You won’t find this in the book

I’m in Boston, at the galactic headquarters of Rothman Consulting Group, Inc. Johanna and I are hard at work on a book to help technical people make the transition to management.

Here’s how I became a manager: Tuesday I went into work and found out my boss was being moved into an “individual contributor” role. A release he’d estimated would take 6 months was now in it’s second year, and his boss was out of patience.

On Wednesday, I was the manager.

Ah, but that was many years ago, and I’ve learned a thing or two since then.

Many many techical people make a similar abrupt passage into management. The scary thing is, everyone seems to expect new managers to know how to manage, just because they’ve been told “You’re the manager now!”

Anyway…

We’re editing our zero drafts (the brain dump stage) to get them ready for initial review. Here’s one of the gems you won’t find in the book:

Assign people to the strategically important work first

Don’t assign people to the least important projects; let those projects go. If you don’t have enough people for everything, then pick and choose what you will have people do. Don’t try to use people like a thin layer of peanut butter on a piece of white bread. You can’t make the peanut butter smooth over the whole piece of bread; it clumps in places. And then the bread tears. Choose where you want your people to clump.

Clear, eh?

Here’s the later version:

Assign people to the strategically important work firstDon’t assign people to the least important projects; let those projects go. If you don’t have enough people for everything, choose what you will have people do. Assigning people to several projects at the same time and expecting them to multi-task is asking for trouble. If you don’t have enough people to staff several projects at once, do the projects one after the other. Paradoxical as it seems, you will actually finish projects faster if you do them one after the other in sequence rather than trying to move several project forward at the same time with the same resources. See the chapter Assign the Work to learn more about the evils of multi-tasking.

So you can assign people strategically, or you can just clump them.