Management like PowerPoint. They love charts and summaries. You need to give them something like this every week/month and then they’ll be happy.
I’m producing a communications plan at the moment at work, to try to hit lots of these at once. It’s actually incredibly important – after all, if they don’t know you’ve done it, then you might as well not have bothered.
My boss has just come back from maternity leave, and a slight danger of her deploying some micromanagement. So to get in there quickly, and keep her happy and feel in control I need to put together a regular “pack” of stuff for her. She might not read it, but at least if she can see it or know it’s coming, she’ll be satisfied I have things in control.
And actually, depressing as this is, sometimes more important than actually having it under control.
My team at work has leapt into action because there is an audit coming up next month. Sneakily, I’ve told them the deadline is an earlier than it actually is – which I know is bad of me, and I need to trust them more, but I’ve been burnt too many times. I need to slowly bring them round to be trustworthy.
Now, I’ve known for a while that the secret to running projects is to have a very clear brief. In fact, I’d say that’s the key part of running a successful project. But it’s become very clear to me in this situation. If you want to run a project well:
- You need a definite deadline that everyone is working towards and feels that they cannot miss. There need to be consequences to missing it too.
- The deadline needs to be short enough that there’s a continual need to be working towards it. If the deadline is too far away, people lose their sense of urgency.
- Everyone needs to be very clear of what they need to do to get to that deadline. If people don’t know what they’re doing, they get aimless.
- The aims need to be specific and measurable.People need to know if they’re hitting the target or not, and need to know how far away they are from the target.
If your project is bigger than this, and almost every project is, you need to break it down into smaller projects with smaller deadlines. Otherwise nothing will happen.
In many ways my last few days have been filled with thoughts about scope creep. As I said a little while ago, a lot of my projects are suffering from this. And partly it’s because I’m being a little bit too ambitious. So I’ve intentionally dialled back on what I’m doing to make sure I hit the core values.
Part of this has involved reviewing my coding, and I’ve reminded myself of the importance of building a central, maintainable framework.
“Maintainable” is the key word here because “code rots”:
Code is bad. It rots. It requires periodic maintenance. It has bugs that need to be found. New features mean old code has to be adapted. The more code you have, the more places there are for bugs to hide. The longer checkouts or compiles take. The longer it takes a new employee to make sense of your system. If you have to refactor there’s more stuff to move around.
You realise this when you come back to something you were working on several months ago, try to run it and it crashes.
- Partly it’s because of that bug that you never got round to fixing but knew about and knew the workaround for.
- Partly it’s because something else changed along the way and broke it.
- Partly it’s because you’re not caring for it and fixing bugs and improving it any more.
As soon as you stop actively looking after it, it starts getting worse.
Of course, you can’t look after every project at once, but what you can do is write a centralised code library, look after that, and pull much of your stuff from that. That way, you’re actively looking after most of the code at once.
Jeff calls this “tending to your software garden” and I think I agree with him. I think I need to come up with more ways to keep my garden well looked after.
I had to tell someone off today.
It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. All my life I’ve been the pupil, the child, the employee – and generally I’ve struck a fine line between compliance and rebellion. (My English teacher once called me “subversive” which I took as a massive compliment. And knowing him, he probably meant it as one).
In the words of Jack O’Neil from Stargate:
I have spent my life sticking it to the man. Now I am the man.
But I think this is probably good. You want your people in authority to have a healthy distrust of authority. You want them to be challenging themselves and aware of what authority does to people.
I think I handled the telling off quite well. It struck the right balance, something L has always been good at at work, between chastising without getting personal.
The one thing I did forget to say was something along the lines of “this isn’t an exercise in fault finding, we just want to make sure it won’t happen again”. But I think that was the general impression.
I didn’t bulldozer quite as much as I have before, and in hindsight perhaps I should have a little bit more. But what I did right was leave it a few days. The “incident” (I’ve made it sound a much bigger deal than it was here) happened on Tuesday, but I left it until Friday, once everyone had calmed down, to have a chat about what had happened and to give the firm message that this wouldn’t happen again.
If you can keep your cool, I think you keep your respect as well. Fear isn’t any way to manage, and if you get too authoritarian, people will start coming up with ways to bypass you.