Transitioning to Technical Management

I work in a decent sized application development division of a medium size company. Today I realized the bulk of our line managers haven’t yet pulled away from technical work to focus fully on management. Signs include:

  • Attending almost all project meetings to weigh in on the technical architecture of the project.
  • Personally conducting the bulk of all code/design reviews.
  • Coding on projects on a regular basis.
  • Utilizing the same team members for every project since it’s faster then ramping up others.

I know it’s a well worn cliche that many senior technical folks promoted to management fail to grasp that their role has changed, but I assumed that for many that was a temporary situation. After a year or two you learn to pull back on the coding role.

I think staying somewhat technical is important, but it has to be secondary to managing and developing your team, period. And assigning yourself technical work just creates a bottleneck.

I’m not completely beyond some tendencies myself:

  • Having to fill in as a full time Scrum Master on an intranet project for 7 months is wrong and I’d rather have someone else take on the role. On the other hand it’s a very messy political and technical project so I’ve resigned myself to the role. I’ve probably missed a chance to mentor someone into the role.
  • I’m still the resident expert on continuous integration which means if something crops up with cruisecontrol I end up troubleshooting it.
  • I’m tempted to stay really involved in another project where I attended almost every meeting for the first Sprint to keep it from stumbling off track. For the subsequent Sprints I need to tone down my involvement. Better to let the team self-manage here and learn on their own.