|Managing Einsteins: Leading High-Tech Workers in the Digital Age|
|author||Dr. John M. Ivancevich and Dr. Thomas N. Duening|
|summary||Good information for managers of IT workers|
This book doesn't use terms like "nerd" or "geek" to describe IT workers: the authors hold that the stereotype of pocket protectors and coke-bottle glasses just doesn't fit any more. This is a book written for managers, and so the terminology and style (almost) always refers to Einsteins as "your workers," to the point that with the summary at the end states:
Referring to super-intelligent, curious, passionate, often introverted, talented individuals as "geeks" is outdated. Although Einsteins can call colleagues "geeks," it is not appropriate or cool for non-Einsteins to refer to computer, technology, systems or software geniuses as geeks. (page 217)
These are the difficult to work with, yet life-saving employees who can come up with answers when most people don't understand the question.
Several themes run through the book, so it can be summarised in a few simple statements. Many of which (to Einsteins) may seem pretty obvious. The book is written by "Management Professionals," though, so there's hope that managers may actually accept some of its wisdom.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Realities of the Twenty-First Century - a brief summary covers the basic themes of the book and introduces the concept of an Einstein, the nature of Einsteins and how they fit into the work environment and the world.
- Managing Einsteins: Challenges and Actions - this section, the bulk of the book, covers everything from recruiting Einsteins through to managing them on a daily basis, by paying attention to communication, teams and tribes, remuneration, etiquette and discipline.
- Building for the Future - includes humour and fun at work, telecommuting and a final summary.
The book describes IT workers as highly motivated, intelligent (often more intelligent than their managers), introverted, tribal and independent.
The mains themes throughout the book are:
- Managers should be honest with their workers about the company's successes and failures
- The point of management is to guide and suggest not to be autocratic (the metaphor of herding cats was used to illustrate this)
- Let the Einsteins have freedom in work environment (location - there is a whole chapter on telecommuting, hours and style)
- Einsteins are project-focused, not job-focused
- They value training and education highly
- They require a stimulating and fun work place.
The issue of remuneration is covered -- and expanded to include the idea that Einsteins are not solely motivated by money (as sales people may be), and that other considerations should be taken into account (such as training, location, work conditions). Also that the traditional notion of promotion does not always work. An Einstein may not want to become a team leader, or move any higher in the management hierarchy. A manager should be wary of their Einsteins burning out, a temporary demotion or other measure may be in order to take the stress off an Einstein for a while.
The book includes short examples and case studies from various workplaces, and excerpts from newspapers and trade journals to help illustrate points. There are also highlighted points categorised as "Influence Tips," "Black Holes" and "Einstein Wisdom." which emphasise important things, such as:
Managers should be very cautious not to introduce projects that have a low likelihood of getting started. Einsteins abhor routine and crave novel projects. But they abhor being misled and crave honest leadership all the more. In staff meetings, when managers talk about upcoming projects, they should attach a probability of launch along with the projected launch date. The common term for this is "managing expectations." (page 70)
One good description of the nature of how Einsteins work is the concept of flow.
Flow is reported by individuals as a satisfying state they reach when they are completely absorbed in challenging yet achievable projects. (page 54)
Flow is an important concept for managers to understand. Once an Einstein starts a project, and becomes fully involved, there is nothing worse than being pulled off to attend a sales meeting, or other time consuming function. It interrupts the flow.
One pitfall: the book seems to have been started before the tech slump of 2000-2001 really started to dig in. So the book wavers between promoting how IT workers are highly mobile, but also that the job market is not that strong.
The other major shortcoming is the chapter on Etiquette and Manners. Now, I can understand the mannerisms and habits of Einsteins can be a little unpleasant at times, but it begs the question, why would a manager take one of these people out to a client dinner in the first place? If the client needs to meet the tech people to be convinced that a company can do the job, why not at the place of work? Or, take an Einstein who you know you can trust to behave and present well.
As this is the only book at the moment that deals directly with managing this class of workers, also get your manager to read Jon Katz's Geeks. Managing people is no longer about direct, micro-management or process line working. The nature of work has changed with the influence of new technology and so a new way of managing people should also be introduced. These books together will help management, or anyone, understand the mind set and working modes of IT workers.
You can purchase Managing Einsteins from bn.com. Want to see your own review here? Just read the book review guidelines, then use Slashdot's handy submission form.