Book Chat: Managing Humans

Managing Humans by Michael Lopp, of Rands in Repose, is a humorous take on a management book. It is built as short chapters describing an event or a kind of person and how to deal with or work with them. If you are familiar with his blog there is a lot of overlap between that and the book. However, it fills in the blanks and creates a complete thought about how to deal with common management issues. There is a strong connection to the differences between doing technical work and other kinds of work.

One of the big takeaways I got from the book was the way he described how to give annual reviews. It consists of two parts: separation of the feedback from the outcome (i.e., raises and promotions), and a way to help determine what the employee needs. When I first experienced the separation on the receiving end of the review, I wasn’t a fan, but I can see now that the lack of discussion of outcomes let us focus on a productive discussion. The second part Lopp suggests is to determine what an employee needs using a two-by-two matrix:  if the employee has the skills to do the job, and if they have the desire. High skill low desire individuals need new challenges and responsibilities to re-energize. Low skill high desire individuals need training to get their skills in alignment with their ambitions.

There was another chapter that gave a look at a situation that was similar to something I had experienced recently – a communication breakdown between myself and someone on the team. Lopp describes a way to rebuild communication by going back to a very verbose way of communicating that takes a lot of the implied context out of it, until you get back to a fully trusting arrangement. This was what we ended up doing but it took us a long time to find our way back there. Makes me wish I’d read Lopp’s suggestion a while ago, it would have saved us some time.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Check out the blog; if you get there and decide you want more of the same check out the book for yourself. He’s also got another book on finding career path as a software engineer that I may check out as well since I enjoyed this one.


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