Tech Life Pick your kool-aid

Management Cheat Sheet

There’s an article somewhere in my head which dissects the intense knee jerk reaction a lot folks have regarding managers. The question is, “Why do so many of us automatically assume that our managers are boobs?” The follow-on question is, “Even if we don’t think our managers are not boobs, why do we constantly ridicule them behind their backs?”

Clearly, the answer is rooted in our basic issue with authority. “Who does HE think HE is? More important than ME?” No, he’s just got a different job than you. Yeah, he’s probably got more to affect change now, but that he didn’t a few years back. He was you. So, what are YOU going to do about it?

The article needs to be written soon because my role continues to wander about the organizational chart and at each part of the chart, they serve a different kool-aid. This drink tastes great, but it slowly dulls my memory. It makes it harder to context switch to where I was versus where I am. Could be age, too.

To preserve these thoughts, I present you the Management Cheat Sheet. It leads off with a generic version of the Rands Communication Template and finishes with neatly organized lists of the various articles hiding on this site.

As you read the articles, you’ll notice I jump around a bit in terms of audience… sometimes I’m focused on the manager and sometimes on the employee. Here’s the point: There is no difference. Just because your boss can fire you doesn’t mean you can’t quit.

Rands Communication Template

People appreciate consistency… especially in business. They want to know what occurred today is likely to occur tomorrow.

“RANDS? HELLO? What about Messy Thinking? Signs of Art? Taking Time to Think? HOW DO I INNOVATE WITH CHAINS OF CONSISTENCY?!?!?”

Calm down.

Ever hung with a hardcore successful artist? Painter? Writer? I bet their workspace was a total disaster. I bet you wondered, “How is the world does this person produce their art in this mess?” They don’t produce, they create. There’s some studio or publisher out there who does the production and they need consistency because they’re responsible for the cash and the cash vanishes, the gig is up. Our artist can still create in this scenario, but can they eat?

The Rands Communication Template is document designed to allow you to consistently communicate with someone else. Maybe it’s your boss or maybe it’s your team. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that in your regular communication meetings, you are talking about the same stuff in the same way.

This template is a work in progress, but here’s the skinny:

  • Using this template without modifying to your personal company/style is silly.
  • This template is designed for someone managing multiple projects. Adjust to your load.
  • Each of the mythical projects in the template are at a different mythical milestone. The content for each is adjusted accordingly.
  • This document is intentionally one page — two columns. You should print it out and fold it in half when you use it. Two reasons: Sitting in front of a computer during a 1:1 is distracting and you should be focusing on communication with whoever is in the room. Also, keeping your notes short and to the point keeps you on message… less time consuming tangents. I can’t explain the folding thing, it just feels good.
  • Almost every bucket on the template has an entry “Hot List Next Steps”. These are whatever festering problems you have in your program or project. These are items where a lack of a weekly forward progress is a career limiting move. It should be clear for each item what your plan is and when you’re going to execute on said plan.

My process with this document is simple. I update my template the morning of my meeting. To do this, I look at last week’s version for an interesting or hot issues I noted in the prior meeting. Ideally, I’ve already moved on these and have something to report.

During the meeting, I follow the order on the carefully folded sheet. People, Program, and Product. Success can be measured in two ways: healthy conversation during the meeting or awestruck silence. Your mileage may vary.

With feedback from y’all, I’ll be happy to continually update this document. I would absolutely love to hear from folks who have tried to use this document. I would absolutely love to see real world versions of this that folks have tried with the managers and employees.

Rands Communication Template v.02 (PDF)

Ok, useful articles:

Understanding the Team

These articles focus on figuring out who the hell your working with and for. I have a tendency to map personalities on a spectrum where they are either THIS or THAT. In reality, there are multiple spectrums and the following articles describe a bunch of them:

Understanding the Company

Ever wondered why there are useless meetings? Confused by your new company’s lingo? Not clear why your boss is yelling at you? The following might help:

  • Mandate Dissection — deliver and receive big news
  • Agenda Detection — understanding the players and pawns in meetings
  • Managementese — communication across the org chart
  • Rands Management Glossary — evolving glossary of management mumbo jumbo

Improving the Team/Yourself

Constant improvement only comes from constant challenge. How you communicate and deal with that challenge will define you as an employee, a manager, or a soon-to-be-unemployeed loud mouth:

Creativity in Development

It’s relevant that the last section is the most fun. Figuring out how to build stunning products is job #1. I can help:

6 Responses

  1. Ok, I’m probably going to be buzzed off but I’ve got to try.

    I’m a little short on concepts. Could someone explain what are these?

    – Infrastructure Efforts

    – Competitive Intelligence

    – Cross Functional Dependencies

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Free Electron is at:

    guess someone missed a “L” =P

  3. chris 19 years ago

    psst ‘free electron’ is a 404

  4. Free Electron Link = fixed.

    Koch: I was going to write in the article that if you didn’t know what the program bucket was far, you probably didn’t need it, but here’s a brief description of the terms in that section.

    – Infrastructure Efforts: Do we have all the tools we need? If not, how are we getting them? How are we investing across the team in improving communication+productivity.

    – Competitive Intelligence: How are our competitors doing? Any news?

    – Cross Functional Dependencies: In large companies, you’re often waiting on other teams to complete work in order for large efforts to get started or resume — are they cross-functional folks doing what they said they would?

  5. Got it. Thanks for the enlightenment .

  6. Fyodor Sheremetyev 19 years ago

    Rands, it would be very convenient to have printable version of your blog posts.