Project Manager or Tech Leader?

This content is syndicated from Edge of Chaos | Agile Development Blog by Olga Kouzina. To view the original post in full, click here.

Yesterday I had the privilege of watching  Hillary Clinton speak at UB. Ms. Clinton spoke on various issues related to national and international affairs, and while this speech was delivered by a political figure, many points could well be projected into IT organizations, as long as it goes about the leadership part. I’ll share some of my musings here. Now, this is not a pump-up post about passion and being a leader in anything. I just want to highlight some practical advantages that having a distinguished leader brings to an IT organization.

If we look at the names of authority positions in IT, which one do you think would come across most often? Right, it’s a manager.  Or a supervisor. Project manager, product manager (or owner) and many other managers. What could be wrong about this setup, with managers in the positions of authority? There’s one crucial distinction. A manager is someone who is in charge of tasks. Managers and supervisors are fine if their job is to supervise people who would drill rocks for “room+food+$12 per month” :

Erie Canal workforce

Obviously, things are very different in today’s world. IT professionals are far from being starved, so with their basic needs met they want to give a larger meaning to their lives. They would want to find a delight in seeing how their work helps other people. When one has so much income, a steady job and a family, but there’s no feeling of serving others it would come to a burnout with such accompanying thoughts: “What good is it that I work here? Is there something that I’d be proud of the day I’m gonna die?” If a manager would focus on the “get done” part, a leader would put his main focus on “get those individuals inspired” part.  We tend to overlook the inspiration aspect in tech organizations thinking that it’s something that would just care of itself. No, no and no. It’s for a reason that  a vision &  mission statement comes first for any organization. Some might believe that there’s no need to inspire high-gear professionals, as they are supposed to run on their own fuel. It’s not that black-and-white. Some individuals do have a strong sense of meaning for what they do at work every day, but such people come across quite rarely. They are the leaders, actually. The indispensable ones because they feel the inner urge to take on the lead, and set the path for this organization, so the others would feel as they are a part of something larger than themselves.

It might seem presumptuous to make a parallel between working in an IT organization and being in public service. However, some renowned companies such as Steve Jobs’ Apple, Yahoo, Google, 37 Signals  are great to work for exactly because of that. They instill a sense of honorable service in their employees, making them feel they are a part of a very special organization. IT industry is a service industry, in that it is supposed to bring value to people. Tech leaders work as beacons of that fundamental belief, and light the path for others.

As a seasoned IT professional what would you choose: working in an organization filled with managers, with no vision and mission, or for one of the above, given that your salary and benefits are more than fine? Companies with strong visions and strong leaders attract those best-of-breed professionals, with the expertise that they bring along, including the quality of technical solutions and designs, and the culture of caring about customers in every tiny detail. That’s the key difference between leadership-driven and manager-driven organizations.

Leave a Reply

What is 8 + 8 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
Please do this simple sum so I know you are human:)

There are 101 ways to approach anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”

PETER SILVA-JANKOWSKI
IPC MEDIA

“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”

LUKE SHARKEY /STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION LEADER
SUNCORP

“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”

GILES BENTLEY, DEVELOPMENT & OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
TIME INC

“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”

DAN PULHAM, DIGITAL DIRECTOR
TELSTRA

“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”

GINA MILLARD
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES

“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”

ANDY JEFFRIES/TECHNICAL LEAD
IPC MEDIA

“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”

HANNAH JOYCE
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES

“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”

BRUCE WEIR/EGM
SUNCORP

“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”

BEATRIZ MONTOYA/CONSUMER MARKETING DIRECTOR
IPC MEDIA

“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”

PETER THATCHER, SENIOR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
ThoughtWorks

“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”

JULIE PEEL
GLASS'S INFORMATION SERVICES