The IT Manager's Dilemma

Sep 26, 2005

Rajesh Setty

As an IT manager initiating a new project, the biggest question on your mind is “Will my team members give their best to ensure that we complete the project on schedule and under budget?”

It seems like a rhetorical question and you expect each of your team members to answer in the positive. However, your team members have a set of their own questions. They may not come to you with them openly but it’s in your best interest to address some or all of them.

Here are some of those questions:

What exactly is expected of me?

Most problems arise because of expectation mismatch. The answer for this question seems so obvious so the question gets skipped. However, if this question is not answered precisely, the team member may work very hard on things that are not on your priority list.

It is important for you to ensure that this question is answered whether it's asked or not.

How will my performance be measured at the end of this project?

“Fairly” is a good answer but does not provide necessary information. Cliché phrases like “beyond the call of duty” have no meaning if the “call of duty” is not properly defined. The employment manuals will highlight generic performance assessment criteria but few people read those manuals.

It is important to spend some time and highlight key metrics for performance assessment in this project.

How will this project help me in my career growth?

The project is important to the organization but the team member should also feel it helps him or her as well. A project where both sides feel that by executing this project successfully both will benefit is essential.

How will I split my time between "learning" and "doing"?

This is the biggest dilemma for a team member. While the team member is expected to execute on the current projects flawlessly, he or she is also expected to be up to date on all the skills that are required to flawlessly execute future projects.

If the “learning” and “doing” is not in the right balance, the team member loses out big time.

Why is this project important to the organization?

Research has shown that the use of the word “because” is a major weapon of influence. Every team member would want to know how his or her work is going to impact the organization.

So, in simple terms, we need to explain “why” this project is important to the organization. Also, when assigning tasks, we need to explain “why” these tasks are important to the organization.

How do I achieve work/life balance?

Family is a key concern for any team member. Although an organization is not directly concerned with a team member’s family, it is important for the organization to create an infrastructure and a work culture that will help team members take care of his or her family concerns easily.

Will my job be outsourced?

There are no job guarantees anymore. Everyone knows that. Everyone also knows that companies are jumping into the outsourcing bandwagon in droves. The concern (rightly so) therefore is how long can the person continue to have a sense of job guarantee. And, if he or she wants to have better odds at retaining their job, what should they do?

While there is no “perfect” answer in such a situation, ignoring this concern is not an answer either. If people are constantly worried about getting replaced, they won’t give their 100% to their job.

What should I do with my career?

Not everyone is clear about a career path for them. Their ego often gets in the way of getting “real” help. They are supposed to figure it out by themselves they think. The fact is that everyone needs help. People want a fantastic career for themselves and since taking the wrong path can be very “costly” in terms of time and effort, they want to make the “right” choice for themselves.

By helping team members directly or indirectly, you will make a significant impact on their career, on their lives and, by default, on your project.

What should I do with my life?

You might say “Now you are stretching this a bit … ” and you might think why should you ever be bothered about a team member’s personal life. The reason is it’s hard to break a person’s life into compartments.

Life is one indivisible whole and it’s hard to draw boundaries. What happens in one department of life affects the other. By taking time to design a role that has some alignment with a team member’s personal goals, you will infuse a fresh dose of energy in this person.

Now, you can lead a team without making an attempt to answer the above questions and attempting to help with every single question listed above is definitely “going beyond the call of duty." And it takes time and effort to take into account at least some of these issues but the rewards will be worth it.

Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur, author and teacher. Setty currently serves as the chairman of Cignex Technologies, which he co-founded in late 2000. Setty’s latest book "Beyond Code" (Foreword by Tom Peters) was published simultaneously in U.S. and India. Setty speaks and writes frequently on topics that include entrepreneurship, leadership and open source. His blog can be found at


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