? 2001, 2014 don gray and Dan Starr
Near the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, not far from where you should think, there is a small town called Mayberry.
Although the main road bypassed the town a few years ago, Mayberry is the name of the popular 1960s TV series, and it’s still a bustling community. Every morning, the commercial extension of highway 52 in the north of the United States enters downtown Maybury from the north. After a week’s consultation in the town, we were able to observe the recent road construction along this route and watch three local residents show their unique management style. Let’s take a look at how these people’s traffic management works with the peoplesoftware project The general style of management fits (implies).
When highway 52 is closed in the north of the town, all traffic entering the town from the North must bypass highway 52 to the west of the town, and then enter the urban area of key street. Unfortunately, this means that traffic will have to turn left into key street and cross fairly busy east-west traffic (see Figure 1).
The Council is concerned that the rush to turn left into key street in the morning will continue southward along the ramp to highway 52 itself. Since highway 52 is limited to 65 mph, serious accidents may result. As a result, the Council decided to station a police officer and one or two rescue team volunteers at the intersection to ensure that there was no traffic jam on the ramp.
Three management methods
As a duty officer, the duty officer (we call him Barney) arrived at the scene on Monday and quickly identified the situation. What he thinks is needed is traffic lights at the intersection of key street and ramp. As it took months to approve a light, he decided to operate it as an “artificial traffic light” to guide traffic manually. There are turns in every direction: westbound key Street (including turning left into southbound ramp), eastbound key Street (including turning right into southbound ramp), and then downhill (turning into key street in any way). Barney’s plan is actually not that good. Two way traffic on key street is stagnant. When Barney let a few cars turn left to key street, the traffic almost blocked up on highway 52.
On Tuesday, a volunteer for the rescue team, a helpful local woman called aunt BEA, said she knew how to manage the situation. She believes that as long as drivers don’t have to cross each other’s roads, traffic can take care of itself. As a result, she allows traffic to travel in both directions on key street and people to turn right and right on ramps. When someone has to turn left, she stops the other lanes and lets them go. Aunt bee’s method works better than Barney’s (at least no one is rude to her), but the congestion is still much more than we expected, and at the end of the rush hour the congestion is still there.
On Wednesday, Sheriff Andy showed up with a lawn chair and a lemonade thermos. He put the lawn chair in a cool place, where he could see a good section of the intersection and downhill road, and then sat down to drink lemonade. When the traffic began to jam on the ramp, he got up and stopped the traffic on key street, leaving the ramp empty. Then he went back to the chair. Besides, Andy seems to have done almost nothingdo. Although he apparently did nothing, the intersection still seems to work. People stay calm and relaxed, drivers turn right to create rest time for others, turn left, and everything works as it did before anyone showed up, things get better, just a little bit better.
Wearing the hat of a consultant, we realize that we have just witnessed three unique management styles: Barney’smicrocosmicMicro management, aunt bee’sMotherhoodMother management and Andy’sExpert styleMaster management. Because these styles are also very common in software project management. Let’s look at each one in more detail and see what can be applied to our own software projects.
Every manager shapes his own style according to different assumptionsPeople who manageAnd suppose thatThe role of managers. These assumptions determine how they conduct key management activities. In Weinberg’sQuality software managementIn a book. 1: Through systematic thinking, Weinberg focused on five key activities
- understandProblems to be solved，
- observationThe actual behavior of the managed personnel,
- useRules and process modelTo determine what to do next, and
- take actionLead the team towards the goal.
These activities together constitute a feedback system to “guide” the project team. The way they are implemented (i.e., how managers define problems, how managers plan, what observations they make, what rules they follow, and how to take corrective actions) makes a difference in everything – determining where the team is going, how team members feel about the entire software project, and how the end result will be satisfactory.
Barney’s micro management is based on the assumption that managers have to make sure everything is done. Most micro managers do not intentionally intervene for the need of control. They just operate on the assumption that if they don’t, they won’t be able to do it. Micro managers also tend to make relevant assumptions that the managed will follow their instructions. Just right, no more, no less.
These assumptions are better than people’s description of machines. Indeed, when Barney says we need “traffic lights,” he describes a situation where both the manager and the managed are more mechanical than the person. Maybe that’s why so many good programmers become micromanagers when they get their first promotion – they’re just “programming” the “bio robots” that work for them!
Using Weinberg’s model, we can see how Barney’s hypothesis defines his views on key management activities
- takeProblems to be solvedIt’s to make sure that everything is in order.
- NextplanIt’s letting Barney do everything by himself. He will personally direct the movement of each car. This means that the plan must be simple enough so that he can control its implementation at any time.
- Even with a simple plan, Barney was too busy directing the traffic to make itObservedToo many things. Standing in the middle of the intersection, when the traffic began to fall back to highway 52, he didn’t watch the ramp in the right place.
- Even if he has better observation, he is more manager centeredProcess modelHe is still not allowed to do too much. The basic assumption is that he has personal responsibility for every car that crosses an intersection, which means he can’t delegate too much – he can’t expect drivers to do anything other than what he’s going to tell them.
- Barney’smannerVery limited. Because he has to control every car, he can’t leave the middle of the intersection. In the end, he had no choice but to try what he had already done – to wave his arms more wildly at people, hoping they would get through it faster.
Because managers have to make (or at least approve) all decisions, only one thing happens at a time, while everything else queues for a turn. When simplicity, centralization of information and supervision change from virtue to disadvantage, it will produce bottlenecks that affect project planning and implementation.
Simplicity because the whole project plan must always be under the control of the manager, the plan must be simple enough that one can fully understand it. This sets an upper limit on the complexity of the project – if the problem to be solved goes beyond this limit, the manager must simplify it in some way (for example, allowing only one direction of traffic at a time). In micro management projects, serialization of such activities is also a common simplification, and it wastes energy and time. When serialization is not enough, managers may start to exclude “unnecessary” activities from the project plan. Micromanagement is so notorious for over simplification that their software project plans may have missed out on what is necessary for a successful product launch.
Centralized information because managers are the only people who can make decisions, it is very important to obtain a large amount of high-quality information about project implementation. Unfortunately, the only observation allowed iscontrollerObservations are proposed in the project plan, but the manager is too busy making every decision to actually observe the decision of anything. Therefore, in practice, micro managers often turn a blind eye and make decisions when there is little or no actual information.
Supervision requires clear approval for each operation, which increases the time required to complete the task. Therefore, micro management is often inefficient, and many people are waiting for managers to tell them what to do next. Bottleneck manager is a key structural problem. This approach can also lead to personnel problems, such as active suppression. The manager’s assumption means that the person being managed has no contribution other than the functions defined by the manager. What if workers want to do something that doesn’t follow the rules – because they see problems with better methods or plans? forget it. Micro managers will not allow it to happen. For those who are micromanaged, this can lead to short tempers and long days.
Most people don’t like this management style. Some people respond with some kind of rigid, mechanical compliance, dutifully waiting for the next set of instructions from the manager. Others may choose some form of subtle treason, such as “hard rule” – following the manager’s instructions even if they are clearly the recipe for failure. Others will rebel more openly, using managers’ constant distraction to avoid everything. Micro, these responses to micro management often establish a positive feedback loop, which strengthens the assumption of micro managers and leads to more micro management. Micro managers are often busy. (more attention to details, busier)
So, was micro management ever appropriate? Of course, if the problem to be solved is small enough, a manager can really understand the whole project plan, while the staff are willing to follow every order of the manager. Although this happens sometimes, it’s not common in the software world.
A common reason for micromanagement is that newly promoted, technically qualified managers rush to help troubled employees or rescue specific parts of a software project. This has formed a power of interdependence, in which the manager has become a life-saving straw, but the staff has become helpless. This ensures that the next time there is a problem, the manager will step in again, and so on, until something breaks the pattern.
Although micro management projects can (and often do) lead to successful product releases, it’s more about managing them than it is about it. There should be a more effective and easier way to deal with this situation.
Aunt bea chose a more friendly and gentle style, which we call maternal management. Allow the driver to do something on her own and help them when she thinks she needs help. But her basic assumption is still very close to Barney’s: people in charge may be able to do routine things without being told, but all important decisions – especially when there is some form of competition – are still firmly under her control.
If micro managers manage people as machines, then big mom managers will treat them as children. The managed can do some routine things, but still need to be protected from any potential danger. Like micro managers, big mom managers are not necessarily malicious or in urgent need of control. Aunt bea doesn’t need to control the driver at all. She just knew that they would not be able to make big decisions without her help. She could hardly imagine that one person might turn left into another right, because she could not see who was in control of the relationship, and she knew that the two drivers, of course, could not have no one to coordinate them.
Aunt BEA’s mother hypothesized her views on key management activities:
- takeProblems to be solvedIt’s like “taking care of people who have to cross other businesses.”. “Like Barney, she looks at things from a personal perspective. It’s her problem, not the driver’s.
- Because Aunt bea sees the driver as someone who can do something for herself, so herplanBetter than BarneyplanBe strict. She can allow at least some routine things to happen in parallel, but in special cases, she will have full control of everything, which means to return to serial execution.
- Aunt BEA’s decentralisation requires a more complex process than Barney’sobservation. She has to look at situations that need her help, especially left turns. Attention, sheNo,Observe if people are having trouble turning left. Her basic assumption is that turning left is a help signal. Like Barney, she spent her time in the middle of the intersection, where she couldn’t see the ramp very well.
- Because Aunt BEA’s manager thinks that the person under management can’t deal with any kind of dispute or conflict, aunt BEA’sprocess model She is required to solve these problems herself. So her reaction to any unusual situation is to stop the traffic and help solve the problem.
- Like Barney, aunt beeactionIt’s very limited, in part because she needs to be in a control position in the middle of the intersection.
Like micro management, maternal management can work when the basic assumptions of maternal management are correct and the problems and solutions are not too complex. The trouble is that most software development is not in this mode, and most development is unconventional, many conflicts need to be resolved. Interface, partition, decomposition, protocol – these are all the “left turns” that Auntie managers think of, and he has to personally make sure everyone plays well. This leads to structural problems similar to micro management. Similar to micro management, but different. Because some jobs can be carried out independently under the management of the mother, compared with micro management, managers have no difficulties.
However, since the process is still highly manager centered, the actual workload that can be completed in parallel is usually less than expected. We end up with a very effective process: almost parallel, relatively observable and very close to giving workers independent responsibilities:
Parallel (almost) only predefined “normal” things can happen in parallel. As long as the traffic goes straight ahead or turns right, aunt BEA’s plan seems to work. But she can’t predict how many people will want to turn left. When a lot of people started to turn left, her plan collapsed. In the same way, the actual performance of software projects managed by aunts depends to a large extent on how much development is really needed, without interaction or conflict resolution. If there are more “exceptions” than expected, many developers working in parallel according to the project plan may be sitting in their hands, waiting for the manager to make a decision. This can make it possible in theoryparallelIn practice, the project plan becomesserial Yes.
Nanny management is lighter than micro management for the people being managed, because the “mother” allows her “children” to do something by themselves. Each developer can move on as long as they don’t deviate from the process or fall into conflict. However, if nonstandard behavior is indicated first, the whole process will stop until the manager decides what to do. Managers have to deal with all really important decisions, which stifles the individual’s contribution to solving the overall problem and is almost as ineffective as micro management. There’s a big change here – a manager who sees employees as teenagers is less open to control than those who see employees as young children. However, most people in the software business have a college degree, if we want to find a way to comparemicrocosmicandmaternalFor a more effective style, you have to start by changing the basic assumptions. Barney manages people as machines to program. BEA thinks they’re kids in need. Now, let’s see what happens when Andy sees them as adults.
Andy’s approach didn’t look like “management” at first. He just sat in his chair, drinking lemonade, watching the traffic on the ramp of highway 52. When the ramp starts to get in a serious jam, he slips into the intersection, stops the traffic on key street and clears the ramp; then he returns to his position. He seems to do less “work” than Barney or aunt bee, but the traffic is smoother. We call Andy’s styleexpertManagement – because of our three traffic controllers, he is the real master of management.
The key to Andy’s management style lies in his basic assumption: the driver is an adult, most of the time they can take care of themselves, and his role as a manager is to support these capable adults, so that they can do it themselves and cross the intersection safely. It’s totally different from Aunt Barney and aunt BEA’s assumption. Andy feels safe enough about his abilities and the skills of the driver, so he can move himself out of the work center.
Since Andy does not put himself at the center of management tasks, he can be more flexible and effective in key management activities
Andy thinksThe problem to be solved isEfficient and safe passage through intersections. He also realized that most of the time this intersection didn’t need any help. People turn around here every day without any supervision. What makes this place need some management and intervention? Detour increases the ramp traffic of highway 52, which may sometimes lead to traffic jam on the ramp to the highway and cause safety hazards. Notice the difference – aunt Barney and Barbie define problems based on what they have to do, while Andy defines problems based on results, regardless of who actually “gets the job done.”. By doing so, Andy positions himself as a system of observation and “guidance” rather than as a person engaged in the work. Focus on skills vs. focus on results
By understanding the actual problems to be solved, Andy can provide solutions for themMake an effective plan. The driver is responsible for crossing the intersection by himself. Andy and his “management team” will monitor ramps and make sure they are cleared when (and if) congestion is too far away to pose a safety hazard. Although Barney may accuse Andy of not having too many plans, the fact is that Andy’s simple plan actually allows something very complicated to happen. Because he didn’t try to control the driver’s low-level movements, Andy’s plan entrusted the management to each driver. In this way, they can run in parallel, and they wait – waiting for the driver to turn left takes advantage of the traffic gap created by the driver turning right.
Now that Andy has both a problem statement and a plan, Andy can determine what he needs to doobservation. In order to prevent traffic congestion back on highway 52, he had to pay attention to the ramp – not the intersection. So he put himself on the side where he could see the ramp. This is another important difference in Andy’s style. Standing in the middle of the intersection, aunt Barney and aunt bea are absorbing a lot of information – most of which has nothing to do with solving practical problems. They don’t make really important observations in the right place. Of course, Andy didn’t ignore what happened at the intersection, but he didn’t focus on the intersection.
Andy’s management style uses twoprocess model . First of all, if the traffic is congested on the ramp, it is necessary to stop the traffic on key street and let the cars on the ramp go first. Second, if something gets in the way of an intersection, move it away immediately. For the rest of the time, Andy’s process model says “let the driver take care of himself.”.
Both models are more subtle than they seem. The first model allows Andy to do some fine tuning in the morning. How far is the ramp from the traffic “too far”? At first, he took a conservative approach, clearing the ramp when it was half way up the highway. Later, after observing how fast the traffic on key street could stop to clear the ramp, he changed the definition of “too far” to three-quarters of the distance on the ramp. This means that less intervention is needed, as traffic usually returns to three-quarters of the congestion point and then falls back on its own.
The second model contains a flexible definition of trigger action. Andy is looking for symptoms that may have multiple root causes. If something gets in the way of an intersection (for example, the driver is too timid to turn left), Andy’s model will deal with it.
- Finally, Andy takes the “open” approachget some actionMuch less than Barney or auntie. Most of the time, he seems to do nothing. However, when action is needed, he knows which action is appropriate and effective. But it’s wrong to say that Andy’s action is simpler than Barney’s or Auntie’s. In fact, his infrequent intervention is neededmoreskill. After all, Barney and bea aunt are already standing in the middle of the intersection and have caught the driver’s full attention. Andy has to enter a crossroads full of mobile vehicles to attract the attention of the drivers, temporarily interrupt their self-management, let the driver carry out his instructions, and finally re-establish the self-management system. It’s a task that requires some skill.
As with the other two styles we’ve discussed, mastery management works when its basic assumptions are valid. In software development, if the managers are skilled, competent and educated adults, then these assumptions are usually truecorrect. Therefore, skilled management can solve the structural and behavioral problems we see in the micro management and aunt management
The inherent empowerment of the program means that most disputes and minor conflicts can be resolved without the intervention of the manager, so most of the time people do not have to wait for the order of the manager. When the problem really needs the attention of the manager, the problem does not have to wait in line after a series of skirmishes.
Support for parallel activities means that skilled management can handle projects that are too complex for a single manager to understand all the details, and most software projects fall into this category.
Because the people being managed are also assigned self-management jobs, they can come up with ideas that micro managers or big mom managers may miss.
Expert management involves managementprojectinstead ofpersonal. In most cases, employees are free to choose their own methods within some basic guidelines (for example, driving on the right road or using the company’s standard toolset). This allows creative energy to be invested in finding ways to “beat the system,” rather than creating profitable products.
In short, an expert manager like Andy observes and manipulates a system. If the problem is well understood, the plan is appropriate, and the person working is competent, then the controller usually doesn’t have to do a lot of things. Unlike micro managers and big mom managers, skilled managers spend most of their time observing and thinking, rather than in crazy activities. But don’t be fooled – when Andy is sitting in a chair drinking lemonade, he’s more in control than Barney or auntie.
If expert management is so good, why don’t we see it often? Because it’s disturbing in some ways, especially for managers:
Appearance can be deceptive. Projects managed by experts often give the impression of confusion. When Andy manages the intersection, traffic turns in all directions, which is disturbing compared to Barney’s neat and orderly behavior when he is in charge. However, in Andy’s seemingly chaotic management style, more traffic passed through the intersection, and it was safer. Many software projects already look messy. Will expert management make them even more so? We doubt that; we suspect that much of the apparent confusion in software development comes from resistance to micro and Ma management.
Expert managers need different mindsets. Most people willAdministrationAndpowerIt’s a word. However, the shift from micro management to expert management involves giving up many superficial powers and authorities of management positions and handing them over to the staff. According to author Barry Oshry in Weinberg’s book《Becoming a technology leaderSenior managers have stronger power, if we define power as “to enhance the ability of the system to develop and act in the environment.”.
Measuring important factors in some organizations (especially those based on micro management), it may be difficult for expert managers to be promoted. After all, you won’t do much visible work compared to the micro managers and big mom managers around youAdministrationAnd it’s easy for the micro manager who makes the promotion decision to conclude that although you “do nothing”, the project is successful, but not because of your management.
But expert management pays off. Expert managers usually don’t have to work like micro managers and big mom managers. As a senior manager, you are unlikely to arrive at the office at 3 a.m. to try to solve another trivial problem. When the project team says “we did it ourselves,” you will know that you are an effective leader and will be satisfied with it.
Micro management, aunt management and expert management
The best way to determine management style is to ask questions and observe what’s going on.
Are the people reporting to you scattered like leaves in the wind? Do you think they are fulfilling the legal provisions rather than the spirit? When something goes wrong, do you jump in and start coding? If so, you may have micro managed.
Do you organize workflow to reduce interaction and make things go smoothly in your team? Do you step in and try to fit everyone? In the tight mode, do you want to revert to micro management?
Do you spend a lot of time observing what’s going on, thinking about the impact of the event on your team and project, and planning what to do? If so, you may be an expert manager.
If you want to change your management style, there are some important issues to consider. First, how do you have your current management style? For most of us, the way we manage is influenced by the people who manage us and the environment we live in. Recognizing these impacts, as well as the limitations of your current work situation, may help you decide if it’s time to adopt the new model. It’s also important to check your understanding of stylefeel. If you are satisfied with the status quo, you may not need to make changes. However, if you feel overtired and seem to be fighting the fire all the time, maybe some changes should be made.
Finally, what do you want to do? We see that Barney’s (micro management), BEA’s (aunt Management) and Andy’s (expert management) views on “the problem at hand” influence their unique responses, as well as for you. Once you know what you want to do, you can create and implement plans to achieve your goals and keep traffic running smoothly.
Welcome to leave a message to discuss, what kind of manager are you (not necessarily the management, anyone can reflect)? Do you feel tired every day, just like fighting a fire? What is the situation around you? What is important and how to observe from a reasonable position? What action (try)?