What if…you could somehow find the time to fly out to Boston and take two days to attend the MIT Sloan School of Management’s course on “Managing Technical Professionals and Organizations“? This course is designed for “senior management” but no matter what your title is, you’ve got my permission to attend. Umm, I guess there are the separate issues related to travel to Boston for your two days of training and, of course, the fee for taking the class ($2,600). Dang — those restrictions just about put this opportunity out of reach.
Those of us who work in the Information Technology field need more of that: information. I’ve secretly obtained information on this MIT Sloan course and, for free, I’m going to share it with you. Please feel free to share it with your team.
If you took the course, what would you hope to get out of it? How about:
- Learn ways to avoid turning the organization into a parking lot for bright folks whose abilities to generate new ideas far outstrip the ability of your organization to do anything with them.
- Get a hand on how to manage functional relationships between different functions within your company including research, development, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and, of course, finance.
- Identify and find ways to reward those individuals who act as gatekeepers and yet who are able to break down internal barriers and help to promote technology transfers.
Sound like a good set of goals? Great — lets take a look at the four sections of the course and what you’d cover in them:
- Making Technical Organizations Work: On Corporate Culture, Technology Transfer, and Effective Reward Systems.
During this section, you’d learn from the rest of the class that their companies are just as screwed up as yours is. The classic problem of different departments not wanting to share information would be discussed. The solution to this would be presented as finding information “gatekeepers” and convincing them to allow information to flow more freely between departments. Once this was solved, you’d talk about the sticky problem of how to reward technical professionals. You’d discuss the “technical” ladder approach and would agree with the rest of the class that it doesn’t always work well. The class would brainstorm on ways to provide technical professionals with increasing challenges in the workplace without trapping them in obsolescence.
- Managing Performance and Productivity In Technical Organizations:
This time around you’ll be spending your class time talking about motivation and how employee motivation is the key to a successful technical team. A great deal of time will be spent on helping the team deal with uncertainty and the stress that it causes. Finally, you’d work with your classmates to find ways to integrate your technical professionals in with the rest of the company (can anyone say alignment?).
- Sustaining Innovation and High Performance:
We’re all familiar with this issue — how do you manage star IT individual contributors? You’d talk about how you can move star performers into management roles and what kind of training they are going to need for these new roles. The key issue of how to teach them not to be a “scary” manager due to their deep knowledge will be covered. We’ll wrap this section up with a discussion of how to keep that “creative tension” alive in the team in order to maximize everyone’s productivity.
- Structuring The Technical Organization:
Welcome to the world of organizational behavior! You’ll be told that the matrix approach to management is the best approach for managing technical professionals on projects. Your two days of classes will wrap up with a discussion of the physical structure of the workplace — where we work has a big impact on how we work.
There you go! You’ve just successfully completed your MIT Sloan class and you still have $2,600 in your pocket. You might complain that this was just an overview and you’d get more out of the real class. I think that you’d be correct; however, how much of the class would you remember a month later, a year later, etc? The nice thing about blogs like this one is that, you can always come back and take this class again — for free!