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?

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