Friday, April 15, 2011

Do Auto executives make good software managers? - My experience

Do auto executives make better software industry managers? My top 3 reasons -

I counducted an inteview of a candidate for a software startup and the inteviewee asked me about where he could get more information on "lean", and today in Economic Times I saw an article on Wipro adopting Lean

I worked for 3 years in Automotive with a (now) Deming company, prior to moving to Software consulting (aka body shops in their initial years). Here are my 3 reasons , why auto guys do well in software

1. Better people management skills:
I found that people from experience in Automotive were better at managing teams and quality than people bred in software (Not that they coded better - but had an eye to quality and managing people) - Googles Project Oxygen too rates being a good coach as being more important than tech skills (and typically you have lower number of people reporting and a deeper hierarchy in traditional automotive firms making them better managers)

2. A more evolved control and improve process (PDCA)
A company where I worked used a NPD process which had been with them for 15 years. When they launched an ERP system, they adopted the NPD process for software, introducing similar phase-gates, and did a very effective deployment (Similar to a waterfall for Software development). They used simple tools to foster execution , such as daily morning meetings to foster communication such as on the shop floor, daily task lists and risk sign-offs.
One friend of mine was from a heavy engineering project management company and came to lead the quality group of an IT Retail sector consulting firm . He brought and implemented online tools to track project health, risk and developed job times similar to Industrial-engineering-time-and-motion study. Result -  significant cost reductions and quality improvement in the software deliveries.

3. Greater ownership of results
Typically software firms "Ship" the product and support is by far online and remote. Ownership is by Third-parties. In an automotive context, given high investments and legal requirements to support the products for 7+ years, most teams are interested in "real performance" over the need to "Ship by a date!"

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  1. Dear Karthik,

    Very true. Moreover, the eye for details makes the automobile professional better placed in any service industry, leave alone software.

    S S Krishna Kumar
    TVS Motor Company Ltd

  2. Interesting concept.

    indian software firms :
    a) Have gone through rapid growth - makes it difficult to plan for and select good managers and keep them as managers
    b) Attract/select for the mass, rather than self-selection
    c) pretend that anyone can do any role.

    Automotive managers are very heirarchical, software more egalitarian.