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Karmona's Pragmatic Blog

Managing Engineers is like Herding Cats

October 4th, 2008 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 2 Comments

When “The Moscow Cats Theater” came to New York, the Russian clown Yuri Kuklachev was interviewed:  the secret of training them is realizing that you can’t force cats to do anything […] If the cat likes to sit you can’t force her to do anything else […] Each cat likes to do her own trick […] Maruska is the only one who does the handstand. I find the cat and see what they like to do and use that in the show […] I have a cat now that loves to be in the water…”

REUTERS, 2006

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Personally, I think that managing engineers is much more complicated than herding cats (although I didn’t have the twisted pleasure to herd a cat yet)

When you go out of your way to hire the best people around than soon enough you will find yourself herding a superior, class A, hyper-developed mutant Ligers* who are much more knowledgeable than the herder (a.k.a. you)

In this environment you have to learn to simply trust your people (although this is not simple at all :), mark the vision, let them loose and only help to get rid of the stones in their way (this concept was best described as the Open Kimono** policy in Peopleware)

Well…. Managing the Delver Engineers is like Herding Legendary Ligers and you need to make a superior effort to see what these ligers “likes to do” and run fast enough to set the Vision and move the rocks out of the way.

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* The Liger, is a (huge) hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger

** Open Kimono Attitude: You take no steps to defend yourself from the people you have put in positions of trust.

By the way, The best answer I found on the origin of the term “Herding Cats” was in Google Answers

Tags: Delver · Development · Leadership · Management · People · Project Management · Software Management

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1  Know-all // Oct 31, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Google engineers are better.

  • 2  Moti Karmona // Nov 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

    I can’t really tell since I never worked @ Google Zurich*

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    * Mr. Know0-all was traced to be coming from Zurich, Google Office… I wonder who can it be??? ;)

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