Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Could we make managing programmers a little easier?
by Ron Lichty

Programming managers have typically had years of training in programming…

And no training in management. 

I've been taking a fascinating census of programming managers this fall that has shown me just how true that is. As I talk about our book Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams to groups that include software development managers, I start by asking:

"Stand up if you are now or have ever been a manager of programmers and programmer teams."

I continue:
"Stay standing if you have ever received management training
- let's say a day or more of training -
whether from your company or in college or on your own.

Almost to an audience, half of managers sit down! 

Half of programming managers have never had a single day of management training in their careers!

To the people still standing, I ask:
"Stay standing if you got any of that training before you first became a manager."

The result: 
Of all the programming managers I talk to, only 8-15 percent have received any management training before becoming a manager.

Almost all the training for managing programmers that exists.
There are only two others that are missing from this picture!
Equally telling: there are a ton of books on project management. In fact, there are scores of books on each different flavor of project management.

But the number of books on managing programmers won't use up the fingers on both hands. (It's one of the reasons that Mickey and I wrote Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams.)

Isn't it odd?:
* how long we expect you to have studied the art of programming before we hire you to be a programmer?  languages, libraries, frameworks, tools, techniques, ...?
* the growing expectation that not only have you studied to be a project manager, but you've become certified to do so?

Isn't it odd how little we expect you to have studied the art of managing before we tap you to become a manager?


At 12:54 PM, January 09, 2013, Blogger Unknown said...

I have to admit that I may not be left standing after taking your survey. Except for some interview training and a single day generic class on managing people back in the 1980s, I was expected to build and manage teams of programmers. I think most software company executives or CEOs focus on the technical expertise of their VP of Software Engineering or CTO and not on people with management skills. It’s common in a Silicon Valley startup or really a small company anywhere.
Of course, if you hire a custom software development service provider to provide a dedicated team of programmers then you hope to avoid the vast majority of the people management challenges you and Mickey write about so eloquently in your book. Then the challenge becomes how to determine if the company has trained their people with the right amount of software development process and people management skills.


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