Myth 31: I Don’t Have to Make the Difficult Choices

[article]
Summary:

"Don't bring me problems; bring me solutions." Sound familiar? Sounds like a management cop out to Johanna Rothman. A primary purpose of managers is to help their teams perform to the best of their abilities, and that includes stepping up and making tough decisions to help solve problems.

Peter, a CTO in a small company, shook his head. I have no idea what I am going to do. My CEO wants me to do everything. But I can’t. I don’t have the staff. We don’t know how to scale the PerfApp. We don’t know how to test the NewApp, because we don’t have enough people, never mind enough testers. He’s going to tell me, “Don’t bring me a problem; bring me a solution.” That’s nonsense. I have problems because I don’t have the money for everything we need to do. I’m going to try one more time to talk to him.

Peter made an appointment with Bob for a one-on-one later that week. As he prepared for the conversation, Peter thought about how he could persuade Bob to see the Technology group as a value-add center not as a cost center. I have great people working hard. They are producing the engine that runs this organization. But Bob doesn’t see that. He thinks we’re in the transportation business, because that’s what the apps do. But, we’re in the technology business. Technology and innovation drive our apps. Our customers understand it. How can I make Bob see this? That’s going to be key to our conversation.

As with many organizations, Peter’s has undergone a dramatic shift in the past five to ten years. They have transitioned from a small IT shop where the software ran on mainframes to a client-server application. Now, the application runs everywhere: desktop, browser, mobile, and social media. The customers, truckers, and containers stay in contact 24/7.

The truckers and the customers are quite sophisticated about the apps, pushing the company for more features all the time. Peter’s team has transformed their application and the company. They’ve tripled sales, and tripled the number of people in Technology. They’ve been able to maintain an uptime of greater than 99 percent, which their customers appreciate.

But the cost is high. The Technology group is doing too much support. They have no slack to take start this other NewApp. Yes, the teams have been working in an agile way, but the backlog for PerfApp is so large, that there is no time to start NewApp for months.

Peter is attempting to do the work of at least three people. If he spends a reasonable time at work, he feels overwhelmed. If he spends a lot of overtime, his family yells at him.

He took the time to write down all the work that he is doing and what his organization looks like. He has twenty people all reporting directly to him. He has three team leads but no managers. He is supposed to write performance evaluations for everyone at the end of the year, but because he has so many people, he only has one-on-ones once a month.

The Technology teams have too much work. Peter has too much work. This is his conversation with Bob, the CEO.

“Bob, I’m glad we’re meeting now. Here’s my situation. Technology has too much work to do. I need to add five more positions to start NewApp now, so we can meet your proposed deadline of having a release by the end of the year. That would also allow us to transition much of our support work to Customer Support, instead of doing it for them. I would also have an agile project manager to offload some of my responsibility and get you those metrics that you and I both want.”

Peter gave Bob the personnel requisition forms to sign.

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, TechWell.com is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!

Upcoming Events

Oct 12
Oct 15
Nov 09
Nov 09