The Peacemaker

A Development Manager who believes arguments are counterproductive, and therefore works to suppress debate of any kind.

  • Can mutate into: “The Cheerleader” Project Manager
  • Dangerous when coupled with: “The Tyrant” Project Manager
  • Likelihood of fixing: High
  • Danger to project: Low

Problem

There is no single right way to develop software. This leads to arguments among developers which a development manager must sometimes mediate. These arguments can range from something as trivial as code formatting, to as impactful as which developers should be on the project. The Peacemaker Development Manager, rather than facilitating a technical debate to a productive decision, only wishes to eliminate what they perceive to be unproductive conflict.

Being caught between two strong-willed personalities arguing conflicting points is both stressful and exhausting. It takes a special type of individual to patiently listen to differing opinions, clarify misunderstood points, and remain objective so as to propose the best course forward – especially if it is unpopular. More often than not, people will reach their breaking point, and will simply wish for the argument to stop by any means necessary – be it through a clumsy compromise or by a forceful edict to stop the debate entirely.

Facilitating technical debate is an important aspect of technical leadership. Differing skill levels, experiences, competing methodologies, and a wide array of technology choices create a breeding ground for conflicting opinions. These arguments can become heated, and in some cases can genuinely lead to a loss of productivity. However, suppressing arguments entirely will damage morale, stifle innovation, and lead to missed opportunities in improving the project’s outcome.

Solution

The Peacemaker Development Manager has two solvable weaknesses:

  1. They cannot tell the difference between an unproductive fight and a productive debate.
  2. They do not know how to effectively facilitate technical arguments.

Begin by informing The Peacemaker that they must not consider every argument to be unproductive, providing illustrative examples from recent memory. Through careful retroactive analysis, it is likely that they will acknowledge that some debates were cut-off before reaching their logical and potentially productive conclusion.

Next, training must be provided on meeting facilitation and conflict resolution. While this is a characteristic that some people innately possess, it is also a skill that can be learned. Books and seminars are helpful, but being able to observe a properly facilitated technical debate between the developers on their own team can provide the most meaningful impact. To that end, bringing in an internal or external mediator can not only settle any immediate arguments, but also act as a coach to everyone involved, from the development managers to those directly involved in current or future debates.


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