Learning to Manage IT workers


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A helpful guide on learning to manage IT workers who are different from any type of worker you have dealt with.

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  • Introduction, ask the others to introduce themselves.
  • Review the learning objectives.
  • What is all this about.
  • What about your experience. Technology just doesn’t work like it is supposed to and the people who work with technology are different from typical workers. This is a profound cause of frustration.
  • The Standish Group Survey exposes some very ugly trends in the technology business. One third of technology solutions you promise to your client are going to be on time and on budget. Over half will cost more and take longer than promised. The typical IT person stays at their position only three years according to ComputerWeekly.com July 12, 2007.
  • The only reason the trend line went down is because of the great recession. The figure will rise again when the economy improves.
  • Only 8.1% of all undergraduates take a computer science major according to Network World March 17, 2009. Compared to 13.1% for all undergraduates who take an accounting major according to Accounting web weekly news, September 27, 2009. 56% of major IT resources are outsourced because there are not enough American workers to do the job. (source The Geek Gap 2001). 44,900 H1B Visas for foreign workers to work in technology plus and additional petitions with Masters Degrees exemptions. All of this combines into the following.
  • Most of us view the leadership of our firm this way. The leader at the top with followers tied together by the organizational culture. This does not work for technology professionals.
  • The leader, technology worker, and the geekwork all tie together. All of this takes place in the organizational environment.
  • The technology worker sees the world very differently from how other business people view it. They represent two very different tribes inside the same organization.
  • These two tribes then have conflicts for three reasons. Because of a lack of respect and trust this undermines the effectiveness of the organization.
  • The story of the “office technology weenie”. Complaints about geeks: 1) Geeks don’t understand- or want to understand anything about the business they work in; 2) Geeks love technology for its own sake; 3) Geeks expect – sometimes demand – that suits understand as much as they do about technology; 4) Can never seem to meet deadlines or stay within budget; 5) Rules do not apply to them; 6) Geeks are bad with people. Geek Concerns about suits: 1) Some refuse to learn anything about technology; 2) Suits who don’t understand technology nevertheless insist on making technological pronouncements; 3) Suits don’t value technology; 4) Suits care only about money; 5) Resist innovation; 6) Value Image over substance; 7) Set and expect unrealistic deadlines for task completion.
  • Reason is to know, and to know is to be certain and to be certain is to be right, and to be right is to be safe. All things have reasons and all decisions must be reasonable. All problems have solutions, reality is endlessly fascination to geeks and it is the ultimate puzzle to solve. Smart people have lots of street cred. with Geeks. This is why the Nobel prize and other awards for achievement are just like gold stars. Talk about the Bozo bit. The technologist is more like a painter or a filmmaker than a standard employee. The way to stay employed is to keep your skills up to date. The Hacker ethos. Identify with heroes from Science fiction and fantasy.
  • Lead this discussion.
  • To illustrate estimates are wrong bring a crossword puzzle to someone and ask them to give an estimate to how long it will take to complete. Ask how much they know about their network. That illustrates that they don’t know more than their network people.
  • Leadership has two very different motivations.
  • For your IT staff you are going to act like a football coach.
  • To the rest of the firm you are going to have to act as cheerleader and spokes person.
  • These are some proven techniques which improve IT performance.
  • Want to alienate your IT staff just do these things.
  • Review the Ambiguity pyramid.
  • Don’t joke about ethics. It is a big deal.
  • In the next module we are going to talk about project management and how agile is one way to address it.
  • This is the most touchy feely part of Ambiguity management. You are actually giving people roles they have to fulfill.
  • Project management, understanding the motivations of geeks and how they view the world is going to be crucial to your success.
  • Learning to Manage IT workers

    1. 1. Bridging the Geek Gap in Your Business University of St. Francis School of Business
    2. 2. Our Learning Objectives <ul><li>The challenge of technology </li></ul><ul><li>Why technology and technology workers matter </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the differences between technology workers and business leaders </li></ul><ul><li>How to motivate technology workers </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Why you need technology in your office. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Your challenge as a business person <ul><li>Over the past three decades, the pace of technological change has increased. </li></ul><ul><li>Technological innovation remains one of the most important components of an organizations ability to compete in the marketplace. </li></ul><ul><li>Technology people are the ones who deliver innovation </li></ul>
    5. 5. In short… <ul><li>Technology helps you do your job faster, better and cheaper than your competition. </li></ul>
    6. 6. The Dirty Little Secret of Technology <ul><li>Projects fail </li></ul><ul><li>Projects go over budget </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult working with technology workers </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations of technology do not match the reality </li></ul>
    7. 7. The CHAOS Study Standish Group Survey, The Art of Lean Software Development December 2008
    8. 8. Turnover rates Courtesy of Gartner Research August 18, 2009
    9. 9. The bottom line <ul><li>Your success as a business depends on providing innovation for your customers better than your competition. </li></ul><ul><li>The only way to do this is to find and retain technology workers who provide that innovation. </li></ul>
    10. 10. <ul><li>The people who provide innovation are the ones who give you a competitive edge. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Technology Trends <ul><li>The Internet is still in its infancy </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone uses the internet </li></ul><ul><li>Wireless is going to be everywhere </li></ul><ul><li>Computing will move to the web. (cloud computing) </li></ul><ul><li>As technology gets more complex, it looks simpler. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Technology Worker = Geek The put down is not what it used to be and is a source of pride among the technology workers. Geeks are the knowledge workers who specialize in the creation, maintenance , or support of high technology. These are the people who will help you address these technology trends
    13. 13. What’s the big deal <ul><li>Geeks are different from other workers </li></ul><ul><li>Geekwork, the intricate, technological knowledge geeks perform is different than other types of work. </li></ul><ul><li>Power, the basis of most approaches to leadership, is useless when dealing with geeks. </li></ul>
    14. 15. Courtesy of Paul Glen, Leading Geeks , 2003
    15. 16. The Bottom Line <ul><li>Leading technology workers is going to be the biggest challenge of your career. </li></ul>
    16. 17. <ul><li>What makes technology workers different from business leaders </li></ul>
    17. 18. Two Tribes <ul><li>Geeks </li></ul><ul><li>Suits </li></ul><ul><li>Solve Problems </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping systems working = success </li></ul><ul><li>Process focused </li></ul><ul><li>The Journey is more important </li></ul><ul><li>Sports are fun to play but not a metaphor for life. </li></ul><ul><li>Technology has a value & beauty all its own. </li></ul><ul><li>Influence others </li></ul><ul><li>Being likable = success </li></ul><ul><li>Product focused </li></ul><ul><li>The Destination counts </li></ul><ul><li>Sports are a metaphor for life especially team sports </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is a part of commerce </li></ul>
    18. 19. So…this leads to challenges <ul><li>Geeks and Suits do not communicate well </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks and Suits don’t respect each other </li></ul><ul><li>Technology people and Business people don’t trust each other. </li></ul>
    19. 20. Exercises #1 <ul><li>What do you call your technologist in the office? </li></ul><ul><li>What are some of your complaints about your IT professionals. </li></ul><ul><li>When something breaks technologically do you fix it yourself or ask for help? </li></ul>
    20. 21. Why…understanding the Geek. Courtesy of Paul Glen, Leading Geeks , 2003
    21. 22. Geek Motivations <ul><li>Reason </li></ul><ul><li>Puzzles, Problems and Curiosity </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks choose Machines over people </li></ul><ul><li>Intelligence is Worshiped </li></ul><ul><li>Swift and Merciless to Judge </li></ul><ul><li>My work is my Art </li></ul><ul><li>Loyalty to Technology and Profession </li></ul><ul><li>Strong Independent streak. </li></ul>
    22. 23. Exercises #2 <ul><li>Describe some of your interactions with your technology staff and do you notice some of these traits in them? </li></ul><ul><li>How can you use these motivations in your favor? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you understand why technology people consider what they do as artistic? </li></ul>
    23. 24. Courtesy of Paul Glen, Leading Geeks , 2003
    24. 25. Characteristics of Geek work. <ul><li>Failure is Normal. </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguity Rules. </li></ul><ul><li>Figuring out what to do can be harder than doing it. </li></ul><ul><li>Geekwork is Organized by what you don’t know. </li></ul><ul><li>Deep concentration is required. </li></ul><ul><li>Estimates are always wrong. </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t control creativity. </li></ul><ul><li>Subordinates know more than managers. </li></ul>
    25. 26. The Bottom Line <ul><li>Technology workers have a very different perspective on the world and that makes them a challenge to lead. </li></ul><ul><li>Your leadership style must accommodate these very different workers. </li></ul>
    26. 27. <ul><li>Leadership skills and approaches for technology workers. </li></ul>
    27. 28. Motivation of Geeks Courtesy of Paul Glen, Leading Geeks , 2003
    28. 29. How two tribes see things <ul><li>Suits climb the corporate ladder to influence and inspire others. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify themselves where they work </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks climb the corporate ladder to have more responsibility and decision-making power and to have more control of their personal destinies. </li></ul><ul><li>Indentify themselves by their skills. </li></ul>
    29. 30. Courtesy of Paul Glen, Leading Geeks , 2003
    30. 31. Internal Facilitation <ul><li>Gathering information </li></ul><ul><li>Maintaining Alignment </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining Resources </li></ul><ul><li>Managing Expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Projecting Prominence </li></ul><ul><li>Protecting Geeks </li></ul><ul><li>Insulating Geeks </li></ul><ul><li>Attracting Geeks </li></ul>
    31. 32. External Representation <ul><li>You are the public face of the Information Technology team. </li></ul><ul><li>You must make sure Geek concerns are brought to the attention of your leadership. </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforce the contribution of IT to the firm. </li></ul>
    32. 33. Motivation of geeks <ul><li>Select Wisely </li></ul><ul><li>Manage Meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate Significance </li></ul><ul><li>Show a career path </li></ul><ul><li>Projectize </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage Isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Engender External competition. </li></ul><ul><li>Design interdependence </li></ul><ul><li>Limit group size. </li></ul><ul><li>Control Resource Availability </li></ul><ul><li>Provide food..intermittently </li></ul>
    33. 34. Don’t do this…. <ul><li>Exclude Geeks from Decision making </li></ul><ul><li>Be Inconsistent </li></ul><ul><li>Excessively monitor </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on tasks, not on goals </li></ul><ul><li>Perform Unqualified Evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>Use Artificial Deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Change Deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Have the organization ignore geeks. </li></ul><ul><li>Have Teams without the correct skills. </li></ul>
    34. 35. Management of Ambiguity <ul><li>This is the most difficult thing to do as an IT leader. </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguity is represented by a Pyramid. </li></ul><ul><li>Three levels from most general to most specific. </li></ul>
    35. 36. Environmental Ambiguity <ul><li>You have to deal with the following questions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who are we? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why are we here? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we fit into and relate to the outside world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the significance of our work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the ethical standards which we should be held. </li></ul></ul>
    36. 37. Structural Ambiguity <ul><li>You need to answer these questions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What are we going to do? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How are we going to do it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Project management is the key to dealing with Structural Ambiguity. If you can’t manage a project you are sunk. </li></ul></ul>
    37. 38. Task Ambiguity <ul><li>The capstone of the Ambiguity pyramid </li></ul><ul><li>Who are the characters in the story of a project? </li></ul><ul><li>Who plays each role? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you exercise the prerogatives of a geek leader? </li></ul>
    38. 39. <ul><li>Some final thoughts </li></ul>
    39. 40. What have we learned. <ul><li>Innovation is required for business success. </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks provide innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks are different from other employees </li></ul><ul><li>Geeks require different leadership. </li></ul>
    40. 41. Final Thought <ul><li>“ Somebody has to change things and isn’t it sad that we have to be the ones to do it.” </li></ul><ul><li>---Jerry Garcia </li></ul>