Handling a resource with the right attitude but the wrong skills
My little chitchats
When I started this blog on medium, my plan was to write only technical stuffs here. However, being a techie in India, it is very difficult to stay on a pure technical role and you will be pushed to grow to a management role by the industry is what my experience taught me. I tried hard to retain myself as a technical person, but had to give up at one point. Not that I am not going to write technical stuffs here anymore. I do have an upcoming technical blog lined up. It is based on how my team switched from a “no VCS environment” to git in a very short span of one month.
What do I want to become in my professional life is a question which has been haunting me since a very long time. I have a person in mind — He was a tech lead while I was working for a banking client. I heard that those days he was around 50 but he was still hands on. Any change in feature in that huge application which we were maintaining, he was sure about what is the impact and where all the code is going to get impacted. Given a chance, I would want to be like him. Techno managerial role. 70% tech and 30% management — I think if we try and quantify his roles and categorise into managerial and technical roles, this is going to be the ratio.
Why was he able to manage very well with just 30% of his time on management? The answer lies in the fact that he worked for a bank where all the development processes were put in place and he was a tech lead for a very high performing team. Distractions in the form of people related issues was almost zilch in the team! I still miss working for them. The entire focus was on productivity and nothing else! Probably I will never ever get an opportunity to work for a team like that.
Getting into the matter:
Recently, I had written about a blog on recruitments. I am a strong advocate for “recruit for the right skills”. If the processes are put in place and roles are clearly defined, any person with good skills might be able to perform in the team is what I believe in. (You guessed right. I am an advocate of inclusive teams)
However, I am always part of teams where the team is already in place and many a times, I struggle because the team doesn’t have the right skills. This is a blog on what I would prefer to do to allocate a person who has the “right attitude” as per the company but has no skills. And mostly, they will be doing non technical/developer roles.
Most of the time, honestly, people with the right attitude but no skills is a burden to a delivery/technical team. (I am not trying to undermine any kind of role or job here, in case if it is sounding so. ).
Problems associated with having people with only coordination/people management skills in a team
- Over commit on the deliverables — These resources are usually in the good books of the management since they are known for their attitude. They have no idea about the amount of work pending to incorporate or complete a piece of work. To please the management, they start committing on deliverables without consulting with the delivery team.
- They start playing the manager — Just because they commit and get into the good books of the management, they start setting deadlines and listing out the tasks (in the form of one liners) for the team to work on. Despite the fact that the role they perform is that of a coordinator or a QA, they start assuming that they are the ones who are managing the project (management uses such roles to do the follow ups)
3. Developer’s works and efforts — are all concealed by this layer.
4. Spaghetti code resulting in an unmaintainable code base, never ending projects & chaotic delivery system — are the outcome of technically unskilled people driving a tech project.
5. Person who has only authority but is not accountable for any deliverable — holds all the keys — which is a very scary situation — both to the organisation and to the people who are really working towards the delivery.
How do we solve this problem?
Many a times, for some managements, who are not detail oriented and are only result oriented, this might not look like a problem. However, as someone who has seen start ups & delivery mechanisms failing, I feel that the failure of start ups start right here.
Project management or people management is not just about pleasing people and it is also about getting the work done.
The below is what can be done to utilise a person with a real good attitude but not much technical skills.
(a) Identify roles that he/she can fit into.
(b) Define clear KRAs for the person.
© Assess the person based on the deliverables prepared from the new KRA.
This way, the technically less skilled person becomes a key contributor & brings a value to the team.
Eg: Let us say, it is a QA person who has started performing beyond his/her role and have started playing the role of a coordinator.
Move them into a more accountable position — where deliverables are expected from them as well. eg: a BA role or a product owner role
In a BA role, he/she is supposed to come up with the requirements in the form of user stories and mock ups even before the developers start coding.
In a product owner role, he/she is equally responsible for the delivery. It is their responsibility to choose what features to be taken up for a sprint. He/She is also accountable for communicating with the developers and estimating the requirements and to prioritise the requirements.
Detail orientation and being a forerunner becomes the key in both the roles.
If the candidate is really good and the attitude matches with the expectations set by the management, they will start taking this as an opportunity to perform.
If the candidate is just hungry for authority and is looking for easier roles with only authority but no accountability, then, he/she will struggle in the new challenging role.