So everything is going fine, then *wham* you’re in charge. Maybe it’s responsibility for a small part of the infrastructure or a single system, maybe it’s for a whole department. Unfortunately that switch doesn’t come with any instructions, and most managers and team leads are left on their own to figure out what those instructions would have been, had they actually existed.
This week we are looking at a couple books for team leads and managers.
Managing IT programs, leading IT teams, and managing IT departments are similar in many ways, despite the difference in goals and resources. All three have responsibility for a technical area, all three tend to tend to be given little direction or training, and all three are actually responsible for people, not technology.
The IT Program manager or owner is responsible for the people that consume the products, managing their expectations, helping the understand what they need, and then ultimately helping other implement those needs. The team lead is responsible for helping a team of (usually highly opinionated) individuals to start paddling in the same direction, with an ultimate goal of delivering features or products. The IT Manager is responsible for understanding the needs of the people and business, being the interface to the business, building and sustaining a of people that can ultimately meet and exceed those needs, and thus bears responsibility for the technology meeting the needs of the ultimate end user.
It’s not about the computers, it’s about the people, both those inside and outside the group.
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
Tom DeMarco, Timeothy Lister
It’s said that at one point every new manager at Microsoft, when walking into their office for the first time, would find this book waiting for them. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to think that it was. Peopleware was first published in 1987 and was updated in 1999. The core premise of the book is that people are not modular cogs and we really ought to stop treating them as such. From building teams to selecting the furniture, to the idea that work can be fun, rather than just onerous, the authors cover a lot of ground without stretching the book into 800 pages.
As we move from the team to the department level, we adopt a greater number of unknowns. No longer responsible for a group of individuals with a goal, we are instead ‘in charge’ of some amorphous group of technologies and people, with an almost constant stream of absolutely critical requests being thrown over the wall from the business. At this point we have either two options, get stuck trying to catch up or focus on the whole picture. In “World Class IT”, Peter High offers a model he has used to help bring structure, measurement, and opportunities to many environments. He walks us through the 5 main principles of his model, each focusing on a portion of the IT Environment, it’s importance, what it means to be world class, and sample measurements one could use along the way. While this book is aimed at the CIO, the structure of the model and example metrics are useful at multiple levels.
These two books are only a very small sample of those available for IT Managers and Team Leads and I would hope that both roles had read the first and most managers had read one or more books like the second. The challenge with reading for an IT Lead or IT Manager role is that, beyond just leadership or IT Management books, you need to be reading material on the processes you are following and the business you are in. This means understanding your processes (project management and business architecture books are in the near future) as well as your business.