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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

July - 2008 - issue > Management

Successfully Managing Complex Software Product Teams

Rudra Mukherjee
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Rudra Mukherjee
The primary meaning of the word ‘manage’ is, “To bring about or succeed in accomplishing a task, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship.”

Although, when we talk about ‘managing’ in a professional setup, the word doesn’t carry the same connotation; all of us should agree that ‘management’ becomes significant only when there are difficulties or constraints. The more constraints, the more significant the manager’s role becomes. Constraints can either be organizational or in terms of resources and skill sets. Each organization has its own business goals, HR policies, administration style, employee compensation, and so forth. These can become constraints when they do not align with the individual requirements or objectives of the employees. However each organization has certain USPs – these could be in terms of the technical nature of the work, brand equity, growth prospective, and of course the HR policies. These could be thought of as tools in the hands of managers that can motivate people and align them to the organization. If one factor becomes a constraint, another tool could be used. The important thing to understand is that it is you, the manager, who has to solve the puzzle. That’s what you are paid for—not to complain that a person in your team is leaving because your organization is not paying enough or push for an out-of-turn promotion just to appease a particular individual.

Task Managers versus People Managers
On one extreme, there are managers who are only concerned with the work and ignore the interests of the team members. On the other side there are managers who always tend to side with the people even at the cost of business impacts. While most managers fall somewhere in-between, it’s a delicate task to balance the business and personal needs of the team-members. What is important is sensitivity and empathy. Thanks to the booming service industry (read ‘body-market’) of today, it’s common to refer to employees as ‘resources’. Yes, employees are resources, but they are humans first. You need to connect to the minds of people in order for them to really put in their best for you. Don’t treat them as machines where you give some inputs and expect predictable outputs.

Any situation that causes a conflict has to be handled with sensitivity; you need to put yourself in the shoes of the concerned individuals and then judge the situation. Remember, each of your actions or decisions is followed closely by every member of your team. For example, if a team member gets an out-of-turn promotion, the manager must make it a point to state the reason, so that the others do not feel upset or discouraged. Always be genuine and honest: integrity is always a safe bet.

Make sure that your team is not being constantly overworked. Stretching occasionally is acceptable, but it should not become a practice. If you’re constantly making your team slog, it may give you good short-term returns, but it’s not a stable scenario in the long run. Beyond a certain threshold, it starts causing frustration; expectations for recognition or special compensation become difficult to manage; and eventually the results are disastrous. Remember, efficiency is what is important – to work smart, not work hard.

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