Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams, 1st edition

  • Mickey W. Mantle
  • Ron Lichty

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“Mantle and Lichty have assembled a guide that will help you hire, motivate, and mentor a software development team that functions at the highest level. Their rules of thumb and coaching advice are great blueprints for new and experienced software engineering managers alike.”

—Tom Conrad, CTO, Pandora


“I wish I’d had this material available years ago. I see lots and lots of ‘meat’ in here that I’ll use over and over again as I try to become a better manager. The writing style is right on, and I love the personal anecdotes.”

—Steve Johnson, VP, Custom Solutions, DigitalFish 

All too often, software development is deemed unmanageable. The news is filled with stories of projects that have run catastrophically over schedule and budget. Although adding some formal discipline to the development process has improved the situation, it has by no means solved the problem. How can it be, with so much time and money spent to get software development under control, that it remains so unmanageable?


In Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams, Mickey W. Mantle and Ron Lichty answer that persistent question with a simple observation: You first must make programmers and software teams manageable. That is, you need to begin by understanding your people—how to hire them, motivate them, and lead them to develop and deliver great products. Drawing on their combined seventy years of software development and management experience, and highlighting the insights and wisdom of other successful managers, Mantle and Lichty provide the guidance you need to manage people and teams in order to deliver software successfully.


Whether you are new to software management, or have already been working in that role, you will appreciate the real-world knowledge and practical tools packed into this guide.

Table of contents

Preface xxi

About the Authors xxvii


Chapter 1: Why Programmers Seem Unmanageable 1

What Do Programmers Do? 3

Why Is Becoming a Successful Programming Manager Hard? 7


Chapter 2: Understanding Programmers 9

Programming Disciplines 10

Types of Programmers 13

Domain Expertise 16

Programmer Job Requirements and Abilities 17

Proximity and Relationship 20

Generational Styles 25

Personality Styles 27

Summary 33

Tools 34


Chapter 3: Finding and Hiring Great Programmers 35

Determining What Kind of Programmer to Hire 37

Writing the Job Description 39

Selling the Hire 45

Recruiting Full-Time Employees (FTEs) 46

Recruiting Contractors 56

Reviewing Résumés 57

Narrowing the Field 59

Preparing to Interview 60

Interviewing 67

Making the Decision to Hire a Programmer 72

Making the Right Offer to a Programmer 76

Follow Up Until the Programmer Accepts 82

Summary 83

Tools 83


Chapter 4: Getting New Programmers Started Off Right 84

Get Them on Board Early 85

Preparing for Their Arrival 86

First-Day Musts 87

Introductions 91

Ensuring Success 92

Initial Expectations 95

Summary 98

Tools 98


Chapter 5: Becoming an Effective Programming Manager: Managing Down 99

Earning Technical Respect 100

Hire Great Programmers 105

Turbocharge the Team You Have 105

Managing Different Types of Programmers 106

Facilitation 111

Protection 111

Judging and Improving Performance 113

Organizational Thinking 123

Deliver Results and Celebrate Success 141

Summary 142

Tools 142



The Challenges of Managing 147

Managing People 173

Managing Teams to Deliver Successfully 203


Chapter 6: Becoming an Effective Programming Manager: Managing Up, Out, and Yourself 227

Managing Up 228

Managing Out 234

Managing Yourself 250

Summary 268

Tools 268


Chapter 7: Motivating Programmers 269

Motivational Theories 269

Motivational Factors as Applied to Programmers 274

Putting Theory into Practice 279

Foundational Factors—Causes of Dissatisfaction (When Lacking) 280

Key Motivating Factors 303

Personal Commitment 312

Technology Offense and Defense 314

Understanding Your Programmers’ Motivations

Begins on Day One 316

Summary 317


Chapter 8: Establishing a Successful Programming Culture 318

Defining “Successful” 319

The Programming Culture 319

Company Culture 320

Characteristics of a Successful Programming Culture 327

Summary 346

Tools 346


Chapter 9: Managing Successful Software Delivery 347

Defining the Project 348

Planning the Work 358

Kicking Off the Plan 370

Executing the Work 376

Running the End Game 391

Delivering the Software 396

Summary 401

Tools 402




Index 407

Published by Addison-Wesley Professional (September 16th 2012) - Copyright © 2013