I was reading an interesting set of articles posted by Joel on management methods in which he talks about three different management methods namely The Command and Control Method, The Econ 101 Method and The Identity Method. He then goes on to advocate that the Identity Method is the most suited method for the software industry. I totally agree with him now having had the experience of running a software development firm for the last year and a half.
I would like to add some of my thoughts as to why I think this is the best approach in this blog article. If you apply Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs to the professionals working in the software industry they have all their basic needs met with the comforts and the security that a software job provides. What they look for are needs of Status and Self-actualization which basically translates into being recognized, appreciated and feel like they are learning each day and becoming better. This is what identity management method is as per my understanding – it is the ability to provide professionals that work for you these set of needs.
Its all very nice to talk about theory but how do you accomplish this - I have some simple ideas and methods.
Ensure that the associate understands the importance of what he/she is doing - this is very important - you have to make the associate aware of the larger goals of the organization and give them direction to meet these goals. Make them feel a part of this goal. Make them feel that they have contributed towards this goal. For this to happen, the most important thing is to make sure that the management themselves are clear what is this goal - believe in it - and live it every day of their lives. If this is not present then there is no way that they can instill a sense of importance and excitement in the work done by the associate.
Management has to put on the shoes of the associate once in a while – What I mean is do some of the things that the associates do once in a while to understand the complexity and the effort that goes into doing some of the things. The professionals that work in the software industry are educated and smart and if they ever feel that they are being made to do slave labor that would be the last day anything you said would have even registered. It is important to become one with them – understand their issues – come down to their level.
Respect their opinions – Respect the opinions of the associates working for you. Help them make decisions but do not make decisions for them. Provide them with all the information they need to make the decision and provided they are aware of the larger goals of the project you can be assured that they will make the right decision. There may be times you will have to step in and take a decision but when doing so have a basis for doing so. The software industry rapidly changes and it is impossible for management to have all the knowledge to make decisions. So let the ones on the shop floor help you make the decisions.
Make sure they enjoy what they are doing - It is important to make sure that the associates are enjoying what they are doing. Even if the work is boring (every job has its own share of work that is not very palatable), management acknowledging that it is not the greatest work to do and ensuring that there are steps in place to mitigate this will go a long way in empathizing with the associate doing the work. One may ask how to mitigate this – there are a lot of ways one can do this – usually boring jobs are boring because they are repetitive – the management should look at ways and means to automate it or remove the repetitiveness of it. This is where management has to get innovative and be different to be able to motivate. I agree with Joel cash incentives never work.
How does one find out if associates are happy? First give yourself this questionnaire to answer and then you can give this questionnaire to every associate and if there is even one no then you are not enjoying your work place.
Do I enjoy coming to work each and every day?
Do I feel enthused to work more and more without feeling tired and drained out?
Do I feel excited by what I do?
Do I feel I am contributing to the growth of the organization?
Do I know the role I am playing in the growth of the organization?
Do I feel proud of the things that I do?
Do I feel my opinions are respected?
Do I feel I am learning and growing as an individual?
Do I feel challenged?
Remember management starts by managing yourself. So unless you answer yes to all these questions you will never be able to as a manager get your associates to answer yes to all these questions since their goals percolate down from your goals.