ART OF HERDING CATS
Managing technical assets is a tough job. Managing software engineers is the toughest of all. The preferred strategy for managing software mavens is to abandon them.
What is software? As the well-known pundit, Ed Kompass, has remarked, "Software is someone else's idea of what you want to do." Most software is written without benefit of insight from the people with implementation and tool usage, not the user needs and goals.
Software is what the machines do, not what the machines are. Yesterday's big concern was hardware implementation. That's because the algorithms of behavior were embedded in iron and copper. Today, we have CNC machines benefit of embedded behavior, which makes them amazingly flexible. The appropriate behavior is software-programmed. Ergo, modern machining tools are process-dependent, not product-dependent.
Just exactly who are the people who write programming code? I are one. We've got posters all over our shop describing the personality characteristics of a composer of factory floor behaviors. Some of those characteristics are found in the list below. Although humorously presented, you should take these comments seriously . Doing so will allow you, the manager, to better understand the person behind the program.
You might be a nerd if.....
- you own two shirts, wear and air;
- your screen saver is X-rated;
- you consider Coca-Cola and Ring-Dings gourmet food;
- your life's dream is faster computers, newer software and more memory;
- your mother cleans your desk at work;
- your dog sleeps under your computer;
- you owe Master Card more than your annual income;
- Picard, Gates and Segal are your heroes;
- you don't need a waste basket, since you stand in one;
- you work half time (12 hours a day);
- your true love is a Macintosh;
- you consider your boss a virtual person;
- you count the days to your next upgrade;
- your personalized license plate says "UNIX-derived";
- you have ever been fired from a job because of your appearance;
- you mowed your lawn and found a PDP-8;
- you think RAP is "reduced access processing"
- you can find things in the database, but not on your desk;
- MacWeek and Sun-Tzu are your favorite reads.
So now you have some idea of how we live.. For us, a access to the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is a requirement. Free soda and a small refrigerator are musts. We need the latest computers maxed with RAM along with a small budget for applications; a radio and earphones; no dress code; and dogs are allowed. The boss is considered an annoyance, akin to an IRS agent: necessary, but evil.
I've seen software being developed without any specification. Not even a blackboard talk. "The specifications will be written after we do the software." What is the manager to do? Block and tackle.
Insist upon knowing where the effort is headed before starting. Document by means of design manual. That way the implementation itself is trivial.
Pay adequately, but conservatively. We did not become engineers because the courses were easy or the money was good. We were in love with the art.
Allow total freedom within the goal constraints. Focus on the end product, don't micromanage.
Scheduling is the most difficult thing of all. Early on I noticed that I typically overrun the time allocated for a project by about 40 percent. For the next project I added just that much to my best estimate. But I still overran by about 40 percent. Then I doubled the overrun contingency factor. Once again I over run by, you guessed it, 40percent. We went back to the original estimate procedure, armed with the vague understanding that we would always be off 40 percent.
As a manager remember these rules:
As appeared in Manufacturing Systems Magazine April 1994 Page 36
References - Table of Contents
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