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!


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