Many of the developers I know have been programming since they were in junior high. Whether it was building text-based games on an Apple IIe or creating a high school football roster app in Visual Basic, it’s something they did for the challenge, for the love of learning new things and, oh yes, for the chicks. Ladies love a man who can speak BASIC to his Apple.
College graduates face a sad reality when they leave the protective womb of a university and have to get their first real job. Many of my friends found jobs paying around $25k out of school, and were amazed that the starting engineering and computer science salaries were nearly double that. But the majority of the engineers in my class didn’t become engineers for the money; we did it because it touched on a deep inner yearning to tinker and impress their friends. And did I mention the chicks?
Money is a motivating factor for most of us, but assuming comparable pay, what is it that makes some companies attract and retain developers while others churn through them like toilet paper?
Now, don’t get me wrong, you need to compensate your people appropriately as well, but ask your developers if they have any side projects and you’ll probably find that the best ones have some exciting side projects going on that they’re doing to learn something new, give back to the community or just to help someone out. This is the list of how you can tap into that energy at the office and get the most out of your developers.
The article echoes many of my personal sentiments that your administrators and developers need to be encouraged to work smarter, not harder, even to the point of having “free time.”
… You want an environment where sysadmins kick back and read IT magazines occasionally, because their run-of-the-mill administrative tasks (adding users, managing disk space, etc.) are all scripted and/or automated. They can then focus their energies on the unexpected and unavoidable issues that crop up from time-to-time.
Beyond handling the unexpected, through having this “free time” administrators will have the ability to identify areas in need of improvement. If your administrators are running around fixing stuff all the time your team has a problem! Not only will morale, and therefore retention suffer but your administrators will have no time for evaluating new opportunities.
The best teams celebrate those who sit back and let their computers do their work for them. You want to have a project team that considers repetitive development activities to be tasteless. Sometimes necessary, but generally frowned upon.
Check out the full article and think a bit about what your team could be doing if they weren’t fighting fires all the time.
For a C-level executive, the idea here is pretty simple: If you want to leverage the wisdom of the crowd, if you want to tap into the creative genius of your entire organization, if you want to leverage the full capabilities of emergent intelligence, you have to trust your people and you have to get out of their way. As a C-level executive, your only job is to create an environment that fosters innovation and success.
Alexander cites many ways the wrong customer can have a negative impact on your organization resulting in employee dissatisfaction and even poor customer service. There are some lessons here that some will be uncomfortable with, but it’s a great look at the big picture.
In 2000, EDS, a major information technology and business firm took the term “cat herding” and ran with it for this fantastic super bowl commercial, but what does cat herding mean?
The term is used to draw a parallel between cats, who are inherently independent and difficult to control, and IT workers, who are inherently independent and difficult to control. Anyone with a cat of their own probably has a good idea what I’m talking about. In a more broad sense, herding cats refers to getting different people or groups to coordinate on a goal.
Herding cats implies the futility inherent in a position as an IT manager.
In a modern IT shop it is quite literally impossible for a manager to know everything about their employees’ jobs and I believe that is the main cause of this precieved futility. To try to understand and control everything your employees are doing is just as bound to fail as trying to get your cat to come when you call its name. The good IT managers know it, the best ones embrace it.
So what is an IT manager to do? I think effective cat herding boils down to just these three things…
Hire good people
Get them the resources they need to do their jobs
Protect them from the politics and metawork as much as possible
Remember, cat herding (IT management) isn’t about your own goals or job fulfillment, it’s about allowing your employees to reach their full potential.
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