I have been reading the SEMAT Kernel book, The Essence of Software Engineering: Applying the SEMAT Kernel, and it provides a new way of managing software development projects. It is supposed to make it easy to check the health of a project by classifying the major components, known as Alpha states in SEMAT, and the progress level that they’re at.
Attributes of an effective technical lead
- Knowledge: “A strong tech lead’s knowledge is broad and deep…A tech lead should be a master of several technologies.”
- Speed: “be ultra-responsive and capable of making instant decisions, always kicking the ball forward”
- Awareness: “You should be able to keep the current state of the entire project in your head at all times.”
- Block: “block bad decisions before they are made, typically armed with a better solution”
- Unblock: “If someone has a question, you should be able to either give an answer or bring in the right person to field it.”
- Redirect: “If an engineer on your team is unsure of something or has a question that you don’t know the exact answer to, knowing who to send them to is extremely valuable and saves a lot of time.”
Some key actions
- Help create and stack rank project priorities
- Define best practices for issue tracking
- Coach other engineers
- Review code in detail and provide useful feedback
- Shield engineers from management when needed
- Explain why decisions are made
- Fight for the right design decisions
- Load-balance work among the team
The United States Army has a field manual on leadership and leadership influence. In it, they describe multiple techniques for influencing your team/squad to accomplish tasks and fulfill mission objectives.
Leadership Influence Techniques
It has a great list of leadership influence techniques that would benefit managers or team leaders in office settings:
- Legitimate requests
- Personal appeals
- Rational persuasion
- Relationship Building
Some good ideas on applying pressure,
Pressure is applied when leaders use explicit demands to achieve compliance, such as establishing task completion deadlines with negative consequences imposed for unmet completion. Indirect pressure includes persistent reminders of the request and frequent checking. This technique should be used infrequently since it tends to trigger resentment from followers, especially if the leader-exerted pressure becomes too severe. When followers perceive that pressures are not mission related but originate from their leader’s attempt to please superiors for personal recognition, resentment can quickly undermine an organization’s morale, cohesion, and quality of performance. Pressure is a good choice when the stakes are high, time is short, and previous attempts at achieving commitment have not been successful
This is what happens when the leader explains why a request will benefit the team member, it is known as apprising. You apprise a person and let them know the advantages, the worth, potentially what a blessing the request could be.
Apprising happens when the leader explains why a request will benefit a follower, such as giving them greater satisfaction in their work or performing a task a certain way that will save half the time. In contrast to the exchange technique, the benefits are out of the control of the leader.
For example; suggesting that a team member takes a training course. The benefits are out of the control of the leader, you can’t guarantee that they will learn a lot or that they will enjoy. However, as a leader you can convince them and apprise them of the benefits of additional education, such as opening doors to promotions or new projects.
Participation and Inspiration
In a democracy and in collaborative workplaces the inspiration technique is vital to get people moving in the same direction. Inspiration aligns people to accomplish the same goals without using coercion. With inspiration, you inspire the team to do the tasks that will accomplish the mission objectives.
The participation technique is commonly suggested when change is being introduced to a team or organization. The team or organization is invited to participate within the change. They are invited to craft the change to suit them. This technique is highly valuable. It should be used as often as possible to get buy-in from team members on the goals and tasks that need to be done.
Participation occurs when the leader asks a follower to take part in planning how to address a problem or meet an objective. Active participation leads to an increased sense of worth and recognition. It provides value to the effort and builds commitment to execute the commitment.
Other Leadership Training Material
They also cover other things such as:
- creating a positive environment
- developing others
- providing direction, guidance and priorities in order to accomplish a mission
You can download the full PDF of their guide here: http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm6-22.pdf
7 tips for making Agile more palatable to users
- Find ways to give users some sense of predictability
- Earn trust incrementally
- Explain how updates will become more accurate as the project progresses
- Give users enough information to make good decisions
- Make sure you talk to all the stakeholders
- Don’t use developer buzzwords
- Adopt Agile techniques gradually
Agile Switching Between Projects and Operations
It’s interesting how clients expect things to be projects with a well-defined beginning and an end. However, since there is ongoing maintenance for websites, web apps, and other software, these projects inevitably turn into products. They should be managed that way:
“Businesses might be anxious that constant iteration = never-ending,” says Josh Oakhurst, from Skookum Digital Works. Sure, to an educated client, “open-ended” is an advantage, with flexibility that can be celebrated. But most clients just want to know what they’re buying, he says. “With Agile, software developers are selling a process, not a product.”
Furthermore, the project is going to be never-ending unless it stops making money or accomplishing whatever goal the client has in mind. It is no longer a project and becomes operations. Most clients are not set up to handle this switch between projects and operations. They need guidance and help in setting up expectations for Agile.