My Principles in IT Team Management
For more than 5 years I have been holding leadership positions in the field of data analysis. From Senior DS with two subordinates to leading three teams of analysts and engineers in Sber’s Small Business. During this time, I have formed principles that help me manage creative professionals.
I do not pretend to be the truth, and not everything always turns out to be followed. The principles do not reflect all the tasks of a manager, but relate to specific issues. I share with you my experience, I will be glad to hear your opinion.
You need to set quarterly goals so that you achieve 60-70% of them
In modern business, everything can change quickly in 3 months. The complexity of the task may turn out to be completely different from what it seemed at the evaluation stage. Some tasks disappear, some urgent ones appear.
It is clear that planning goals is different. Some companies have to meet 100% of your goals or you’ll get a bad grade. It seems to me that this is a bad practice, because. people begin to set unambitious or unnecessary goals.
But one way or another, when setting my personal real goals, I recommend focusing on 60-70%. Once upon a time I read this in an article about Google. In product development, it’s a balance between ambition and feasibility.
It is normal for a technician to spend time in the kitchen or in the smoking room.
The developer spends about 20-30% of the time writing code. Most of the time he reads the code and thinks.
The thought process is most effective when it takes place in the background. There have been many studies on this topic.
For example, there was the following study, which I read in Kurpatov’s book (https://mybook.ru/author/andrej-kurpatov/krasnaya-tabletka-posmotri-pravde-v-glaza/citations/2832366/). We took 3 groups of students and asked them to choose their best offer from the list of rented apartments according to a number of parameters (price, area, renovation, location, etc.). The first group was given time to think, the second was asked to answer immediately. The third group was shown a list of apartments, and then, instead of having time to think, they were given math problems to solve, after which they were asked to immediately choose the best offer. Of course, you already guessed the result. The students of the first group responded the worst. Those who gave the answer immediately found themselves in second place. And those who solved mathematical problems instead of thinking did it best.
Therefore, when a programmer is chatting in the kitchen with colleagues, at that time a strong thought process is going on in his subconscious. Then he will sit down and begin to do a task that he did not know how to approach before. I know this well for myself, and it allows me not to stress when a difficult task hangs over me like a sword of Damocles.
Of course, there is also such a phenomenon as procrastination, when a person puts off an unpleasant task, doing everything but not what is needed. There is a well-known joke about a graduate student whose dishes are always washed and the apartment is cleaned.
Everything needs balance. In a small amount, procrastination is normal, I think.
Empowering employees to make small wins
One of my acquaintances worked at Yandex for several years in very complex science-intensive projects. She has great hard skills and soft skills too. And in a conversation he asks: Do you have a problem with the impact? And she told the story that many of her tasks, due to their complexity, never reached the sale.
Nothing kills motivation like a long-term construction without visible results. Therefore, I try to decompose tasks so that employees regularly see the result. Sometimes it makes sense to prioritize a task that is not the most important, but a simple one, just to create a feeling of small success.
One of the main tasks of a manager is to create a sense of security and stability among employees.
This principle was very clearly explained by Grigory Bakunov (aka bobuk) in a lecture for the School of Yandex Managers (https://youtu.be/iYhaK_BpO8w). The developer can best concentrate on his tasks if he has fewer external stimuli.
The best thing is if the manager is always available, always in touch and can help at any time. But, of course, you can’t create a guideline that you need to work hard around the clock, so as not to make people feel guilty and workaholism. In touch and working hard 24-7 are different things.
Bobuk’s funny story was about his experiment where he bought 5 identical shirts to look the same every day and saw how it affected the team’s performance. True, after some time they made a remark to him, thinking that he did not wash things. I had to explain =)
Almost all problems will be solved sooner or later
The difference between a manager and a specialist is that the former has much larger and longer tasks (which is why he needs a team)
Quick wins are not always obtainable. There are many problems, rush jobs, and sometimes you may want to give up. Moreover, everywhere they write about success stories when people make an MVP in six months and become unicorns.
I am of the opinion that statistically there is no easy success. Those. Some people are lucky, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. To achieve success, you need to be ready to hit one point for a long time. As problems pile up above you, remember how many problems you’ve had in the past. Surely a lot. And what happened to them? They most likely did. And these, too, are likely to be resolved.
This does not mean that you need to drag an unprofitable project to the last. This principle is more about tactics than about strategy. A manager has a lot of problems all the time. Employees leave, it’s impossible to finish some project, the task on which you have been working for a long time is no longer relevant. Just be ready for it and stick to your long term plan.
In 2016, I worked for a year at BostoneGene, a startup that is building an IT system for oncologists using genome data to guide treatment. Then the company was just created, we had a lot of former and current students working for us. There was chaos. We made several failed prototypes. It was hard to believe that the company could find a successful business model. But the founder of the startup, Michael Feinberg, was a seasoned businessman. Prior to that, he created the successful NetCracker company. He hit in one point and even then he said that he was playing for a long time. And now the company has successfully passed the second round of investments and appeared on the NASDAQ monitor in Times Square.
Use a linear method for predicting timing and results
For example, you have one “important but not urgent” project. But for six months, he did not move from the dead point. And on the status they ask you when you will do it. You estimate the remaining tasks – it’s simple, it’s also kind of simple. Let’s do it in a month! But then other urgent tasks appear and on the status in a month you find that you are in the same place.
Or an example not at work. You are an ordinary person, go to the gym once a month, eat everything in general. And here you are sitting with a life coach discussing your goals. It seems like I want to be athletic, lose weight. And make a plan for how you will change in three months. Go on a diet, start training hard, get the first results. But then at work and at home, there are also urgent matters, and as a result, you gain more weight than you used to.
As a data scientist, I can say that to predict such situations, you can do without neural networks and just draw a straight line to several points. It is necessary to accept that most likely it will continue to be the same as it was before. Changing the trend is very difficult. This requires constant small improvements. When I worked in consulting at EY, we sold this to customers under the word Kaizen.
Therefore, when you need to make a forecast on the term or result of the project and you want to give an optimistic assessment, always ask yourself, what will change in the process that we will be able to do more / faster?
Give employees more freedom
I am of the firm belief that people should not be undermined whenever possible. I have always coordinated all vacation requests. I let people work on the schedule they like, go to the doctor, sit with the furniture assembler, or leave early when needed. I turn a blind eye to the overdue boring compulsory education until they press. And even then I try to kick as much as possible from HRs (forgive me if you are reading this =)))
I offer two options. If an employee is passionate about work and performs well, let him work as he wants. Only if the employee has questions, then I expect that he will work on a clear schedule and follow the rules. But almost always people end up in the first group over time. I’ve only had to fire one person in my career at the end of a probationary period, and in general the decision was mutual. I have examples when people first performed below average, but then they found themselves and became one of the best in the team.
In creative work, the number of hours does not decide. You can get more done in an hour than in a whole day. And people who do not get into the team at all are likely to leave on their own.
In my long read, I tried to describe the accumulated personal observations, without relying on traditional management books. Some ideas may seem obvious, some contrary controversial. I don’t know if my opinion will change over time. It will be interesting to re-read in a few years =)
If you have read up to this point, then I guess you were interested. I will be glad to your feedback!
Some time ago I started a telegram channel about lifestyle and a little bit about work. I invite everyone who is interested @ledovsky_blog