Thursday, July 02, 2009


The wrath of non-technical management

IT is somewhat unique in its beliefs where developers can report to someone who has never written a line of code. Imagine how society would function if police officers had to report to a police chief who didn't know how to fire a gun...

Being an architect in a large enterprise, the biggest challenge for most architects is in staying technical and grounded in reality. It is way too easy to become a buzzword parrot where one spends more time thinking of cool phrases that otherwise have empty meaning over focusing on producing credible architectures with integrity. I find it fascinating that we talk about business/IT alignment, cost reduction and other reasonable practices yet no one is asking the more difficult questions.

How can a business be successful in the use of technology if the vast majority of team members especially within IT don't understand it? I bet you work with teams that have one technical person, in the midst of various managers and other “developers” (usually off-shore) and find that one technical person does a majority of the work, takes the blame for the failures (of himself and/or others), yet is rarely credited for success. How come competent developers put up with nonsense and continue to take the rapings?

Should developers challenge their managers to look at their shiny, gold plated project plans that adhere to CMMI level 13, ITIL, Agile, garbage 2.0 and other worst practices and find a single item that someone else could take more than 10% credit for? At the end of the day, the vast majority of projects either still succeed or fail based on heroics. Sadly, we have realized that heroics are not the way an organization should be run, so instead of working on repeatable, sustainable practices for software development, we have morphed into repeatable, sustainable ways of doing perception management and throwing developers under the bus.

For the record, I have direct reports and therefore by association I am a manager, however every single person that reports to me is confident in their ability to say that my boss can do my job at a high level of proficiency. There are days when they sometimes wish I was non-technical so as to hang back a little, but at the end of the day, they know that continuous attention to excellence increases agility and that they are the better for it.

I am proud to say that none of my reviews in the last ten years have ever had a single negative comment regarding my ability to deliver high quality work, in a timely manner and within budget. Much of the feedback is based on perception management. The thing I think about almost daily is how I can live up to a
high standard not because of just personal motivation but because others are watching. This is the essence of leadership, I don't want to be a manager nor should others be forced to report to one...

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