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Management

Project management theories have been around since long before the beginning of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the focus of management studies centered on the most effective methods to organize and structure the industrial organization; that is, ways to organize, delegate, and coordinate work efficiently. Five basic functions of management were identified: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. These five functions, which were defined in 1911, appear in almost all the current management literature I read. These functions are also described in modern process-improvement literature.

The well-known Hawthorne experiment conducted in the 1920s showed that the solution to the productivity dilemma was not found in the production aspects of the experiment (that is, not in changes in physical working conditions), but in the human aspects. The most significant factor affecting productivity in an organization was found to be interpersonal relationships developed on the job, not just pay and working conditions. This factor is widely referred to as the Hawthorne effect. When informal groups identified with management, productivity rose. The increased productivity reflected the workers' feeling of competence—a sense of mastery over the job and the environment. The study also showed that when the workers' goals were in opposition to those of management (as often happens with micromanagement, and a lack of significant worker control over the job or the environment), productivity remained at only marginally acceptable levels, or decreased from the norm.

The work on the Hawthorne experiment was a likely forerunner of the development of Douglas McGregor's classic Theory X-Theory Y. McGregor proposed that there are two primary categories of organizational management thinking, [5] each with pronounced impacts on the way organizations function. Theory X assumes that most people prefer to be directed, are not interested in assuming responsibility, and want safety (job security) above all. Theory X corresponds to the belief that most people are motivated by money, fringe benefits, and the threat of punishment.

In spite of the work by these behavioral pioneers and many others, software management remains primarily a Theory X culture. Thomas DeMarco's Covert Agenda [6] is one example of the existence and dominance of this culture. I am frequently reminded of Weinberg's Second Law of Consulting: [7]

No matter how it looks at first, it's always a people problem.

Recent Agile team-concept developments have begun to shift the industry focus to management and people issues. The introduction of extreme programming and Agile development methods demonstrated the importance of management and people issues in development productivity and quality.

Managers who follow Theory X assumptions attempt to structure, control, and closely supervise their workers. These managers believe that external control is clearly appropriate for dealing with unreliable, irresponsible, and immature people.

McGregor's alternate theory of basic human behavior, Theory Y, assumed that people are not lazy and unreliable by nature. They can be self-directed and creative if properly motivated. McGregor concluded that it is management's responsibility to free the potential of the workers so that they can achieve their own goals. Supportive Theory Y managers provide the means to achieve organizational goals, as opposed to Theory X managers, who control and closely supervise workers.

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