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Tom Bartel


Thoughts on software development and software management


  1. On Bricks and Code

    It’s 2016. And still, some business managers seem to think that using lines of code (LOC) produced is an appropriate KPI for the productivity of a developer, or a software engineering department. Since history has a tendency to repeat itself, I have a feeling that this will even be the case in, say, ten years. Software engineers themselves know, of course, that measuring productivity in LOC is not the way to go. However, non-technical or even semi-technical people do not know this instinctively. …


  2. Reward With Care

    I recently read Drive by Dan Pink, and the most surprising thing for me was how rewards can lead to decreased performance and intrinsic motivation. This is counterintuitive - usually, you think of rewards as something that should increase people’s motivation. However, Pink recites a couple of fascinating studies and findings. …


  3. Servant Leadership = You Do It All?

    A lot has been written about the concept of servant leadership, and while I like it and agree with it a lot, I sometimes wonder how to interpret it in certain situations. Does servant leadership mean you do all non-development tasks yourself, to shield your people from distractions? Or are there certain tasks that are fine to delegate?…


  4. What to Do If You Don't Know What to Write About?

    Dear blogging diary, I try to publish one post per week, but do you know this feeling when you just don't have any good ideas? You browse through your list of potential topics, and all the time, you think "Naaah, this one is not really interesting. No, already kind of written about that one in a previous post. Naaah, there is this great post on that one by someone else, and he has said it all, and I agree with him." You reach the end of the topics list, and your mind is still blank.…


  5. A Tale of Dragons and Facilitation

    Recently, I was amazed at what I could contribute to a technical meeting without any technical expertise on the subject matter discussed. In this particular meeting, there were two sides participating: On the one side, there was a team - let us call them Blue Team - who was starting to use a certain technology to solve a certain problem. On the other side, there was an engineer from a different team, let’s call him Gunnar, who wanted to talk them out of it. There was I, the manager of the Blue Team. I was in a neutral position. Why neutral? I will come to that in a second. …


  6. A Primer on Delegation

    Like many relatively new managers, I have trouble handing things over. Instead, I do too many things myself, or - worse yet - they are delayed. However, if a manager wants to increase his leverage, then delegation - which means not doing everything yourself - is an indispensable tool which I want to highlight a bit more. Like I said, I am not a delegation expert by experience, so I write this post as much for myself as for readers out there who might find it useful. …


  7. Three Things Your Children Can Teach You About Management

    When you become a mum or dad, you are definitely in for some funny and surprising moments where your children react in a totally unanticipated way. Example: I sit at my computer and fill out my tax return. My three year old son comes in and asks: “Daddy, may I help you at the a-pluter (computer)?” - “No, sorry, Max, you cannot help me here.” The result: Max throws himself on the nearby couch in desperation, shouting out: “But why not? I am your friend after all.” It was so cute (and heart-breaking) that even as I type these words, it makes me smile. …


  8. Checklist: How to Set Up a Workshop

    I set up a couple of workshops recently, some with external trainers, and some internally. I have to admit, it is not the most fun part of my job. You make appointments, you write emails, you book rooms. Not very exciting. However, it is also really important, because it benefits a lot of people, and investing in your skill set is crucial for every software developer. …


  9. Ownership or Why Don't You Come Visit Me?

    “I left a comment in the ticket, what else am I supposed to do?” Jacob does not see his part in the delay of a new feature. After all, it was Rebecca, the designer, who did not react, and blocked him for two days. He wrote a comment, saying that he needed her to provide a different version of the image. But she did not get back to him. …


  10. Watch Your Words: Feedback Analysis

    Giving critical feedback is an unpleasant situation for many new team leads. Let’s consider Robert. Not too long ago, Robert was “one of us”, a developer in the trenches who was producing high-quality code, and still found the time to help other developers solve hard problems. Now, he is supposed to do this thing called “managing”, but he does not see himself as a manager or as a boss. He sees himself more like what some people adequately call “programmer plus plus”: Still “one of the guys”, just with some extra 20%-or-so responsibility on top. …