Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming a Technical Team Leader (TTL)

2003 I was appointed a senior position at IBM and became a technical team leader. This appointment was based on two things. First, I have spent 3 years in development. Second, I was an excellent developer! Are these enough criteria to become a technical team leader? I've already experienced the answer myself. I have led the team the worst way one could imagine!

Since then, I have been thinking about this topic, and read the excellent book of Gerald Weinberg, Becoming a Technical Leader. After years and years of leading technical teams, the idea became very clear in my mind about what it is like to be a technical team leader; what's expected from you, what's your necessary qualifications and what's you main responsibilities?

This is an attempt to answer this question:

Technical leadership core responsibilities
Technical Leadership Core Responsibilities

A Technical Team Leader (TTL) should demonstrate capability in three main areas:

First and most important: Team Support. He can motivate the team, he has the ability and art of facilitating team activities, and he can organize team work into a process oriented manner. 

Second, a TTL is responsible of nurturing/enforcing and monitoring the product technical excellence and high quality. More specifically, the TTL is not responsible of doing this, but he is responsible of making sure this is realized by the whole team. To be more clear, if the TTL has developed an excellent product by himself while the team is doing nothing, then he is still failing in this regard. 

Finally, a TTL should sponsor innovation in the team. This is different from technical excellence. It is related to the team spirit and desire to experiment and try new things and unconventional solutions. This is different for problem solving, because you can solve a problem in a dumb way! What the team needs here is someone to sponsor the activity whenever it is needed and make sure a problem is solved in an innovative, not dumb, way.

In all of these responsibilities, there is a common component of organization. The TTL is responsible to organize accumulated knowledge and information gained by the team, and make it available and easy to find and use when necessary by any team member. Also, organizing the team process, which is a responsibility which may take a lot of time and effort to monitor and foster.

If you are going to become a TTL, make sure you get enough knowledge about these topics above. It is your responsibility to become knowledgeable, or else you will spend years or fumbling in the darkness and learn by trial and error!


Hala Mehanna said...

Very Good Article Amr :) If you have an experience with obstacles that face a TTL in beginning like people who aspires the position and didn't cooperate to success

Amr Noaman said...

Actually, if they don't cooperate, they shouldn't be part of the team. What to do about it? there is no one answer. Retrospective may help. Talking to them about why they are not cooperating may help. 360 evaluation by all the team may be the last resort.

Amr Noaman said...

My Article at infoq:

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