Sunday, October 3, 2010

Effective Leadership/Communication skills needed for a Manager

Recently, I got promoted to a development manager and being primarily a technical guy before, I'm trying to improve my leadership/communication skills. Below is my personal notes (gathered from various sources) on the qualities to possess to become a great manager.
  1. Technical Subject knowledge - Need not be expert in all areas, but need to understand things well enough to make better decisions.
  2. Be assertive, not aggressive though.
  3. Be cool under pressure.
  4. Competent.
  5. Integrity/Honesty.
  6. Ability to delegate tasks.
  7. Conduct meetings effectively (proper agenda, starting/ending on time, insisting full participation etc.,).
  8. Empathy - Understand and relate to individual's issues.
  9. Body language and tone is important (sometimes more than content).
  10. Tone is very important in meetings, conference calls and even on the email.
  11. Smile (even on the phone) helps a lot.
  12. Different people in the team want/appreciate different things. Need to understand that and communicate appropriately. There is no one way to communicate to a big diversified team.
  13. Create a positive atmosphere for the team and promote collaboration.
This list is not comprehensive by any means and just serves as a reminder/personal note to me at this point, so that I can improve in these areas. Just thought to add it as a post, in case it might help someone else. If you have other points, feel free to add comments.

Key Points for any Project (Traditional or Agile)

I'm using Scrum for the past 3+ years and have been ScrumMaster for most of this time. I embrace and advocate Scrum, but last week, I attended a FredPryor Seminar on project management, mainly to better understand the similarities and differences between traditional project management and Scrum. This also helped me in appreciating how basic project management skills applies to any industry. I want to highlight some of the common basic points which came up in the seminar, which are important irrespective of which methodology we are using.
  1. Kick-off meeting is important when starting projects (or Sprint in Agile) - I see this as similar to Sprint Planning in Agile. Everyone involved need to get a clear idea on what they are building.
  2. Team buy-in from the very beginning is critical.
  3. Brainstorming with the team on topics is important.
  4. Everyone (Team, Management, Stakeholders) agreeing on specific, realistic goals is important.
  5. Clear project definition and scope is very important. Avoid scope creep.
  6. Be SMART when defining a project (or Sprint in Agile) - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.
  7. Risk Assessment - Understand constraints between Time, Cost and People. Often, when risk comes the trade-off is between one of these.
  8. Progress - Gantt-Chart in traditional project management becomes Burndown chart in Agile (at least on the high level).
  9. Meetings - Need to have team meetings on time, in regular schedule with a specific agenda. Full participation of team is important. Also, need to respect other's time and end the meeting on schedule. Finally, need to take meeting notes and follow up promptly.
  10. Team working collaboratively is very important. This will create a co-operative and productive atmosphere.
  11. Start the project with self-esteem and end it with self-esteem (for the team).
  12. Always recognize the team and celebrate success.
  13. Review all outstanding issues after the project (or Sprint in Agile) is done and see what can be improved - Similar to Sprint Retrospective.
I understand the differences between Traditional and Agile and how Agile improves the success of the project. But, still there are many basic things that apply to any project management methodology. Many of these seem like common sense, but if we think about it, lot of these are not being practiced in our day to day projects. I'm sure following these points will surely improve the success rate of any project. I just listed some of the points, which comes to my mind at this time. If you have other points, feel free to add comments.