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Discussion about middle management and product management

NewMexicoKid edited this page Sep 29, 2016 · 1 revision

General tips

  • Be specific about context; companies can differ in different ways
    • e.g., style, governance (traditional vs. modern)

The middle management problem

  • Middle management is given their own set of KPIs and objectives; their employees who are participating in inner source are, in a sense, diverting precious resources to activities that do not contribute to the middle management's KPIs. This pressure/disapproval can cause (some) employees to not engage in inner source contributions to other projects.

Brainstormed solutions

  • Explain to middle management how it benefits their BU (some inner source projects may do so directly; but this advice may not otherwise hold).
  • Good developers can move to where they do have permission and support to engage in inner sourcing.
  • Give the middle management company wide KPIs and goals that inner sourcing contribute to so that the MM will support inner sourcing.
  • Let MM take initiatives to make this work.
  • Use their evil for good.
  • Make MM a mentor or coach.
  • Have upper management plan for 80% capacity rather than 100%.

How to communicate with middle management

  • "It is the future of SW: inner sourcing will make your company more attractive to talent, it will be involved in something like open source, it will help retain people."
  • Use concise, factual communication but include buzzwords
  • Address MM fears
  • Need to find the right language to talk with non-developers
  • Think like a services company--invest in your people (through their inner source participation)
  • "Can you afford to train them? Can you afford to train them and have them leave? Can you afford not to train them and have them stay?"
  • Like with a sail boat, don't tack into the wind. Sometimes it is better to loosen your control for a while to avoid capsizing.


  • Comment: Agile has self-organizing teams (like inner source)


  • Completely self-organizing holocracy is possible (but has a lot of downsides)

Thoughts for later down the road

  • Eventually, what is the middle management role in inner sourcing? Inner source developers are self-organizing; do they really need much guidance from middle management?
  • MM realign staff to new objectives
  • What makes the company profitable? Would developers and MM know? (an argument that self-organizing may not be enough)
  • Daniel Pink motivation; tell developers WHY should they do something. Extend the trust.

How much time do developers spend in inner source?

  • 10% is only effective as a teaching exercise
    • Let MM take a tour to see how it works first hand (essential if you want to make them a mentor or coach)
  • 20% minimum participation
  • 50% ore member

What you use inner sourcing for

  • tools and APIs, live demonstrators: inner sourcing is easier to do for innovation purposes; it is a perfect match for managing chaos.
  • It is harder to ensure that SW is ready for real production release on a schedule.

Product management

  • PdM enter a contract with penalties for non-delivery
  • Delivery of content on time is key
  • Do you control the # of engineers? Needed to promise content on time.

Project management

  • Does project management work with inner sourcing?
  • PjM ensure that the product is delivered on time.
  • Can inner source work for product development? With visibility and the open collaboration model? Yes, there is a proof point from a large company.
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