For many years now I have been an active reader of numerous business publications. My favorites are Fortune, Forbes, and BusinessWeek. This last year I subscribed to a very well know publication: The Harvard Business Review. I really enjoy reading about the complex business issues discussed in this publication. Every so often they discuss issues related to Information Technology (IT) in business. It is interesting to see the point of view of our business scholars when it comes to IT.

I was reading the June 2004 issue of The Harvard Business Review this weekend and read a great article by one of these great business minds. The article, “What Makes an Effective Executive?” by Peter F. Drucker is the inspiration for this editorial. In this article, Mr. Drucker highlights eight practices followed by effective managers. I am going to highlight a few key ones here.

They Asked: What needs to be done?

Sometimes figuring out what needs to be done is the hard partYou should consider questions like these:

  • How can we save our company money?
  • Do we need training for our developers?
  • Do we need to hire more developers?
  • Are we using the right tools/platform?
  • Should we buy this?
  • Should we build this?
  • What should we develop now?

The job of a good software manager is to set direction. They need to figure out the best allocation of the finite development resources of their company.

They Made “The Call”

This is probably one of the biggest success factors of a good manager. Sometimes managers simply need to make the call. On a recent project I participated in as a contractor we needed to have the department manager "make the call.. Did this happen? No. The manager never really made the call. And what happened? The project floundered around for a month or so before the decision finally got made. Not by an active decision but by default. We just started moving in one direction and we are where we are. What this manager communicated to the software development staff is: “If you are looking for someone to make a decision, don't ask me.”

If you are faced with a decision, please “Make the CALL!” You cannot always be 100% sure of all your decisions but your courage to make the call will gain you respect of your development team.

They Developed Action Plans

This is the job of all good software development managers. Once you've determined, “What needs to be done,” and, “The Call,” has been made it's time to go to work. This is where the action plan comes from. You need to break the job down into a logical set of steps and the team needs go to work on tasks. You need to track these tasks to see if they are on course. At another client I work with two project managers. They do a great job of keeping me and the teams I work with on task. You will never know a good software project until you work with a good project manager.

Make Meetings Productive

This is a big one. No one likes to spend their time in meetings when there are things to get done. So here are a few tips:

  • Start on time.
  • Make your meetings specific and to the point.
  • Stay on task.
  • If different media is available (e-mail for example) use it.

One more tip. Something I learned from one of my clients is to never start a meeting at 1:00pm, start it at 1:30pm instead. People always get back late from lunch so a 1:00 start is a waste of time.

Think and Say “We”

This is an important concept. Software development is not (usually) a one-person job. It's often a team effort and if the software succeeds or fails then we succeed or fail. I have had one of my clients for 5+ years and I truly feel I am part of the team/company/family. When stuff works that's great. When it fails I have skin in the game to fix what is broken.

I hope these give you some ideas.