Technical strategies to keep your project team flying in formation.

You hired your technical team for their knowledge, experience and their ability to analyse issues and find solutions. And here lies a challenge.

You’re now in the situation where you’re attempting to manage issues that you may only have a very surface knowledge of.  It’s difficult to manage what you don’t know or understand.

The most common problem I have come across is telling the team how not what. As a business person your expertise is in knowing what the business needs, your team’s expertise is knowing how to achieve that with the technical systems and resources you have. Tell them what you need and they will find a novel or innovative solution that you probably hadn’t even thought of.

Technical people love to solve technical problems, they love to build software that people use. They are people so they also like to be appreciated, to be told they have done well. The very best are not motivated by money, some are motivated by title, they just want to do a good job. So your role is to give them an outcome to achieve and then letting them get on with it.  Then you can be proud of your team’s achievements and don’t forget to let them know that they are appreciated.

Appreciation of the software they’ve produced from you is important, but it’s even better if it comes from the users.

This does not necessarily need to be good feedback as long as it’s constructive. Wholly negative feedback is demoralising, but feedback that suggests improvements or points out shortcomings that can be resolved can enthuse the team to go back to the drawing board and create something even better.

Technical people like technology. A downside of this is that they can produce solutions, not because they are the best, but because they want to get experience with the technology. They want to learn. As manager of a technical team, it’s important that you give them opportunities for learning.

I have found that a training budget per person is a great incentive, especially if it’s not tied to business requirements i.e. to learn technology not used by the business. Give them an opportunity to use the latest technology and ask ‘Is there a better technology to produce this outcome?’ with the follow-up question ‘How does that fit in with our current systems?’  Be open to new technologies if they fit with what you already have.