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I'm afraid this is going to be a long post. In the first few days on my job, I would really like to get some feedback that I'm not making horrible mistakes. The final point, and what I really want to hear some comments on, is in the last paragraph where I ask about the urgency of starting O3s.

The group I'm managing is a software development team of 4 (3 developers and a tester).

As a bystander, I've observed that the team has plenty of room for improvement so they can continue to meet the top management team's expectations.

However, in the first week especially, I don't want to jump to any conclusions. Consequently, I don't plan on making any immediate changes. That all seems OK. Does everyone agree?

On the other hand, as a MT "disciple", I'm anxious to start doing at least O3s. However, there is one developer - the guy who has been there the longest (Chief Architect, created the original product, has acted as a team lead for the rest of the group), - who is really resistant to change. That includes, from what he's said, meetings, documentation, process, structure, notes, long conversations, and really anything else that he didn't come up with.

I can deal with that and it doesn't need to be a quick process. But my question now is whether anyone thinks that waiting on O3s as long as a month or two is OK? Or should I foist them on the group in the first couple weeks?

juliahhavener's picture

I would probably get started with the O3s if ONLY to set the stage. I wouldn't expect them to do much more than give you an opportunity to know the people who work for you right now.

As for your resistant to change guy, understand, and insist. Some things you may work with him on, but the O3 is something important to both of you. Maybe put it as a venue for him to tell you exactly what he thinks you're doing wrong if he really pushes back on it.

Everything else I think can wait. Watch, learn, get to know, THEN go to work with changes.

akinsgre's picture

[quote="juliahdoyle"]I would probably get started with the O3s if ONLY to set the stage. I wouldn't expect them to do much more than give you an opportunity to know the people who work for you right now.

Everything else I think can wait. Watch, learn, get to know, THEN go to work with changes.[/quote]

Thanks Julia. I definitely feel comfortable letting some other things wait (still looking for some quick wins for the boss though). But O3's are just making me nervous :?

jhack's picture

Don't wait on one thing: letting him know that things will change. Let him know that you will expect him to take his game to a higher level. That you will be giving feedback and coaching. That he is expected to grow and do more than he has in the past.

The longer you wait, the more entrenched he will become, and the more he will think he has you intimidated. Techies love to believe that they are irreplaceable and that their technical performance lets them off the hook.

Don't give in. And, if this guy is as good as he thinks he is, then you might want to keep him. So....

Read "The Mythical Man Month" by Fred Brooks (A Classic, a great book, every software manager should read it). In it, he proposes a model for software development that could limit the amount of administrative work your star programmer has to do, and could greatly increase the output of the team.

In any case, you need to be upfront about what you're doing and why (improve performance). And you need him to get with the program or else. That includes coming to meetings (which you make effective and efficient, right?).

O3 are not negotiable. He's replaceable. We all are.

John

akinsgre's picture

[quote="jhack"]Don't wait on one thing: letting him know that things will change. Let him know that you will expect him to take his game to a higher level. That you will be giving feedback and coaching. That he is expected to grow and do more than he has in the past.[/quote]

OK. Except I'm not exactly sure what will change, and what I'll need to measure people on. So part of my hesitation on O3s is wanting to be a little more comfortable with what direction every needs to head.

You mentioned Brooks below. I have read that; I've also read many other books that suggest other team models. Part of what I believe is going to make the team successful is picking the "right" model. In this case, that might be Brook's "Chief Surgeon / Supporting staff" model. But I want to have a little more information before I start down that path.
[quote="jhack"]
The longer you wait, the more entrenched he will become, and the more he will think he has you intimidated. Techies love to believe that they are irreplaceable and that their technical performance lets them off the hook.
[/quote]
This person has actually told the Director or our group that if he thought anyone on the team should be fired, he could go to the CEO and make it happen. Hmmm....
[quote="jhack"]
In any case, you need to be upfront about what you're doing and why (improve performance). And you need him to get with the program or else. That includes coming to meetings (which you make effective and efficient, right?).

O3 are not negotiable. He's replaceable. We all are.

John[/quote]

...and I can adjust his behavior with feedback. But feedback (adjusting and affirming) is a practice which I need to ease into as well. So I know this will take time; and don't mind so much; but want to make sure I don't shoot myself in the foot in the process.

jhack's picture

Sounds like good progress already.

The idea is to use the O3's to serve two purposes: get to know each person better, and let this guy know that things will change. Not that you say it; the mere existence of O3s (and the fact that they are mandatory) will be the message. "Set the stage" as Julia put it...

As for the content of the O3...most primadonna techies I know have very strong opinions about things around the office. Find out what his opinions are. The challenge is to transform his complaining (typical for this situation) into actionable recommendations. Ask him what he would do about such and such a situation. Promise nothing. Force him to be specific by putting him into problem solving mode.

As for getting anyone he wants fired, well, maybe his opinion of his influence is out of line with reality. Sounds like a veiled threat.

The other benefit of the O3 is to find out what motivates him. This will allow your feedback (all positive in the early going) to be more effective. He'll think you're corny. So be it.

Picking the right model, as you rightly point out, is critical and can't be rushed. Could you experiment a little, give him some responsibility on those?

Finally, you indicate that you can see opportunities for performance improvement. That's your ace for conversations with this top guy. Use it carefully.

John

regas14's picture

Fit in. Fit in. Fit in.

Add to that:

One-on-Ones are a must from the beginning.

It's great that you feel you can already see some areas for improvement, but you must assume that you're not that smart and they're not that dumb. The quick hits and obvious areas of improvement have already been capitalized on. What's left is the more difficult, more complicated areas that the team needs to work on (this might not be 100% true, but it is 100% the proper mindset to enter with). The only way you become "smarter" in this situation is to get to know the people, the strengths, the challenges and the circumstances surrounding the team. In one cast Mark says the something like the following as a part of a first meeeting with a new team, "I'm going to get to know you, get to know what our internal customers demand from us and get to know the challenges that we face in delivering that. Maybe after some time, I'll see some ways we can improve and maybe by then I will have earned the respect to ask you to do a few things differently."

Jumpstarting Internal Customer Relationships

Go and listen to internal customers so that you can be their voice with your team. Just having these conversations might be seen as an early victory by your manager - he/she will probably think, "Wow! I've got the right person for the job. Actually getting out and talking to our internal customers, this person is going to make my whole organization look pretty smart." Once you've done this, report back to the team.

Affirming Feedback

After you know what your internal customers want, you should have plenty of ammunition for affirming feedback. Remember you're not that smart, they're not that dumb. Generally speaking this team is probably aimed in the right direction. This way you can all get used to the feedback model and reinforce those things that give the customer exactly what they want.

That's quite a lot to work on. Maybe after a month or two of doing that you will have earned the right to ask them to do some things differently. That right won't be because you're the boss, it will be because you understand what customers expect and how best the team can meet the needs placed on them.

Good Luck!

WillDuke's picture

I agree with everyone, O3s right away. As for the reluctant guy, get him into the O3s also, he'll come around. As for threats of who can get who fired, you're the boss, not him. It would be a lousy VP who doesn't support the company structure.

You ARE the boss. It's tattooed on your forehead. If you say they're coming to a meeting, they're coming. Can you be flexible, sure, but that's YOUR choice, not theirs. Do they have a big project that prevents them from the O3? Why is it interfering? Does that direct need some performance or time management coaching? You get the idea.

If you delay the O3s because they don't think they need them, then they are the boss. You have been promoted to do your job, not abdicate it to your directs.

juliahhavener's picture

[quote]...and I can adjust his behavior with feedback. But feedback (adjusting and affirming) is a practice which I need to ease into as well. So I know this will take time; and don't mind so much; but want to make sure I don't shoot myself in the foot in the process.[/quote]

Right now, the O3s are about getting to know your people and their views. You're watching, getting to know the team, getting to know their challenges, looking to fit in. O3s are required, but you're not giving feedback, you're asking about families, what's important to them, and how you can serve them.

Later, when you ARE ready to practice feedback, you'll start off with the affirming feedback - and lots of it!

But for now, again...fit in, fit in, fit in!