Tips for managing technical people – Insist on an explanation
24 February 2016, by Zoe Cunningham
The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Galvanizing the Geeks – Tips for Managing Technical People”. You can buy the full book on my website, here.
In Respect your team, I talked about why you need to give clear explanations to your team in order to increase buy-in and, of course, to show that you respect your team enough to let them in on your decision-making. One great advantage of this is that, if you are in the habit of giving explanations, you are also in a position to demand them when you are unsure about exactly why something has to be a certain way, or why it should take so long.
As a manager, who probably doesn’t often have the time to go into the detail, you need to be able to assess proposals and plans at a high level. Some transactions can just be done on trust: with your longest serving managers, you can get to a situation where they have such a history of delivering on time that you can let them put together plans and simply look at whether the cost works for you or not. Even then, there may be times where you need to clarify exact approaches or establish why a certain approach doesn’t work.
You should develop a healthy suspicion of being given the ‘right’ answer. If you get the answer that you expected (or were hoping for), it might be that everything is tripping along swimmingly – or it might be that this is the obvious answer to stop you enquiring further. It could also be that, in your rush to assume that there are no crises for you, you don’t hear the substance of what is being said and interpret the answer according to your own expectations. It’s too easy to hope for and assume the best. Look for further details and reasons to ensure that you’re not being misled (accidentally or deliberately).
If you’re uncertain of something, blind trust is not the answer. Good, challenging questions and a culture of explaining what you’re doing and why will help you to get to the best answers.
Tags: galvanizing the geeks