Monday, August 08, 2005



Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something.

Thanks, Banksy

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some Thoughts on Management

dilbert's manager

It's been ten years since I started working in a corporate, and I sometimes wonder what I would say to myself ten years ago, if I could, from all the experience that has happened.

One of the things that I'd love to tell anybody who's willing to hear is that 'management' is unnecessarily overhyped. Considering how much of the work is done by managers and how much is done by the team, I'm still amazed by how much of a halo 'management' has. Sometimes, it feels like this huge illusion that has been created by management schools and managers themselves to make it feel so ultra important. It might be important, but the huge amount of bad managers belies this.

I was trying to Google for 'Egoless programming', and surprisingly there's a huge amount of material out there on this. In fact, it is a term to be used and watched out for! Wow! But when I try for egoless management, there's hardly anything! The second link talks about Michael Dell, which comes as no surprise. From the article -
But most amazing of all to his peers is Dell's near egoless management. From the start, he has sought out gray-haired mentors to help show him the way.

Like programming, there are two tenets of management -
  1. You own your own words
  2. Assume good intent
(This from Community Building via Voidstar)

Assume Good Intent also means a lot of trust. What happens in reality is so counterintuitive that it could only result from severe brainwashing! The same person who when (s)he was part of the team doing good, suddenly starts suspecting the team when they start managing! Wierd, eh? This particular point sometimes gets obliterated under huge manifestos and the many, many rules of doing management well, like the Six Thinking Hats by De Bono.

In my experience, the best managers have always used inclusive terms, like us and we, when referring to the whole team. The worst managers have always used exclusive terms, like you when talking to the team. If that's not alienation, I don't know what is!

All these thoughts about creativity, time management, and all the other jargon associated with good management, should come after these first two tenets.

Of course, there will be slackers, but the goal of management should not be to treat everyone as slackers. Rather it should be to think of everyone as trying to do their own bests.

I get the feeling that mostly managers feel that 'management' is synonymous with 'control'. Well, then they would be called 'Controllers', wouldn't they?

Recently I read an absolutely fantastic blog-post by Paul Graham called What Business Can Learn from Open Source -
Companies ensure quality through rules to prevent employees from screwing up. But you don't need that when the audience can communicate with one another. People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work.

I think the same could be said about a lot of management!

Management should be there to guide, not control. Management should be there to listen, not talk. Management should be about seeing the bigger picture, not the nitty gritties. I think the first thing that managers should realise that if it weren't for the team, they wouldn't be there!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Virtual People

virtual people

Another day, don't feel like going to work, but have to.

During the ride to office, I wonder, what this life is all about? As usual, there are no answers.

Reach work, check mail, do the rounds, take a coffee break. Couple of cigarettes and the question is still there at the back of my head. But by this time of the day, the mind has become totally numb to personal quests!

While I wait for the elevator to come, there's another person next to me. 'Some kind of worker', is the thought that's there, at an unconscious level. So, as usual, with people I don't think I know (sometimes even with those whom I do!), I ignore the person.

We get into the elevator, I press the button. Everything just like an automaton. I lean back against the wall. Suddenly, the man says, "Namaskara, sir". I finally look at him. He looks vaguely familiar. "How many years have you been abroad?", he asks. "Quite a few", I say, thinking, 'too many to count'. "I saw you last at the old office", he says, "I work in the canteen, it's been many years".

"Yes, it has. How have you been?"

"I've been fine".

The elevator stops. I've not reached my floor. He has. "See you later", he says, before getting off. I wave, the elevator doors close, and starts moving again.

I wonder about this person. So many years it's been, I wonder what all has happened in his life. Has he been able to marry his daughter off? Has he been able to provide for his son's education? I think that this earth is made of real people. Real people like this guy, who make the world go round. Who work not for the sake of work, but for others. Both in terms of what they do, as well as the money they earn from it.

And then I think about myself. How far away from the world I really am. I wonder about big things like 'job satisfaction'. About complex sounding words like 'vision' and 'quest'.

Do I know how much a kilo of potatoes cost? How about a dozen eggs? Do I know how much it costs to eat at home compared to eating out? When, really, was the last time I sweated? When was the last time I bled? When was the last time I lived?

Suddenly, a phrase comes into my head - "Virtual People".

We're all virtual people. We, who are supposed to be changing the world. We, who're supposed to be the most influential 'voting block'. We, who're supposed to be creating wonders. We're all virtual people.

We don't know the meaning of hunger, of thirst. We define simple words like happiness and sadness in paragraphs. We, day after day, write emails, which don't mean anything, which really doesn't make any difference. We're all virtual people. We have our 'luxuries' but we don't know what to do with them. We have our 'conveniences' but we're always inconvenienced. We suffer from vague problems like 'stress' and 'tension'.

What's happened to us? What's gone wrong where? Why have we forgotten to feel joy? Why have we forgotten to cry?

The day thankfully is over. The ride is the same. Traffic. The mind is riding the bike without thinking about it. 'Virtual People' just spins round and round inside my head.

There must be a way out. There has to be. This bubble has to have an edge somewhere. Somewhere, if I walk through, I'll see the sun and smell the grass.

Someday. Someday.