We Have Met The Enemy...And He Is Us

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We Have Met The Enemy…And He Is Us

Barbee Davis, M.A., PHR, PMP Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Cartoonist, Walt Kelley, who inked the long-running comic strip, Pogo, is famous for the quote, “We have met the enemy….and he is us.” Nowhere is this sentiment more accurate than when describing a software project manager who is new to the software development process. Here’s how to avoid having “the enemy” be you.

• As a project manager, you expect your team to estimate the amount of time it will take them to complete a specific task. It is detrimental to the schedule if they go too far over the budgeted time. One of your tasks on the project is to hold meetings to drive team communication. You need to demonstrate the ability to estimate and deliver the meetings as meticulously as you expect your developers to estimate and deliver their code.

When your meetings run long, you are stealing the precious programming time developers count on to meet your project schedule deadlines.

• If your project team spoke a foreign language, you would take some lessons and get a translator. Your developers do not speak your language. Buy a book, take a class, make Google your friend, and find a developer who has the gift to explain complex things in a simple way. You can not bluff you way through this project without learning some of the concepts, terms, and challenges your team faces.

• Regardless of the perfect methodology you used to build toasters, cars, develop pharmaceuticals, or even construct skyscrapers, it won’t work here. Let the trusted members of your team explain about agile methodologies. They aren’t new or risky. But they are your best chance at having a working product at the end of your project.

• Developers are craftsmen and artists. They work differently than accountants, attorneys, or bank tellers. When they are meeting in pairs and talking animatedly, they are actually working. When they are bouncing a ball against a wall or doodling on a whiteboard, they may be crafting a solution to an architecture problem that can’t be solved by staring at a computer screen. Give them space.

• Your team will work odd hours. We’ve all seen the cashier at the local food emporium switch with her replacement. Open the drawer, exchange the money drawer, and the new cashier is up and running. A programmer can’t switch places with a cohort and just pick up where his teammate left off. When your team member is feverishly at work, leave him or her alone. Researchers say it may take an hour or more for the person to regain productivity, if interrupted.

• It is unnecessary to have every person program in exactly the same programming language. Some endeavors are better approached with newer languages which require fewer lines of code to write, test, store on your servers, and maintain. Don’t refuse to let your developers use the best tool for the job.

Open your mind to this new world of software development, and you can be a support for your software development team, not the enemy.

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