speed and course.” Don’t allow the developers to be distracted by upper management churn.

Don’t think you can take the high road and have your career survive. If someone’s playing dirty, don’t try to overlook it, deal with it.

When dealing with a boss with a case of NIH, try to make your ideas sound like they were your boss’s ideas. Until you replace your boss.

Perceptions count for a lot. Manage perceptions.

When dealing with management, be insincere. Tell them what they want to hear. If you have to ‘fudge’ numbers or gloss over messy details, do it. Don’t get sentimental about facts and truth and honesty. If your project is virtually done, don’t say it’s virtually done, tell them it’s done. If a sudden problem arises, don’t lose your cool. Gather the facts until you know what the true nature of the problem is before reporting about it. Your job is to deliver results, make sure you don’t bring bad news unless you really, really have to.

If another group is reducing your effectiveness for reasons of overlapping turf, jealousy, history, whatever, try make an accomodation with them, even if it’s temporary. (Keep your friends close, your enemies closer).

Watch out for the agendas of underlings. If you have a politically motivated person working for you, get them gone.

Maintain the avenues of communications. Don’t allow someone to bypass you in either direction. If someone bypassed you with their idea, either take charge of the project, or end the project.

Use dog psychology when dealing with people; reward good behavior, punish bad behavior, be consistent.

Dog psychology; there is an Alpha, be the alpha or chaos will follow.

Maintain perspective. You may love the work and the project, but to the CEO and his direct reports, you’re a liability. Be prepared to move on and leave the work and project behind.

Life is an adventure.

Some people confuse being discerning with being critical, and think they’re clever if they find fault

Re:The Art of War (Score:5, Interesting)
by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 02, @04:15AM (#13694093)

Dog psychology; there is an Alpha, be the alpha or chaos will follow.

A lot of great suggestions, though I disagree with this one. I came into mid-level management at a company a few years, mentoring under a COO/CTO who had learned how to play the Fortune 500 political game rather well. My first six months were consistent with my normal alpha-male approach to things, and nearly got my ass fired.

I learned there is a great deal of co-opting, passive strategy that needs to be played, and often the foolish alpha male is the one who ends up giving Project Tar Baby a big hug. Instead, show you’re an excellent listener to the other department heads (nod, take diligent notes, and then behind the scenes you can slaughter their absurd ideas with carefully constructed, politically correct rejections, if need be) and you’ll prevail. Let other departments come to you in this respect and you end up being the decision maker. Instead of coming across as obstinant, you can employ a wealth of “objective feasibility issues” to bury absurd requests.

One of my favorite methods for handling worthless busy-work requests from service departments was what we called the YES* approach. The technique relied on the “cost center funding” challenge some departments will encounter (a cost center is a part of a company, like the human resources department, that does not generate revenue but instead generates costs. It is there in a service role to support those that produce the revenue and usually has much less political clout because it doesn’t pay the bills, but rather helps spend the money).

For instance, when I’d get some unfunded mandate from HR like a new training requirement, or employee review process where HR wanted my managers to fill out weekly management reports on each employee to be used by HR for some unexplained reason (probably to put in their file cabinet and demonstrate they were actually doing something more than surf websites all day – we had our own review system that worked fine), I’d evaluate the time required of a manager, multiply it times the costing rate and the total number of affected managers, and come up with an annual financial impact. Then I’d send a financing memo back to the HR lackey who sent the mandate telling them we were excited about the program and would only need the CFO’s authorization to transfer the referenced amount of money into our budget to cover the costs of administering it. I buried a pathetic revised employment contract that demanded my guys assign all their off-work inventions (including open source work) to the company for a dollar consideration in the same manner. “Great idea guys. It’ll take $20,000 for legal to assist is in evaluating the impact of this contract. Please go get the budget transfer authorization from the CFO for me and we’ll get right on it.”

In case you’re not familiar with what happens next, the poor HR staffer (who works for a cost center, mind you), has to decide whether to go piss off the chief financial officer to spend even more money chasing unproductive ends. The CFO is usually a tight-assed person and doesn’t throw money around without good justification, At a minimum, he’s going to have a pile of busy work the HR lackey will have to complete just so he’ll spend the time to review the proposal. Since these cost center people almost never actually plan their mandates out, they don’t have the documentation necessary to cover the funding and the “mandate” dies an anonymous death.

Here you’re not seen as opposing anybody’s efforts – if anything, you play up the enthusiasm for their proposal. I should also note that this doesn’t work very well when the requesting party is a profit center you’re supposed to be supporting and can demonstrate direct linkage to revenue generation and their request. Opposing these kind of requests is dangerous – the CFO (and other top management) will regard you as an obstacle to that revenue dollar they expect.

The other major recommendation I’d have for young alphas up there who’re moving up the management track is to pay attention to the prince’s court and identify who might be a “protected court person” in a respective prince’s department. That obstructionist loser in another department that’s screwing up your critical project might just be the company founder’s cousin’s nephew or something. In these cases, you could have found them embezzling company funds, screwing the receptionist on the CEO’s desk after hours, and running a child porn ring on the company’s servers and you’ll still be the one that gets fired. The method for dealing with protected persons is to work the issue up to your prince. These matters get worked out between the COO, CFO, CTO, Senior VPs, etc. in a rather diplomatic process and when the issue gets forced, often the loser’s own prince is the one who has to get rid of him or her. Remember, they’re off limits to non-princes! (Read your Machievelli – he was right, regardless of whether you find some of this unethical as all hell).

shitblocker (Score:5, Informative)
by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Sunday October 02, @04:13AM (#13694084)

One of my employees called me a “shitblocker” because I was so good at keeping the crap away from the team. However, I had another employee who just saw too much of the bad stuff, and it got to him. So I’m not posting as someone who has done a universally good job at this. Having made my disclaimer, here are few things I’ve done.

  • Don’t tell your employees when you’ve had a row with your boss. At least some employees have not just empathy, but a susceptibility to transferrence. In other words, you tell the employees you got into it with your boss, and a handful of them will get all worked up, even though they weren’t involved.
  • Don’t use the previous point as handcuffs. You are not obligated to portray yourself as completely buying into the company line. Just don’t rant to your employees about it. If they are frustrated that upper management had made a poor decision, it’s reasonable to let the employees know that you think there are better ways, and that you’ll keep trying to get upper management on board. But you don’t want to start complaining, “I just had a shouting match with my boss, and that idiot wouldn’t see sanity if it came up and punched him in the face!”
  • This is hard, but, you have to keep the chain of command in line. There are many bosses who think it’s good to get to know everyone underneath them, no matter how many levels removed. And to a degree, it is. Friendliness is always welcome. However, many execs will take it too far, and start stepping on toes (because they can) and undermining the managers beneath them. If you tell your employee “I’ll evaluate you for 6 months, and we’ll discuss a raise then” and your boss tells the employee “all salaries are frozen” or “I’ll get you a raise” then your authority is screwed. Or, if you tell your employee something is a priority, and your boss tells them otherwise (especially if they don’t clue you in), then you’ve just become ineffective. So, even as a lower manager, you have to tell your superiors that you are in charge of your team, and they need to go through you. And then you need to keep on top of that, so nobody feels the need to go around you.
  • Get your employees into the limelight when things are good. Get them out of the limelight when things are bad. More than that, you do NOT want to blame your employees for anything. That doesn’t mean you assume blame for everything, and get fired. But it does mean that the blame game is lose-lose, and you say so to any upper manager who insists on playing. Your employees are either protected (because they deserve more chances), or fired (because they don’t). There is no in between, unless you’re documenting things for HR.
  • Building on the previous point, while you don’t ever want to leave your employees twisting in the wind with the execs, you also don’t want them to let you take all their blame. I had one employee sit quietly by while the CEO chewed me out for something the employee had done (I warned him not to do it — I knew the CEO would hate it). What was my mistake? I kept the employee for 2 more years, and had that same scenario play out again and again. You block crap for your employees, but you do so because they are worthy employees. Don’t be a martyr, especially for any employee who is simply using you as a meat sheild.
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