The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

Could we make managing programmers a little easier?

Programming managers have typically had years of training in programming…

And no training in management.

I’ve been taking a fascinating census of programming managers this fall that has shown me just how true that is. As I talk about our book Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams to groups that include software development managers, I start by asking:

“Stand up if you are now or have ever been a manager of programmers and programmer teams.”

I continue:
“Stay standing if you have ever received management training
– let’s say a day or more of training –
whether from your company or in college or on your own.

Almost to an audience, half of managers sit down! Half of programming managers have never had a single day of management training in their careers!

To the people still standing, I ask:
“Stay standing if you got any of that training before you first became a manager.”

The result:
Of all the programming managers I talk to, only 8-15 percent have received any management training before becoming a manager.

Photo of books that provide training for development managers.

Almost all the training for managing programmers that exists. There are only two others that are missing from this picture!

Equally telling: there are a ton of books on project management. In fact, there are scores of books on each different flavor of project management.

But the number of books on managing programmers won’t use up the fingers on both hands. (It’s one of the reasons that Mickey and I wrote Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams.)

Isn’t it odd?:
* how long we expect you to have studied the art of programming before we hire you to be a programmer?  languages, libraries, frameworks, tools, techniques, …?
* the growing expectation that not only have you studied to be a project manager, but you’ve become certified to do so?
* how little we expect you to have studied the art of managing before we tap you to become a manager?


About the Author

Ron Lichty has been transforming chaos to clarity and making software development “hum” for most of his 20-plus years managing software development and product organizations. Ron co-authored 2012's highly regarded Addison-Wesley title, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams ( ), his co-author Pixar/Broderbund/Gracenote CTO Mickey Mantle. With over 70 years of combined experience, these two software industry veterans crafted a book designed to help any software manager be more successful. Having spent their careers developing software, leading software development projects, and managing programmers and teams, they distilled their experience into a book that every beginning programming manager would get value from, both to read and to pull from their bookshelves for reference. It's a book that is also helping executives who struggle sponsoring projects dependent upon software success – CEOs, COOs, CTOs, and others – to understand the craft of software development and the intricacies of how to manage software people and teams to deliver software projects successfully. Ron has repeatedly been brought in as a “VPE of Fix-It” to coach and mentor programming managers at all levels and to solve problems like painfully slow product development, past-due estimates with no delivery in sight, challenges arising from geographically dispersed teams, scalability stymied by sluggish data integration, productivity bridled by uncertainty, an "order-taking mentality" from teams that should be eagerly proactive, and teams unable to break out of research and move on to development and delivery. Ron untangles organizational knots, creates roadmaps everyone can follow, builds communications with other parts of the organization, coaches and trains organizations in agile and scrum, and gets teams productive and focused on delivery, quality and customers. Chaos to clarity.
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