From the Ask Tom mailbag –
You said yesterday, that a non-engineer can be a manager to an engineer. How could that work? I remember you said that one purpose for a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of the team member. How can a non-engineer manager bring value to the decision making and problem solving of an engineer?
I will assume that an engineer can make decisions and solve problems that are clearly within their defined level of work, or they wouldn’t be in the role in the first place. Further, I assume the engineer may need managerial support for tough problems and tough decisions.
Your question is, how can a non-engineer manager bring value to an engineer attempting to solve a tough engineering problem?
The most effective managers are those that ask the most effective questions.
- Describe the problem, what do you observe?
- What are the possible causes of the problem?
- Have we solved this problem before?
- What are the alternative solutions?
- Of those alternative solutions, which will most likely address the underlying cause of the problem?
- How will you test the solution to determine if that will solve the problem?
- If you test the solution and it doesn’t work, will it cause more damage?
- How will you mitigate the damage so the problem doesn’t get worse?
A manager does not have to be an engineer to ask these questions. Would these questions have been of value in the roll-out of a complicated website?