Leadership Roles for Technical Teams

Posted in management by Christopher R. Wirz on Mon Jan 04 2016

Technical leaders often do not have the same level of knowledge or technical expertise as the rest of their team. Instead, they operate at the tactical level while the team focuses on technical detail. This requires an understanding of the business and technical trends - especially those which may impact the team. The leader responds to tasking demands, budget considerations, and supporting new technical deliverables. The leader must maintain metrics to provide estimates regarding cost and schedule.

Note: "Tactics" refer to processes involving planning and acting in a precise and calculated manner that leads to a positive outcome.

The transition from technical teammate to technical leader may be difficult due to previous involvement in technical deliverables. The emphasis, focus and skills required for a technical leader are very different from those of a technical team member. The adjustment can be very stressful. The adjustment will be easier for a leader if he or she trusts the technical experts and allows them to determine the best way to do things. The best way to accomplish goals is often the most comfortable to the team. A focus on this outcomes involves ensuring you are clear on what has to be achieved to meet your customer's needs. The leader should also make sure to eliminate obstacles that might slow accomplishing goals and tasks. This involves making sure tools and training are available.

If a technical has relevant experience, they should share it. The team should not follow the leader's history, but should use it to build upon. Technical leaders should learn from the team's history too by asking questions such as "How was this done before?" and "What does the team know about the business?" This will uncover inconsistencies in deliverable that can add risk - as well as clear up some assumptions. It will also align the team to the business needs.

A technical leader should clear assumptions, socialize details, and prevent inconsistencies - not know everything about the technology. This ensures the team can produce a product that has the necessary balance point. As a new business need is aligned to the team, the team must find a balance between the product and business goals. The product must still retain its core intuition, values and key features - but also portray the vision of positive customer outcomes which the business has defined.

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