As a software development manager, the way I manage my development team is influenced by the game of baseball. A baseball team is a collection of players asked to function as a unit to compete against their competitors. Sounds like a mission in a development team doesn’t it? The baseball manager’s job is to assemble the best players who offer the greatest chance of success. So how is managing a baseball team like managing a development team?
A baseball team must consist of talented and versatile athletes to be successful. Development managers need to assemble employees with the needed technical skills. A baseball scout travels from city to city in search of top prospects. The development manager seeks the most talented employees by recruiting from the best colleges and universities.
On a baseball team, it is important to have a combination of veteran and rookie players. This creates an environment where rookies can learn from the seasoned players. The same is true in the development organization. Managers hire recently graduated students with sought after skills and the ability to learn from experienced employees.
The baseball manager needs to assemble a team with diverse talents to meet the requirements of the various positions on the field. Having a team of all catchers is not practical and will not result in a successful season. The same holds true for a development manager. A manager may not need 18 programmers on your team but a mix of programmers, project managers, IT specialists and analysts.
Both the development and baseball teams need members that put the needs of the team over individual results. The atmosphere in the clubhouse is critical to the success of a baseball team. It allows the team to unite on a common goal. The morale of a development team is critical to be able to deliver a product or service on time and with quality.
The role of the baseball manager is to consider what is best for the team over the long season. The manager needs a 'bench' of available players poised to relieve starting players at a moments notice due to overwork or injury. Baseball mangers must know when to substitute a replacement pitcher from the bullpen to preserve his starter. Development managers must also be careful not to over work his employees resulting in burnout. The manager needs to allow employees time off to preserve their mental and physical health.
In baseball, managers compensate the top players for their potential and past contributions. The same is true for the development team. Managers must compensate the top technical employees for their contributions and potential. This will help avoid employees leaving to a competing company.
The baseball player belongs to the community in which they play. Baseball players often reach out to the community for charity and public relation purposes. As an employee, they too need to represent the company for which they work in a good light on and off the ‘field’.
Finally, it may be necessary to cut a player who is not living up to a manager’s expectation. The same is true for employees who are not performing at a level necessary to help the organization reach their business goals.
In baseball and business, the manager needs to put the best team on the field. The manager needs to assemble the finest, most talented set of individuals and treat them with respect.
-Coach Dan (Sapphire Coaching)