Technical Leadership Development

People, Projects, and Pressure — we know them to be a combustible combination. But why are technical projects so difficult to manage? Why do interpersonal issues arise so often on technical project teams? Can leadership help? The program conveys two key messages:

Technical Leadership Development

Technical leadership requires mastery of both technology and interpersonal and group dynamics

  • Product, process, and people are interdependent.
  • Excellence is possible for both the organization and the individual if they work together to achieve it.

The analogy to a bicycle race is powerful. Winning a bicycle race, as we might expect, requires mastery of riding bicycles. We must understand the machine and how to use it. That corresponds to technical mastery. But technical mastery isn't enough to win a race. We must also master the dynamics of racing — how the competitors interact, and how those interactions affect the racers. That corresponds to the group dynamics we find at work. The analogy isn't perfect, because the members of groups at work aren't competing with each other to win a race — not usually, that is. But, in work as in racing, how they interact does affect the outcomes they achieve.

Projects are staffed by people. When we forget or ignore this, we jeopardize project success. And since we cannot avoid personal issues, we must understand them, which can be especially difficult in technical environments, when these issues have some technical content. In this program, participants learn:

  • Models of personality, team behavior, human behavior and human interactions.
  • Ideas for making projects less conflicted, more harmonious, and more predictable.
  • Positive, thought-provoking and very constructive interaction choices.

We do this through exercises, simulations, and post-program activities oriented to the technical environment. Participants experience an energetic and humorous atmosphere that many readily carry back to work.

Program structure and content

This program is available as a keynote, workshop, seminar, breakout, or clinic. We explore not only what makes managing technical projects so uniquely difficult, but how to deal with the problems that arise. Through a series of experiences and simulations, we apply models of personality and team behavior to give participants the ability to:

  • Lead in a complex technology environment
  • Enhance the effectiveness of meetings
  • Manage projects more effectively in the context of unknowns, conflicting priorities, and scarce resources
  • Deal with interpersonal issues effectively before they mushroom to become project issues
  • Deal with project issues effectively before they mushroom to become organizational issues

Each simulation is oriented to the project environment, yet is simple enough to provide safe and effective learning opportunities. Our techniques are derived from the techniques of Gerald Weinberg, Jean McLendon and Virginia Satir — simplified and made more accessible to the technical community.

Learning model

In the technical project environment, we usually apply new technical knowledge in situations that have little emotional content. But knowledge about how people work together is most needed in highly charged situations. That's why we use a learning model that differs from the one often used for technical content.

Our learning model makes the principles of human dynamics accessible even during moments of stress. Using a mix of presentation, simulation, group discussion, and metaphorical team problems, we make available to participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations.

Target audience

Technical leaders and managers and technical project team members. Participants should have experienced at least 6 months as a member of a technical project team.

Program duration

Available formats range from 50 minutes to two full days. The longer formats allow for more coverage or more material, more experiential content and deeper understanding of issues specific to audience experience.

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    — Tina L. Lawson, Technical Project Manager, BankOne (now J.P. Morgan Chase)
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