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Managing non-technical managers

By percy_sandoval ·
I'm looking to the experienced managers out there-have you ever been on a job where your manager(vp, director, etc.) is non-technical in nature? My current manager is and it's starting to put me in a more and more precarious position-I am gettin pressure from him to do a lot of things that really tend to circumvent much of the development process. It's killing my relationships with many cross team managers, it's killing the team I manage because they are being pulled in so many different directions and it's killing me because I'm having to pull them in these directions as well as having to do things (directly at his bidding) that are really "dirty pool"-creating 'clandestine' projects which have little involvement from other parts of theteam, pushing the team to create projects in half the time they need, so what we come up with is a half-baked mess, it goes on and on. For those of you who have been here-what worked in working through a situation such as this?

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How's Your Patience?

by steve In reply to Managing non-technical ma ...

Percy - you are in a very difficult spot. I have over 15 years of technical management experience (from internal IT to R&D). And I have run in to these situations before, even with managers who at one time had a technical background, but now fulfill a primarily "business" role and have different pressures to respond to. This is a situation that can be turned around with patience and a lot of tact.

How you proceed and how long you keep at it will be largely based upon your assessment of your manager's willingness to learn. The road will be a little more difficult than it might have been because you've already done somethings you probably shouldn't have and you will have to change those patterns.

Your goal: establish the credibility with your manager that allows you to make the decisions on technical matters.

You'll need to convince him / her that you have their best interests at heart (and frankly, you can't fake this). Then each time you get asked to do something against your better judgment, you'll need to put together a plan the best you can under the circumstances and then point out the risks and issues with the plan. Be careful not to be adversarial in this, but having the success of the endeavor and your manager in mind.


Steve Beebe

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How's Your Patience, Part 2

by steve In reply to Managing non-technical ma ...


Then as the risks and issues come to pass, you'll need to go back to the what you had talked about at the beginning of the effort. Be careful to avoid an "I told you so" tone. Your goal is to teach. Focus on a plan to respond to the new circumstances. Conduct a review at the end of each effort to assess "what worked / what didn't". If your manager has any process orientation at all this will be a good way to continue the education process.

What you'll be doing is developing your manager's understanding of the consequences of taking certain risks. What you should be demonstrating over time is the value of the processes in place and the various parts of the organization. When new projects come up and if you get asked to do some of the same things, raise the same risks and issues, but with a reminder of the consequences last time (this can be done in the context of putting in place a risk mitigation plan). Work with your manager to understand the business pressures he/she are under and work with them to find a workable solution - one with reasonable risks and that meets the business objectives.

Progress will likely be slow in the beginning, but if your manager is open to learning, it will accelerate andsome point. In the best of outcomes, they will come to depend upon your judgment and be concerned about making commitments without a chance to consult with you.

It is also possible that you will not make progress. If your manager is not open tolearning, your attempts to educate will likely be viewed as negativity. If this turns out to be the case, you should make sure your resume is current and make a job change before people begin to associate the failures and messes that are happening with you, rather than inappropriate management.

I wish you all the best.

Steve Beebe
Xapware Technologies, Inc.
Active! Focus
Driving Development Success

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