Part 3 – Up Close and Personal with the Two Big Ones
My objective is to ensure that the team’s goals align with the long term and short business goals and strategy while maintaining a good work-life balance. This is a fairly involved process which takes most of my time and creative thinking. A loyal, motivated and engaged team most often delivers high quality results which add business value to an organization. To keep the team motivated and engaged requires a manager be a servant-leader rather than a leader who rules with an iron fist. The latter scenario almost always leads to talent attrition and the team is left with sub-par talent which doesn’t do the organization any good in the long run. While managing a team is an exercise in democracy and consensus building, you pick and choose what can be subject to this process like major decisions while leading with your best judgement on others.
Work-life balance is the golden mean by which many choose to stay or leave. The challenge to me as a manager is to keep work-life balance close to the golden mean for the team, given the number of Initiatives, information, issues and priorities that comes from all directions in an organization. My job is to digest this daily influx of information, figure out what adds the most business value, prioritize the bucket, socialize the priorities with the team and stakeholders, get their buy-in, resolve conflicts and differences of opinion, then proceed to divvy out the tasks to the team based on their capabilities and capacities/bandwidth and deliver within time and budget while managing risks and the proverbial monkey wrench that can gum up the works.
Alongside work-life balance and prioritization, I try to find opportunities for training, mentorship and motivation to aid individual team members in their career goals. Conflict resolution is another big given with a bunch of smart people working in close proximity for extended periods of time. It’s my job to referee and channel this into something constructive.
I strive to provide a fun environment for the team. I want the team to want to come to work, not need to come to work. To this end, I keep them in good humor and spirits with my witticisms at times offer the occasional social and health advice (generally frowned upon by HR) and shoot the breeze and lunch when time permits.
If teams are the powerhouse or the Mitochondria, the applications or products they build are the channels through which revenue gets funneled to the organization. The path to that final quality end product is the famed Software Development Life Cycle or SDLC. While going through the SDLC, a typical app. dev. manager has his hands in many pieces of this pie and generally orchestrating contributions from business, subject matter experts, business analysts, development team, quality assurance teams, Project Management Office and clients. This is much more difficult that it sound because developers speak Vulcan, business speaks Wookie, execs speak high Valyrian and clients speak Mandarin – You get the picture. All through the long SDLC, a manager works to keep the various business requirements true to form and from being lost in translation on its way to becoming a product.
To get into a bit more detail on the SDLC, a manager usually gets involved right at the budgeting and forecasting stage for future projects. I write about this portion in detail in the “Budgeting and Forecasting” section. A manager usually leads the discovery phase with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Business Analysts and some key technical resources. Next comes all the red tape and paper work to actually allocate the money for the project. At the requirements and functional analysis stage, the manager is corralling SMEs, BA and key tech. resources to flesh out requirements and build a development backlog. Once that backlog or the “What” gets build, next comes the “How” with design sessions with key tech resources. It’s the manager’s responsibility to close all technical loops and lead the discussion on a scalable, maintainable, extensible and robust solution. The team takes over the development tasks and the manager and PM oversees task completion in alignment with planned schedule. The manager leads on tackling any hiccups at this point and keeping the schedule on track. Again manager and/or PM then tracks completed tasks for handoff to the QA team. Once certified for go-live, the manager coordinates the release schedule with developers, infrastructure and DBAs and red tape with other compliance and audit related gate keepers. Post deployment, depending on the organization, the manager may have to track usage and performance metrics to determine the usability and performance of the product and gauge the level of success of the release. During the whole SDLC, reports are provided to stakeholders. Yes, a lot of gears are churning in this process.