Management

How to handle your Managers

How to handle your Managers

I'll begin this article by stating that it's not about software development methodologies, but it could touch them just a bit. The title was intentional not to specify exactly which type of managers. This article is addressing the handling of managers that don't have concrete software engineering experience.

Why do I consider my self entitled to write this? I've been working Remotely for the larger chunk of my career.

Disclaimers:

Recommendations in this article mostly target people that have absolute control over their time - in other words, those that work from home. Also, I've had some managers that were awesome human beings, but terrible at their job. (I'm saying this just in case few of you pop onto my blog)

Why should you handle them?

There were countless occasions where a Product Manager (PM) was a bigger blocker to me than any technical obstacle could ever be. Be it with the changed requirements, unrealistic deadline or plain old arrogance. We as engineers have to complain about lack of time, but that's not the point here. So I'll try to paint a better picture with a simple, realistic scenario.

Environment that you could encounter

Are you Bob?

Let's say good old Bob is part of a smaller team, less than 10. One of those is a PM. The team is, of course, using an Agile methodology, in this case, let it be SCRUM.

So that means Bob will at least have to attend the following meetings:

  1. Daily dev meeting - time slot of 15min planned, in reality, you usually spend about 30min
  2. Weekly retrospective meeting - time slot of 1h planned, say goodbye to the rest of your focus for that day
  3. Bi-weekly planning meeting - won't even comment this one
  4. HR meeting - who did hurt your cushy feelings this week 😢?
  5. Bonus Pull Request's - let me explain to you what your job was 😆

The common denominator for those points is 🔔 🔔 …dramatic pause… MEETING. So Bob will spend at least 30% of his working hours on all kinds of meetings. Plus, who knows how much in order to adequately prepare for those. If he obliges to all those rules, in reality, he'll have about 15 effective hours per week! Hush, hush.

Bob you must not be!

If you find yourself to fit most of Bob's daily requests, let me show you how you could almost double your effective hours by following a few simple steps.

Sadly, the following applies mostly to my Remote comrades.

Here is the list, which will be explained in more detail below:

  1. Stop caring what your PM/PO says
  2. Wake up before anyone who “makes” decisions
  3. Have an “Out Of Office” time set in stone!

1. Stop caring what your PM/PO says

This could be the trickiest of them all. After all, they are responsible for the product you'll be building. Try to limit all conversation with them in written form (slack, confluence, email .. w/e). Mostly because of proof, which you'll use later on when doing the Demo of your latest feature. Another reason to prefer written communication over any other is that it provides better reference point, and it will probably be more precise and thoughtful. It's Software Engineers Miranda Rights.

In the best-case scenario you'll get official Requirements Doc, with High-Level Design Diagrams and possibly with some UML.

If you saw this Unicorn I just described then this article isn't for you. And you are one happy, cared for, engineer! Be grateful if you got those three things - and keep it a secret! 😌

In case you have to have regular conversations with managers, be as assertive as possible. Don't even show anger. Just nod! And after it's done, give it a brief consideration, just in case. If they are right, then oblige. If not, do what you intended to do without any fear.

Worst case scenario?

What is the worst that could happen in case you weren't right? You'll either lose your current job. Or, you'll be called useless, arrogant or incompetent. Anyhow, you shouldn't care. 😂

It's better to do, then ask for forgiveness.

2. Wake up before anyone who “makes” decisions

This is actually crucial in order to get more work done. Not because of the dilemma night owl vs. morning bird. But because you'll get more focus time available. Constant context switching is the #1 reason for poor delivery. If there is no one there to interrupt you, then you won't have an excuse for not delivering.

Be arrogant for a change ▶️ skip a few useless meetings

Back to Bob! Because he plans to avoid some useless meetings, he's painfully aware that some are a must-have. For the sake of argument his weekly calendar will look like this:

Bob is lost in time!

Based on that it's safe to presume that his day will be unpredictable after the daily. But these meetings in total shouldn't take more than ~5h weekly. Also, if we presume that he has ~30 effective hours per week available (5 x 6h), he's left with ~25h. We'll help Bob use that time accordingly. He'll start by employing Pomodoro technique 25min work + 5min rest (stretch, do a few pushups). Now his calendar looks way better:

Effective Bob!

So you see, Bob can get on average ~10 hours of more work done per week with proper planning! The only thing he had to agree with the team was to limit the daily to be strict no more than 15 minutes and to have planning/retrospective meetings only on Friday, with pre-planned agenda for it. Also, he had to give up on those regular HR meetings, because he is a grown person, without a need to hold hands. 😂

Also, that time table includes rest time between Pomodoro session with a bit of overhead, because Bob wants to make a bigger pause every 4 sessions that he completes.

3. Have an “Out Of Office” time set in stone!

If you start at 5:30, with breaks/rest you want to be officially unavailable after 15:30. If some regular meetings are after that time mark, ask politely to move it. You'll have your effectiveness to back you up!

When that clock hits 15:30:01, just put everything to DoNotDisturb mode. When I say everything, I do mean it - slack, email, WhatsApp/Viber, smoke signals… Go spend time with your family. Start a new hobby. Do anything, but work! If you do this, you'll be grateful to yourself in a couple of years.

In complete transparency, I'm yet to listen to my own advice. There are times when I'm so eager to finish a feature, that all my “rules” just evaporate…

Conclusion

Stay calm, no matter what. Be always assertive and fort coming. And show gratefulness to your family for being supportive - or at least to your 🐈🐕.


Have any comments or suggestions? What would you like to read about next? Drop the comment down below and let me know

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