Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management



Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management

Companies with individual contributors being promoted to managers sometimes take the sink or swim approach with the transition required to become a successful leader. Numerous books have been published on the topic, and filtering out the ideas from this mountain of written advice is a task few have the time or experience to do. Fortunately, Pragmatic Bookshelf has released a book targeted at application development organizations, written in the endearing style and matter-of-fact approach that has made their books so popular among its readers.


Authors Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby, both experienced product management consultants, walk through the first seven weeks of a new manager s daily tasks and dialogs with supervisors, peers, and direct reports. Each of these simulated scenarios teaches valuable and popular management techniques. Some of the more notable nuggets of knowledge include focusing on the funded work, assigning a work buddy to new hires, affinity grouping of ideas, learning how to delegate, seeking opportunities to practice new skills, re-planning with your team, defining what success means, creating an environment of trust, and Manage By Walking Around & Listening (MBWAL).


The final portion of the book offers worksheets and techniques that include guidelines for effective coaching, facilitation essentials for managers, how to give effective feedback, the checklist to welcome new hires, setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, how to run effective meetings, and several excellent project portfolio planning tips.


Experienced managers will find the bulk of the book to be like most management books obvious best practices that are easily preached but often inconsistently practiced. Great managers continue to sharpen the saw (yes, this quote is the seventh habit from one of the most popular and frequently cited management books, Stephen R. Covey s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) by taking these techniques seriously and making a conscious effort to practice them daily in some form or another. Yet for those leaders who are unable to spend as much time as they prefer to coach new managers such tenants, Behind Closed Doors can serve as a concise handbook for management techniques that should be imbued by any team player wishing to maximize their effectiveness.


About the only criticism I have, besides the fact that there are no new, innovative management secrets shared in the book, is that the authors could have painted some nasty scenarios involving the corporate politics that really occur behind closed doors in an acrimonious work environment and how best to eradicate these practices or recognize when to leave the company when corrective efforts are beyond hope. It s an unpleasant part of business that is a reality in some circumstances, and recognizing the signs would be valuable knowledge for any manager to learn and apply the solution to the problem head-on.


Even though this was written with the target audience of software development in mind, its contents are universal enough to apply to any project management task.


Mike Riley



Title: Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management

Authors: Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby

Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf

ISBN: 0-9766940-2-6

Web Site:

Price: US$24.95

Page Count: 192



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