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Managing Technical People: Innovation, Teamwork, and the Software Process

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Managing Technical People: Innovation, Teamwork, and the Software Process


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  • Copyright 1997
  • Dimensions: 6" x 9"
  • Pages: 352
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-54597-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-54597-5

"Suppose you needed a new computer program. You would want your programmers to give this work high priority and to dedicate their energies to its success. Although no simple procedure can ensure that they do this, there are some methods that usually work....The key is to understand and respect them as professionals and to follow sound management principles. This knowledge and these principles are the subjects of this book."
--from the Preface

This book contains best-selling author Watts Humphrey's practical insights on how to lead technical professionals. In previous books, Humphrey established process as a key factor in successful software development. His advice on how companies and individuals could improve their software process has since been widely adopted. In this new book, he demonstrates the overriding importance of people to the success of any software project. He focuses particularly on the critical role of innovative people, and gives concrete advice on how to identify, motivate, and organize these people into highly productive teams.

Drawing on experience as IBM's senior software-development executive, and expanding on an earlier work, Managing for Innovation, Humphrey presents here proven leadership practices and management techniques that can work in any organization. Given the software industry's dependence on creative human resources, managers will welcome his sound advice on the special challenges encountered in leading technical professionals, and on specific steps managers can take to encourage greater innovation while attaining yet higher levels of efficiency and quality.




Relationship to Prior Work

If you have read my earlier book, Managing for Innovation: Leading Technical People, you will likely notice some similarities with the material in many of these chapters. When I began writing what was to be a second edition of that work, it was soon clear that I needed to add a substantial amount of new material. Much has happened in the ten years since I wrote the earlier book. For completeness, I therefore decided to add three chapters to deal with maturity models and one on disciplined personal processes. Chapters 8, 25, 26, and 27 are thus entirely new. I have also made substantial additions to Chapters 15, 16, 18, 19, and 24 and added an entirely new last chapter. Because the remaining material in the prior book was still as pertinent today as when first published, I have included it with only modest revisions.

Sample Content

Table of Contents

(Each chapter concludes with Notes.)


1. Technical Leadership.

The Leader’s Goals.

The Leader’s Conviction.

Leaders and Their Followers.

Transformational Leadership.

Transactional Leadership.

Leading from Below.

The Leader’s Vision.

Leading Technical Professionals.

2. The Commitment Ethic.

The Elements of Commitment.

Making Responsible Commitments.

Commitments or Crusades?


Managing Commitments.

Changing Commitments.

Doing a Thorough Job.

Building the Commitment Ethic.

Commitment Ownership.

3. The Importance of Professionalism.

The Elements of Professionalism.

Reinventing the Wheel.

The Benefits of Awareness.

Managing Awareness.

Knowledge: Only the Beginning.

Doing the Job the Right Way.

The Discipline of Visibility.

The Hard Work of Visibility.

Pride of Authorship.

The Benefits of Visibility.

Professionalism and Performance.

The Manager’s Role in Professionalism.

4. Respect for the Individual.

The Standard of Respect.

The Open Door Policy.

Peer Review Programs.

Establishing a Respectful Environment.


5. The Goals of Engineers and Scientists.

Work Assignment.

Hierarchy of Needs.

Locals versus Cosmopolitans.

The Need for Influence.

6. The Changing Professional Career.

Evolving Professional Goals.

Age and Creativity.

Age and Performance.

Age and Motivation.


The Management-Employee Partnership.

Career Risks and Age.

Managing the Older Professional.

7. Motivating Technical and Professional People

The Power of Motivation.

Motivation and Technical Competence.

The Evolution of Management.

Building Task Maturity.

Building Relationship Maturity.

Building Motivation.

Motivating Technical Professionals.

The Manager’s Style.

8. Professional Discipline.

The Need for Discipline.

Examples of Disciplined Behavior.

Intellectual Disciplines.

The Importance of Discipline.

The Personal Software Process.

The Manager’s Role in Professional Discipline.

More Guidelines for Managers.


9. Identifying Talented Professionals.

The Importance of Talent.

The Availability of Talent.

Characteristics of Technically Talented People Identifying.

Managerial Talent.

The Tamed Rebel.

Recognizing Talent.

The Assessment Center.

10. Developing Technical Talent.

Professional Development.

Career Moves.

Technical Development Needs.

Continuing Management Contact.

Career Counseling.

Steps in Technical Development.

11. Developing Managerial Talent.

Management Development Objectives.

Starting the Development Process.

The Executive Personality.

Alternating Assignments.

The Product Development Executive.

The Manufacturing Executive.

The Development Plan.

Temporary Assignments.

Management Development Reviews.

Supporting Management Development.

Development Considerations.

The Professional Development Bureaucracy.


12. The Importance of Innovation.

Industrial Innovation.

The Risk of Failure.

Reverse Engineering.

13. The Innovators.

New Ideas.

The Nature of Creativity.

Imagination and Nerve.

The Champion.

The Sponsor.


14. Team Structure.

Concepts of Team Structure.


Team Creativity.

Team Support.

Basic Team Structures.

Structural Conflicts.

Group Ethics.

Group Behavior.

15. Managing Innovative Teams.

The Needs of Creative Teams.

Signing Up.

The Team Leader’s Style.

Team Dynamics.

A Software Development Example.

The Manager’s Responsibility.

The Team’s Personal Needs.

Political versus Technical Solutions.

Team Synergism.

Crystallizing the Team.


A Technical Proposal Team.

Managing Team Conflict.

Intergroup Conflicts.

16. The Innovative Team Environment.

The Skunk Works.

Financial Justification.

Removing Inhibitors to Innovation.

Not Invented Here.

Maintaining an Innovative Environment.

17. Rewards and Recognition.

Award Programs.

Recognition Programs.

An Example Award Plan.

Industry Award Plans.

Award Guidelines.

Incentive Plans.

A Caution on Recognition Programs.

18. The Management Team.

Contention Management.

The IBM Personal Computer.

The PC Junior.

Business Principles and Strategies.

Managing the Contention System.

Management Roles.

Team Cooperation.

A Decision a Minute.

Management Scope.

Management Perspective.

Transparent Management.

Building the Management Team.


19. Integration and Disintegration.

Project Management.

Support Problems.

The Elements of Structure.

Matrix Structures.

Specialist Departments.

Defining Support.

Project Integration.

The Integrator’s Role.

The IBM FS System.

Managing Integration.

Integration Responsibility.

Structural Paralysis.

20. Managing Size.

The Problems of Size.

Indirect Communication.

Span of Control.

Indirect Management.

Management Communication.

Indirect Leadership.

Leadership Priorities.

21. Power and Politics.

The Nature of Power.

How Power Affects the User.


Blind Obedience.

The Use and Abuse of Power.

The Power of Information.

Handling Power Relationships.

Fostering Adult Behavior.

The Distribution of Power.

Power and Political Behavior.

The Bureaucracy.


22. Structural Change.

Leadership Problems.

The Aging Organization.

23. The Change Process.

Resistance to Change.


Planning the Change.

Implementing the Change.


Setting Goals.

The Process Improvement Cycle.

24. Technical Assessment.

Finding Problems.

Looking Instead of Reacting.


The Software Engineering Institute Assessments.

Continuous Assessments.

Improvement Results.


25. Organizational Maturity.

Urgency versus Importance.

Organizational Improvement.

The Origins of Capability Maturity Models.

Maturity Levels.

Industrial Adoption.

What Is a CMM?

CMM Structure.

Software Process Improvement.

Why Maturity Models Work.

Setting Improvement Priorities.

Using CMMs.

26. The People-Development Strategy.

Defining the Organization.

The Management Team.

Examining Yourself.


The People-Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM).

The Empowered Organization.

27. The Process-Improvement Strategy.

Environmental Discipline.

The Power of Process Management.

The Need for Process Improvement.

The Improvement Road Map.

The Focus on Process Improvement.

Making Improvements.

28. Building for the Future.

Clarifying Goals.

Defining the Mission.

Visualizing Radical Change.

The IBM Hardware Business.

The Three Dimensions of Improvement.

Setting Intermediate Goals.

What Gets Tracked Gets Done.

Just Do It.

The Rewards of Leadership.

Index. 0201545977T04062001


Have you ever noticed how one project will succeed and another fail? On my first management job, I was assigned to a partially completed project. A small crew of inexperienced engineers was developing a complex cryptographic communications system for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Even though none of them had previous development experience, they completed the work on time and met all the government's specifications. From the very beginning, I could sense that this was a winning team. They were energetic, enthusiastic, and excited about their work. What causes some teams to have this winning quality, and how can managers help their teams to achieve it?

This book has grown from my years in technical management. It captures my experiences as well as lessons I have learned from the many fine people I have worked with in nearly 50 years as an engineer, manager, and executive. During my 27 years with IBM, I was involved in developing the enormously successful IBM 360 and 370 systems. I also managed much of IBM's commercial software development for both the 360 and 370 systems and spent several years in IBM corporate finance. I was also Director of IBM's Glendale Development Laboratory and the 2000 engineers who developed IBM's intermediate-range computing systems, printers, banking products, and software systems.

Since retiring from IBM, I have worked for another 10 years at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. Here, I founded and led the Process Program and have been named an SEI Fellow. During this time, I have been fortunate to participate in many innovative hardware and software projects and have been exposed to both successful and unsuccessful projects at many development organizations throughout the world.

Although some of the experiences described in this book happened many years ago, their lessons are as true today as they were then. History is a marvelous teacher as long as we are willing to learn. In this book, I have captured some of the lessons that I have found most helpful. I hope you will find them helpful as well.

The Importance of Commitment

It has long been recognized that the dedication which produces superior performance is best obtained through deep personal commitment. Truly outstanding achievements generally result from a dedicated drive to meet defined goals. The foundation for such a commitment is belief in the goal and a strong desire to achieve it. When people want to accomplish something so deeply that they put everything else aside, they often perform at their very best. In fact, they occasionally go far beyond what they thought possible. That is the kind of dedication that breaks the four-minute mile, invents the electric light bulb, or deciphers the structure of the DNA molecule. Such deeds are not done casually or by people who don't care. They come from hard work and from the dedication of people who are deeply and personally committed. Commitment is the first step in achieving superior performance. This is as true for modern technology as it is in any other field.

Suppose, for example, you needed a new computer program. You would want the programmers to give this work high priority and to dedicate their energies to its success. Although no simple procedure can ensure they do this, there are some methods that usually work. Many managers can achieve such dedicated performance occasionally, and some managers seem to do it almost at will. The key is to understand and respect the employees and to follow sound management principles. This knowledge and these principles are the subjects of this book.

The Manager's Role in Innovation

Among the many factors that can improve professional performance are self-confidence, skill, and respect. Negatives that can block creativity include boredom, resentment, or simple misunderstandings. Some conditions are constant, while others are positive at one moment and negative at another. Some teams perform well at one time but later, when faced with seemingly identical circumstances, are not productive at all. The complexity of professional performance comes from the inherent complexity of the professionals themselves--that is, from human nature. Every professional has talents, desires, and fears, and these are the variables the manager must work with to obtain the dedication that produces superior performance.

There is no single formula for achieving superior results. This is a people problem, and people are all different. The best you, the manager, can hope for is to know and care about the people who work for you and to understand what has succeeded in similar situations in the past. Then apply this history with a healthy sprinkling of common sense.

In striving for superior performance, you need to combine many elements:

  • A challenging and worthy goal
  • Talented, motivated, and capable people
  • The training and support to enable the work to be properly done
  • A manager with the drive and vision to make it happen
  • A leader who understands and cares about his or her followers

Although each of these elements may vary in type and degree, they must all be present. This book talks about these elements and some of the steps managers can take to supply them.

The Book's Structure

Employee commitment can be obtained only by leadership. Leaders must establish the goals and convince their subordinates to accept them as their own. Part One deals with the elements of leadership and those leadership standards that sustain dedication and enthusiasm. The manager's leadership largely determines the organization's performance. Starting with leadership principles in Chapter 1, the key standards of commitment, professionalism, and respect for individuals are treated in Chapters 2, 3, and 4.

Without motivated and capable employees, no technical organization can prosper. Part 2 discusses motivating and developing individual professionals. The goals of engineers and scientists are the subject of Chapter 5, Chapter 6 describes the way professionals' attitudes change throughout their careers, and Chapter 7 outlines the application of situational leadership to the management of technical and professional people. Chapter 8 focuses on the professionals' responsibility to learn the technical methods of their chosen fields and to apply them with discipline.

Efforts spent in identifying and developing the careers of future leaders of the organization are the most important investment any management can make. Part 3 addresses the identification of the technical and managerial professionals who will lead the organization: Identifying talented people is described in Chapter 9, while Chapters 10 and 11 discuss the development of high-potential technical professionals and future executives.

To be successful, most organizations must innovate. Part 4 describes the innovation process and techniques for ensuring its effectiveness. Innovation is a structured process involving creative professionals, resources, and opportunity management. The key, however, is the skill and competence with which management combines these elements into an overall effective process. Chapter 12 discusses the importance of innovation in modern technology, and Chapter 13 describes the innovation process as well as the roles of inventor, champion, and sponsor.

Since much of the work in high technology is too massive to be handled by individuals, the basic working unit is the technical team. Part 5 examines technical teams: Chapter 14 describes their structure and behavior, Chapter 15 outlines some useful principles for managing teams, Chapter 16 summarizes the key environmental needs of innovative teams, and Chapter 17 discusses reward and recognition programs. Chapter 18 outlines the special characteristics of the most important team in the organization: the management team.

Major technical projects can involve hundreds or even thousands of professionals working in many separate teams. Such work is generally supported by administrative staffs and organizational support systems. If these systems are properly designed, they will assist the manager in controlling the work, but inappropriate structures will be a serious impediment. Part 6 deals with organizational structures: Chapter 19 summarizes the principles for structuring technical organizations and the need for integration mechanisms. Chapter 20 discusses the changes in management style as organizations grow and the impact of these changes on innovation. Chapter 21 reviews the political nature of the technical manager's job and the relationship between power and bureaucratic behavior.

The technical manager's job is to introduce new products, develop better processes, and solve new problems. While this invariably involves change, each change in advancing technology is progressively more difficult. The most effective way to handle this growing complexity is to build the organization itself so it can handle the more challenging problems of the future. Part 7 deals with this vital dimension of modern technical management. When organizational problems are structural, they can be addressed through organizational change, as described in Chapter 22. When, as described in Chapter 23, the change involves the working processes, however, it must be handled more carefully. Often, organizations face fundamental problems, and a more formal change process is required to address the attitudes and practices of the managers and professionals. This assessment process is outlined in Chapter 24.

Part 8 addresses the management strategy for introducing and managing change. A management strategy is particularly important because managers must lead and guide their people as they work to change and improve the organization. Chapter 25 describes the principles of process maturity, why they are important, and how they are used. Chapter 26 then outlines a process maturity-based strategy for improving the organization's resource management. This covers the improvement priority for the people-development and support actions. Chapter 27 describes a management strategy for process improvement and the manager's responsibilities at each step of the improvement process. Chapter 28 concludes the book with suggestions on how to make it all happen.

Relationship to Prior Work

If you have read my earlier book, Managing for Innovation: Leading Technical People, you will likely notice some similarities with the material in many of these chapters. When I began writing what was to be a second edition of that work, it was soon clear that I needed to add a substantial amount of new material. Much has happened in the ten years since I wrote the earlier book. For completeness, I therefore decided to add three chapters to deal with maturity models and one on disciplined personal processes. Chapters 8, 25, 26, and 27 are thus entirely new. I have also made substantial additions to Chapters 15, 16, 18, 19, and 24 and added an entirely new last chapter. Because the remaining material in the prior book was still as pertinent today as when first published, I have included it with only modest revisions.


Over the years, I have had the good fortune to participate in many challenging projects and to work with many talented people. I particularly remember the early help and guidance of Dr. Gerhardt Groetzinger at the University of Chicago and Dr. George Cohn at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Fred Anderson and George Sokol at Sylvania Electric Products were both good friends and fine managers. At IBM I worked with and for many capable and impressive people. Among the most memorable were T. Vincent Learson, Jerrier Haddad, Bob Evans, John Opal, and George Kennard. I am especially indebted to Dr. Arthur Anderson for the opportunity to work with him in assessing the technological effectiveness of IBM's Data Processing Product Group.

I am also indebted to Jack Kuehler who, as IBM president, asked me to return to software for my last four years before retirement. After several years in IBM Corporate Headquarters, my work as the IBM Director of Software Quality and Process provided the foundation for my second career at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University.

At the SEI, I have also been fortunate to have many stimulating and supportive associates. Although I cannot possibly name them all, I particularly acknowledge the support of Bill Curtis, Bill Peterson, and Ron Radice. I also want to especially thank Larry Druffel, Director of the SEI, for his invaluable help and support over the years.

I also again thank the friends and associates who generously took the time to review and comment on the earlier version of this book. They were Dick Case, Ted Lux, Janet Perna, Bill Timlake, and Bill Weimer. Professor Dave Rodgers of the New York University Graduate School of Business was also very helpful in guiding me through the body of relevant management literature and suggesting references to put this work in proper perspective. In completing this new book, I am particularly indebted to Bill Curtis, Howie Dow, Suzie Garcia, Bill Hefley, Julia Mullaney, and Mark Paulk for their invaluable comments and suggestions.

Two others who have provided invaluable help over the years are Karola Yourison and Sheila Rosenthal of the Software Engineering Institute library. Every time I asked for a reference or article, they somehow magically produced it, often in practically no time. To them, I give special thanks. Also, my secretary, Marlene MacDonald, has been a great help with the many copies, revisions, and reviews for the manuscript of this book. My heartfelt thanks to her as well.

A word of very special appreciation is also due my family. My brother Phillip, a professor and a scientist, has offered many invaluable comments, and my daughters Sarah and Katharine provided helpful suggestions on style and format. My wife Barbara also deserves recognition for her patience and understanding during the many months of writing and rewriting and rewriting.

Finally, I dedicate this book to the memory of Al Pietrasanta. Al was a good friend and a marvelous engineer. After a successful development career, he joined the headquarters of my IBM software group to design, develop, and introduce a management training course. Al was responsible for training over 1000 of IBM's software managers on how to better plan and manage their work. As a result of his course, IBM's commercial software development groups soon learned to deliver software products on schedule and at planned cost. They have been doing it ever since. Al did a marvelous job and I learned a great deal from him during our long association, both at IBM and later.

Watts S. Humphrey
Sarasota, Florida



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