We discovered that the key reason for our lack of competitiveness was poor management-by worldwide, not U.S. standards. We were being wiped out by the Japanese because they were better managers. It wasn’t robotics, or culture, or morning calisthenics and the company songs-it was professional managers who understood their business and paid attention to detail. – Vaughn Beals (1)
In the four decades I’ve spent in the software business, I’ve learned that there are three fundamental abilities you need to do a quality job of managing software engineering:
the ability to understand complex situations so you can plan a project and then observe and act so as to keep the project going according to plan, or modify the plan
the ability to observe what’s happening and to understand the significance of your observations in terms of effective adaptive actions
the ability to act appropriately in difficult interpersonal situations, even though you may be confused, or angry, or so afraid you want to run away and hide.
All three abilities are essential for quality software management, but I didn’t want to write a large, imposing book. Therefore, like any quality manager of software, I decomposed the project into three smaller projects, each one addressing one of these three fundamental abilities. Volume 1, Systems Thinking deals with the first ability-the ability to understand complex situations. Volume 2, First-Order measurement, deals with the ability to observe what’s happening and to understand the significance of your observations. This third volume, Congruent Action will deal with the ability to act appropriately even in the presence of strong feelings.
Now for an apology. Like most software managers, my initial estimate for this total work was optimistic. As a result, I cannot finish what I have to say in this volume, but will require a fourth. In the fourth volume, I will treat the question of organizational change-how you can manage a large organization, using all the tools of the first three volumes, so as to transform your organization into as high a cultural pattern as you wish, but particularly Pattern 4.
In order to understand and improve software engineering management, organizations are going to have to understand and improve the emotional functioning of their software engineering managers. The congruent managers they need must possess the three essential abilities of cybernetic control mechanisms:
take information about actual and desired performance
process that information congruently
act in an appropriate manner
In short, they need managers whose personal effectiveness will tie together all components of effective software engineering management. Somehow managers themselves must take responsibility for upgrading the quality of management. They must recognize that managers are people, too, and just like everyone else, are trying to be helpful. Wherever I’ve seen this kind of upgrading, it’s been individual managers taking responsibility for changing themselves before they try to impose changes on everyone else.
What are you doing to get congruent management in your organization? What are you doing to become a more congruent manager yourself? Some of your personal effectiveness comes from training and experience-feedback from past projects-and some of it comes from your ability to take in what’s happening in the present project. But even more of it comes from your past experience of a more general kind-your experience as a human being functioning in the world.
Some managers do not succeed because they shouldn’t have been chosen as managers in the first place-and likely didn’t even want to be chosen-but their organizations didn’t appreciate that choosing managers for other than managerial potential is a mistake. Some are well-chosen, but nobody appreciates that management is as much dependent on technique as any other profession, and that even the most able managers must be trained.
This volume is devoted to helping those individuals get a fresh start-so they can decide if they really want to be managers, and if so, develop themselves to lead the way to a true profession of software engineering.
1. Vaughn Beals, CEO of the Harley-Davidson Company, explaining to TV interviewers how they saved their company and beat Japanese competition.