- Create a management process that manages communication-a united management front instead of a constant change.
- Set up an escalation process to fleece out the fickle requirements (whimsical ideas) vs. the real requirements (what visionaries really want).
- Create a safe place for visionaries to try out ideas that isn't disruptive to the team. Schedule time and have people work with the visionary on an ongoing basis. If needed, create a team for new project development to explore these ideas while existing work is still being completed.
This leadership behavior is the complement to the control-freak programmer. The micromanager is a manager who can't let go and doesn't trust his staff to do the work right. This manager wants to know what you are working on every hour of the day and will second-guess decisions you make about your work. Micromanagers often are obsessed with time-tracking systems, planning, and interrupting employees to find out what they are working on. This manager fosters a culture of heroes ("This employee is great; he is doing what I told him to do.") vs. scapegoats ("Why did you solve the problem that way? Do you want to ruin the release?").
- Manager comes to work early, stays late, and doesn't like to take holidays-or, if on holidays, constantly checks in.
- Poor employee morale results from feeling like "big brother" is watching.
- Management demands excessive time-tracking and process administration.
- Employees spend a lot of time entering and justifying time spent on tasks.
- Manager second-guesses employee time spent on tasks.
- There are frequent communication breakdowns.
Corresponding Programmer Behavior
- Prima donnas bypass micromanagers and subvert or undermine them.
- Hijackers inflate numbers to work on other projects (or look for another job).
- Control freaks team up with micromanagers and blame the others.
- Raise visibility on management tasks and behavior and keep managers accountable by the same rules as the technical staff.
- Use collaborative project management tools, such as group estimates and pairing when working, to deflect scrutiny on individuals.
- Group task assessments. "We succeed as a team; we fail as a team."
- Make sure managers are measured on qualitative measures such as customer satisfaction, employee happiness, and their contribution to building valuable products. If they are measured by quantitative numbers alone, they will focus on those numbers to the detriment of the product.
I once worked with a software development team that had developed a blame culture. I witnessed all the behaviors described in Linda's article and the corresponding management behaviors described here. To confront it, I called a team meeting and discussed the programmers' hijacking behavior. The managers all nodded their heads vigorously. I then described the management behaviors, as described in this article, and the programmers and other technical staff nodded their heads as well. I then facilitated a group discussion about the behaviors, and the group discussed ways to counteract them. I asked the team members to be accountable for their own behavior and to point out that behavior in others when it was affecting them. The labels discussed in the meeting were helpful to use as a non-threatening means of letting someone know when they were displaying unwanted behavior.