Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Loopt is like a study in the psychology of the workplace. This might make the book sound uninteresting but it was far from reality (as long as you work in software). Chapter 1 is “Don’t Be A Prick”, well this really captures your attention and sets the tone for the rest of the book. I was hooked. I wish I had read this book 3 years ago when I started out an a manager. I’ve been feeling my way around with my primary guiding principle “do the things I always wanted my past managers to do for me, but usually didn’t”.
I love the author’s definition of what a good manager is: “My definition of a great manager is someone with whom you can make a connection no matter where you sit in the organization chart.” This and listening better are my personal goals for 2011.
“Mangers are Not Evil” – This chapter should be read by the employees just so they get an idea that we managers to just sit around all day finding assignments for our teams. It seems like half the time we sit in meetings trying our best to keep our team out of the meetings so they can get “real work” done.
NADD – I love this. Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m afflicted with this, even though I have never heard of it before. I rarely have less than 5 tabs in my browser open with music or a podcast in my ears while at the office or the TV on while at home. If you’ve read Peopleware, they talk about 15 minutes to make the “Context Switch” from an interruption back to developing software. I’ve worked with people like this, but I’m usually able to get back into things much quicker than that. I believe this is part of NADD.
Saying No – The management pixies are hard to avoid. Its so easy to put on that hat and say because I’m the manager, that’s why. Have to try hard not to do this and trust your employees to do the right thing. But there are those times where you have to make a decision or pass a decision down from upper management (unless you are CEO, you can always blame upper management).
The Soak – “Having no clue where to start a new project and wanting to rip someone apart in e-mail share one important characteristic. The best move in both cases is to start with a good long soak” . This is why they make browser extensions to prevent you from sending that drunken email or the flame email. Taking a break before sending that email or starting that new project is definitely a good recommendation. I’ve solved some of my most difficult problems while sleeping. There has been cases where I’ve been frustrated with a problem and decided to call it a day, and the solution hit me when I was 5 minutes from the office. Sometimes I go back and continue to work on the problem.
Status Reports 2.0 – Unfortunately, the necessary evil. Upper management needs to know what is going on with the entire organization. Luckily my boss sends his direct reports a copy of the report he sends to his boss so we at least get to see what is going on within the rest of our department. I wish my company had the open policy of putting these reports into a wiki or at least a blog but my company is still too secretive. I know I should take the initiative and put my data up there but I’m not sure how that would go over.
All in all this was a good book and fun read, definitely recommend it to everyone.