Inspection and Communication

"You get from your staff what you inspect, not what you expect."

—John Barnes, marketing manager, Meto International, mid-1970s

The biggest cause of gaps between where a team has gotten to and where the managers feel it should be is the lack of regular communication. In the absence of information to the contrary, busy managers assume that the target is being achieved, but when they inspect the situation they often discover that everyone is behind schedule. The way to avoid such unpleasant surprises is to communicate with each member of your team daily.

You need to find out from each member where they are, if there are any problems, and what they plan next. Responsible programmers welcome communication and appreciate their boss's involvement and concern. You will normally get short but detailed replies. It is a good idea for team members to know when to expect you. If possible, make it a regular time. This way they can reflect on what they have achieved and are less likely to be thrown off track. There's no need to examine the code each day. However, it is a good idea once a week to look at what has been done.

Your team should be no larger than the number of people you can consistently check on in addition to your other duties. Otherwise, consider delegating this part of your responsibility to a progress manager.

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