Most people who set up a project have never managed anyone before. Although almost all will have worked as a team, either in the family or a sports team at school or in a restaurant during holidays or weekends. Don't belittle such experiences. You can learn more about good management from the bottom than you ever will from the top. You'd be amazed how many well-known millionaires started life delivering the daily paper.
The key differences between newspaper delivery and information technology are ones of complexity and scale of responsibility. Deliver a newspaper late and an apologetic smile should get you off the hook. Miss your deadline on a $200,000 software project and you could soon be learning the meaning of the word "attorney."
In software production almost every member of the team is managing someone or something. There is an awful lot of delegated responsibility. Even new junior members of the team end up making decisions about how their bit of the program should work.
Management of the team begins with managing yourself. It is essentially about responsibility, and if you are working on your own, self-management is all the more important. So how do you manage yourself? Largely by applying the same principles that you would with a team. Assuming you get along with yourself, you passed your own interview, and you have no intention of firing yourself in the foreseeable future, you have to sort out three fundamental issues: doing the right things, doing them within the right time, and digging yourself out of your own problems.
In practice this means the following:
1. Write down your strategy. Talk it through with friends and current and former colleagues. When you are happy, it is effectively signed off.
2. Once you are clear about the order in which you are going to tackle your project and have worked out strategies to avoid getting bogged down, you are all set to schedule the work within your brief. Pin this timetable up in front of you so you see it every time you get up from your computer.
3. When you are alone it can be tough trying to resolve problems. However, just because you're working by yourself doesn't mean you have to solve all your own problems. Have a word with a colleague over lunch, e-mail a friend, or put up messages in news groups.
Whether you are a one-man-band or part of the largest programming team on the planet, we all have to self-manage. Own what you do and, when appropriate, own up. To the extent that you are a manager, you will be viewed as father, mother, therapist, counselor, hero, sacrificial lamb, and fixer. Little by little, you'll develop broad shoulders. As a manager, you are not the master but a servant and advocate for your team. The better servant you are, the better master you will be.
You are the one that points the way, that finds the hole in the fence, that helps others to get where they need to be, that listens to their problems, that eases them over the chasm when they get stuck; and you are the one that makes sure everyone gets paid at the end of the month.
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