Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
— Jim Rohn
There are a wide variety of tasks that comprise the overall job of being a “manager”. This includes things such as:
- Formal reviews
- Approving Expense Reports
- Approving Vacation Requests
- Project Staffing
- Monitoring the work
- Conflict Resolution
- Career Development
- Status Reports
- Attending Meetings
I simplify these items into a few categories, reflected in the following diagram:
You can probably imagine how each of the above-detailed tasks fits into this model. By the way, “Administrivia” is the name I give to the mundane, but necessary tasks such as creating expense reports, approving expense reports and creating Purchase Orders in the Accounting system [fn: introduced to me a long time ago by a partner at Andersen Consulting, where I was interning].
Even though the diagram above seems to suggest that equal time is spent on each of these tasks, this is not the case. Each manager has a different proportion of their time they spend on each of these – some of it is based on their manager’s expectations or the nature of the work, but quite often, it’s simply based on what they are comfortable with. For example, I have had managers reporting to me that weren’t keen on dealing with people and didn’t understand the work well enough, so they spent their time on Administrivia. With this manager, there was never a late timesheet, an unapproved expense report or a tardy annual review. Others I have managed have loved the people aspect and spent almost all their time on 1:1 with subordinates and peers. The truism that I have observed about managers over the years is this:
Managers focus on things that they can understand.
You can probably guess that there is an optimal amount to invest in each of the three areas above and it will differ based on many factors (although your personal comfort level shouldn’t be one of those factors). Personally, my ideal is around 65% of my time spent on managing the work, 25% on strictly People Management (keeping in mind that virtually everything a manager does is people related, I’m talking mostly about things like hiring, firing, 1:1’s, mentoring, etc.) and as little as possible on Administrivia (and definitely no more than 10%). That looks more like the following:
Remember two important facts that we established earlier:
- The primary purpose of Engineering is the efficient delivery of valuable functionality to the Customer (we covered that here), and
- The most important component of the Development Process is the People (this was mentioned here).
Given our primary purpose is #1, it makes sense that we spend the majority of our time there. We’ll talk in future posts about what “Managing the Work” entails because, by title, it’s pretty vague. And given that #1 won’t happen without #2, we need to make sure that we dedicate a sufficient amount of time to People. And recall that virtually everything you do, includes interacting with people, it’s not that you spend only 25% of your time with people – you will be spending about 90% of your time interacting with people. The following modification to the diagram reflects that interacting with people and communication are part of everything you do as a manager:
Upcoming posts will focus on details around “Managing the Work” and “People Management” – these two items are vital for you to master if you want to be a great manager [fn: and let’s be honest, nobody wants to be a lousy manager].
I look forward to your comments below.
This post is based on or excerpted from the upcoming book “De-Engineering the Corporation” by Darryl Ricker