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Managing Technical People:
Innovation, Teamwork, and the Software Process (SEI Series in Software Engineering)

Watts Humphrey
Addison Wesley, 1996
ISBN 0-201-54597-7

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Managing Technical People is rich in advice regarding the special challenges of management in a technology environment. While grounded in some well-known management principles, the book's specific focus on the needs of technologists provides a valuable reading experience. Humphrey defines the key to success in achieving superior performance as being a combination of several elements:

  • A challenging and worthy goal
  • Talented, motivated, and capable people
  • The training and support to enable the work to be done properly
  • A manager with the drive and vision to make it happen
  • A leader who understands and cares about his or her followers

Table of Contents:

The Manager as Leader

  1. Technical Leadership
  2. The Commitment Ethic
  3. The Importance of Professionalism
  4. Respect for the Individual
Managing Technical and Professional People
  1. The Goals of Engineers and Scientists
  2. The Changing Professional Career
  3. Motivating Technical and Professional People
  4. Professional Discipline
The Identification and Development of Talented People
  1. Identifying Talented Professionals
  2. Developing Technical Talent
  3. Developing Managerial Talent
Innovation
  1. The Importance of Innovation
  2. The Innovators
Innovative Teams
  1. Team Structure
  2. Managing Innovative Teams
  3. The Innovative Team Environment
  4. Rewards and Recognition
  5. The Management Team
The Organization
  1. Integration and Disintegration
  2. Managing Size
Managing Change
  1. Structural Change
  2. The Change Process
  3. Technical Assessment
Strategies for Managing Change
  1. Organizational Maturity
  2. The People-Development Strategy
  3. The Process Improvement Strategy
  4. Building for the Future

While the entire book is worth reading, I found two areas particularly insightful. The first focused on the importance of professional discipline and the manager's role in fostering professional discipline. A key point here is that disciplined intellectual work (i.e. coding) is often invisible, and the manager's role is to encourage a visible, disciplined process through a set of metrics that makes quality work visible. There is also a significant emphasis on the manager's role in fostering innovation by giving concrete advice that helps create innovative team environments. Specifically suggested are examples of non-restrictive environments and altering leadership styles depending on the team dynamics.

This book is quite useful to technical project managers because it goes beyond the standard people management text and explores the uniqueness of the technical environment. The author's frequent use of examples from history and his own experience provide understanding of the techniques and how to implement them.

Contributed by Marie Sutton, Integrated Project Systems




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