People are like lawnmowers?

When managing a project, it’s important to be able to work out what sort of people you have on the project. There are many ways to do this, but I find it useful to use the lawnmower analogy.

Push along
Works hard and does the job, but only when you are pushing. If you leave them, they stay where they are. There are still quite a few lawnmowers in this category and even more people. They’re willing enough and even enthusiastic, but unless you push, they never quite get round to moving. The best approach is to micro-manage, set short deadlines (please try to mow to the edge of the lawn by Friday) and praise an sign of self-starting.
Powered
These are pretty good. They don’t take a lot of pushing, you just have to guide them a bit and they do all the work. Most people are in this category. Set medium term goals but make sure they stay on the lawn and don’t go astray.
Hover
These are good too. The cut the lawn well but can be a bit over-enthusiastic. If you’re not careful, they’ll not only cut the lawn but all the flowers too—before you have a chance to stop them. I’ve had people like this on projects who then take it into their heads to work all weekend to implement some new feature that they thought would be a good idea but which in fact no-one had asked for. So in managing this type, do make sure that they have clear boundaries.
Fully automatic
In the world of lawnmowers, the new kid on the block is the automatic lawnmower that goes out early in the morning, decides whether your lawn needs mowing and does it. Occasionally, you’ll be lucky enough to work with people who are like this too. If you do, cherish them, look after them, also delegate as much as possible to them (and think about taking up golf?)
Blunt blades
All the categories above can suffer from blunt blades, this leads to unevenly cut lawns and bugs in code. To guard against this you need quality assurance. The best approach is to ensure you’re using good unit testing frameworks, regression tests and so on.

One thought on “People are like lawnmowers?”

  1. What about:
    – racing lawnmowers? Very fast but don’t cut the grass at all.
    – ride-on lawnmowers? Expensive, not necessarily better, something of a status symbol.

    Also, what sort of lawnmower is the person who, when asked to mow the lawn, goes and redecorates your bathroom?

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