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Management for non-managers

January 25, 2010

Here at Status Not Quo, it’s a fair bet to say that if we’re doing anything that takes more than a minute or two, it’s been planned, scoped, and budgeted.  One good reason for that is our business model, which relies heavily on each individual in the company being as efficient as possible, and another is simply the fact that that’s the way we’ve chosen to work.  It requires discipline to really plan and manage our time, but the fact is that it works, and works well.

 Now, I’m a very hands-on kind of tech guy.  My favorite part of any day is when I’m sitting at my desk, my music is playing, and I’m writing some piece of code that is somehow different from any other code I’ve written before.  These times come pretty often, which is great.  What’s not so great is that it can be easy sometimes to slip into a kind of programmer-vision, where all I can see is the next step on the road ahead of me, and not the destination.

 In past years, this hasn’t bothered me as much as it probably should have, but I’ve come to learn (sometimes the hard way) that really, no matter where I am in my career,  the key to business success is to be a good manager, even if that just means managing myself.  Often, this discipline requires a lot of changes of perspective during the day, and it can be hard to pull myself out of the issue-of-the-moment and see things – even my own day – from a management point of view.  To help me with that, I keep a short bullet-point list of friendly self-management reminders on my desk, where I’m sure to glance at it from time to time.  This list isn’t perfect, and I expect it to grow and change over time, but it has helped me a lot, and it’s a good place to start:

  • Handle the easy stuff first.  One of my friends refers to this as the “low-hanging fruit philosophy”.  Often in an IT business, there are a lot of items on a project list, all with varying time requirements and difficulty levels.  This point is about identifying the items that are either quick to change, or extremely visible to the client, and hammering them out first.  Often this will mean moving from one general project to another, and that’s not always easy when those programmer-vision goggles go on, but I’ve seen myself how far this can go.
  • Step back.  This is the classic forest-and-trees idea – we need to make sure we can always see both.  For myself, seeing what’s up close is easy.  I practically do it in my sleep, and more than once my wife has made fun of me because I solved an issue I was having in my head while we’re out a restaurant.  But seeing both is essential to keeping efficient.  A lot of this step is an art more than a science.  How much time have I spent so far on what I’m doing, and is that appropriate?  What else do I need to get done today, and when do I need to switch?
  • Standardize.  This point is very simple – when it comes to efficient use of my time, standards are my friends.  I’ve found methodologies for working through projects that work for me, and I’m careful to stick to them.  This keeps my workflow comfortable and familiar, but it also helps make sure I don’t forget some crucial step along the way.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  The point here is pretty basic, and we’ve all heard it a million times, but it really is incredibly important.  Make a mantra out of it, and then follow it.  Communicating early and often are the keys to success.

 Learning to think like a manager, even at the times when I’m not one, has made a huge impact in my efficiency with my own work, and it doesn’t hurt my relationships with my co-workers, either.  I hope this list, and the approach I’ve learned to use, will be of help to someone, too.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2010 6:45 am

    Very Helpful! I think I am going print this list off, and put it in my office.

    Like the blog and the website, by the way…


  2. Josh Miller permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:52 am

    Great post! The “Handle the easy stuff first” is very much inline with the “2 minute rule” in “Getting Stuff Done” book from David Allen.

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