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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

It’s the Transparency, Stupid!

A boss came to a worker:
Would you come to work on weekend to rescue project?
And what would be the reward? – asked poor little worker.
And there was no answer.

Actually the unspoken answer was “I don’t really know” or “I don’t want to say” or “Don’t mess with me, babe.” Either way it was wrong.

The worker’s question isn’t a very nice one – personally I prefer working with people who don’t ask for reward before job is done. On the other hand it isn’t unexpected either. As far as you’ve done some extra job and haven’t been rewarded in any way or your so called reward could be interpreted only as an insult you learn to ask before, not after. Every manager should be prepared to hear the question.

Being prepared here means having an answer and having the one which actually says something specific. Let it be “You’ll get this and that amount of bonus money” or “You’ll have higher engagement rating during next performance review” or “I can do completely nothing for you because I’m a crappy manager but I still ask you to come.” It’s still better than nothing.

A reason why these are better than those above is simple. They are transparent. You show how things look like. You don’t hide your magic algorithm which is a number of overtime hours multiplied by standard rate multiplied by secret factor of 1,25. This by the way becomes perfectly clear for everyone once they do the basic math. Basically if you as a manager hide something it’s either wrong or it shouldn’t be a concern of a team. Actually the former most of the time. Even when you don’t hide you suck being a manager while you’re trying to be transparent it’s better than trying to play kick-ass boss. Everyone would know you suck anyway but you’d avoid a label of hypocrite at least.

If something is interesting for the team or a person in the team – say it. An algorithm you use to tell how much bonus money people are going to get? Say it. Rules you use to decide on a promotion? Well, say it. New facts about this huge project you’re trying to get? Guess what. Say it. Unexpected issues with company cash flow which will bring some inconveniences for the team? How about saying it? Be transparent. People will appreciate this even if they won’t say that out loud.

Being transparent cuts off gossips, increase team’s trust to their manager and helps to spread information among the team. It is good. Do the opposite and you won’t keep your alleged secrets and you won’t control information (and gossip) flow in any way either. Not to mention you’ll be considered as a poor manager by your team. And well, they’ll probably be right this time.

in: communication, team management

3 comments… add one

  • Tenrox Project Planning Team August 20, 2009, 1:48 pm

    I really liked the quotes that the author has mentioned in the begining of the blog. These are short but they convey are vast message for us.

  • Anonymous August 26, 2009, 1:58 pm

    Pawel, jak zwykle – nice post :)

    > The worker’s question isn’t a very nice one

    ^^ I don't entirely agree with the above comment though. The first thought on every worker's mind is WIIFM (what's in it for me). (S)he could have phrased it better but "what's in it for me" is a valid query. As one of the guys in the trenches I'll tell you plainly that nothing demolishes morale quicker and more totally than a PM telling his/her underlings to go on another bataan death march with no tangible reward to show for it. On the other hand, you are 100% correct about being transparent. I'd rather have my PM tell me that there's nothing in it for me except the glory and satisfaction of knowing that I accomplished something difficult, rather than feeding me some BS about supporting the team, company, etc. But that's where real charisma and leadership traits come into play…
    Mark D.

  • Pawel Brodzinski August 27, 2009, 12:45 am


    Actually I look at the question about a reward before doing anything to get it from two perspectives.

    As an employee I like to know when my additional effort will bring additional bonuses for me. From this perspective the question is well-grounded.

    However being a manager I love to work with teams where I can call "who's with me?" and majority will follow not asking whether they're going to get a bunch of bucks for that.

    Of course it is possible only if I'm able to get some rewards afterwards, which I always strive for. Then I can expect people will respond my another call whenever it's going to happen. From the manager point of view this approach has one more advantage. After the job is finished I know who gave more and who just came to show up. Then rewards can be more fair.

    If a manager fails to do his job with rewards question "what's in it for me" becomes instantly valid whenever boss asks you for something more.

    The other thing is every manager should always be prepared for the question. If someone doesn't trust their manager enough to believe reward will be fair asking a question is no-brainer. This actually means most manager will be asked about rewards pretty regularly.

    By the my wife pointed the very same sentence as the one she doesn't agree with.

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