Friday, May 26, 2006

How to Manage Geeks

The main reason IT people are unhappy at work is bad relations with management, often because geeks and managers have fundamentally different personalities, professional backgrounds and ambitions.

The following is my take from an article on how not to manage geeks.


Majority of geeks are into self development and new challanges so if your geeks are not taking part in bleeding edge projects, then training is significant factor in staff morale.

I personally feel the certification is more important then the actual knowledge to be learnt in training. My best technical staff can usually pick up new stuff themselves


Need to give recognition of good work but giving recognitions with a large number of alpha geeks is also a hazardous path to tread.

Recognition though can be used as significant motivation tool.

Micro Manage their time

My approach to managin time with geeks is to make sure that we define what needs to be completed and by when. Geeks dont like managers sitting over their shoulders or giving unrealistic timelines

Dont Use management-speak

Readers from this blog know that I dont have management speak or follow standard grammar rules.

Geeks hate management-speak and see it as superficial and dishonest. Managers shouldn’t learn to speak tech, but they should drop the biz-buzzwords. A manager can say “We need to proactively impact our time-to-market” or simply use english and stick to “We gotta be on time with this project”.

Dont try and be smarter than the geeks

A coach in basketball isnt expected to be a better than his/her players the same approach to technical staff. I am technically competant but I defer to the geeks unless it will threaten the project.

Act Fairly

This is the most important factor for me as I always expect to be treated fairly and geeks seem to have a heightened radar for unfairness. In recognitions, salary, discipline etc.

Managers of geeks have to walk the talk.

Consult Geeks whant making decisions
Geeks usually know the technical side of the business better than the manager, so besides the advantage of buy in, making technical decisions with the advice of geeks usually end up being the best decision.

Give the Geeks the tools they want not require.

A fast computer may cost more money than an older one and it may not be corporate standard, but geeks use computers differently. A slow computer lowers productivity and is a daily annoyance. So is outdated software. Give them the tools they want.

Sometimes giving geeks these tools will save the extra money it would cost in extra salary to keep them. In my experience the best geeks are the ones that enjoy the tools, challenges more then the financial rewards

Remember that geeks are creative workers

Programming is a creative process, not an industrial one. Geeks must constantly come up with solutions to new problems and rarely ever solve the same problem twice. Therefore they need leeway and flexibility. Strict dress codes and too much red tape kill all inovation. They also need creative surroundings to avoid “death by cubicle”.

As I continually state my main goal in managing geeks is to remove roadblocks in meeting the big picture


Anonymous Alexander Kjerulf said...

Thanks for some excellent add-ons to my original posts.

It's good to get confirmation from an "enlightened" manager of geeks that this stuff actually works

8:52 pm  

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