Controlling the IT geeks

Paul
Glen, a specialist consultant based in Los Angeles, gives us his guide to
managing the people who deliver technology in your organisation

Today,
every manager must learn to lead geeks. Dot.com or dot.bomb, it doesn’t matter;
geeks deliver and support the technology that drives the efficiency,
effectiveness and competitiveness of real business. Yet, most managers find
that geeks are difficult to fathom, and even harder to lead.

Why?
Geeks are notoriously difficult to manage. Their work is frequently difficult
to understand. Their demand for funds often seems insatiable. Their
‘deliverables’ are always late. And they don’t respond to traditional methods
of management.

For
anyone who leads, manages or has become increasingly dependent upon technology
and its providers, help is at hand. There are specific ways of looking at
structure, culture, leadership, communication, problem solving and teamwork
that will enable geeks to become evermore productive (and give you less
managerial headaches).

Every
leader wants a motivated group, but many find that motivating technology
workers is quite different from motivating other staff.

For
now, here are some practical tips on how to motivate those important technology
workers in your organisation:

Select
wisely

The
most important thing a leader can do to encourage intrinsic motivation is to
assign work to geeks who have an interest in that work.

Manage
meaning

The
second most important thing a leader can do is give a geek some sense of the
larger significance of their work. Without a sense of meaning, motivation
suffers, and day-to-day decisions become difficult. It is easy for geeks to
become mired in the ambiguous world of questions, assumptions, and provisional
facts characteristic of technical work.

Communicate
significance

It
is very important for managers to be explicit about the role a new technology
plays in a business, otherwise some will misunderstand the centrality of their
work, while others may develop delusions of grandeur.

Show
a career path

Many
geeks only have a vague sense that there is more to advancing their careers
than just acquiring new technical knowledge. Be specific about what
competencies a geek must demonstrate to advance their careers.

‘Projectise’

Projects
help to turn work into a game, and geeks love games with objectives that
delineate both goals and success criteria.

Encourage
isolation

While
geeks need free-flowing communication within their own work groups, collective
seclusion provides fertile soil for motivation, cultivating cohesion and
concentration.

Engender
external competition

Healthy
competition can enhance group cohesion.

Interdependence

When
a colleague is relying on you to complete your work, it is much easier to put
in the extra effort for them than it is just to meet some externally imposed
deadline.

Limit
group size

As
the size of the group grows, colleagues become less of a group of individuals,
and more of an indistinguishable mass of anonymous faces. The larger the work
group, the less conducive the environment for developing intrinsic motivation.

Control
resource availability

Whether
thinking about money, people, time, or training, there is a delicate balance of
resources that will encourage a group’s enthusiasm. Too many resources or too
few can diminish interest in the work.

Offer
free food

Intermittently,
of course. Never underestimate the power of free food. There isn’t any rational
explanation, but for geeks, even those making sizeable incomes, free food
offers major support to motivation development – far more than an equivalent
amount of cash.

Paul
Glen will be presenting solutions on leading geeks in the UK soon. Please
contact MBL (Seminars) on Tel 0161-374-4775 or visit www.mblseminars.com for further details.

Find
out how Levi’s took charge of its internal technology at www.personneltoday.com or on page 21 of
Personnel Today

Comments are closed.