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Fire Your IT Boss

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the if-only dept.

Businesses 509

theodp writes "Instead of laying off techies who directly help users, Robert X. Cringely argues that the best place to cut IT organizations is at the top. One of the great problems in IT management, Cringely says, is that the big bosses typically haven't a clue what is happening, what needs to happen, and what it all should cost. He issues the following challenge: 'If you are managing an IT shop and can't write the code to render "hello world" in C, HTML, PHP, and pull "hello world" from a MySQL database using a perl script, then you are in the wrong job.' Even with help from Google, Cringely believes many technical managers would fail this test and should get the boot as a result — you can't manage what you don't understand."

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I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994573)

I think having the manager understand the technical nature of whats going on is certainly an asset.. but ultimately I don't know if it's a necessity.

Point is, managers manage people. You are there to code.. not them. The only technical details they need to do their job is: how long it will take, how many people can work on it efficiantly, what tasks are dependant on it, risks, and benifits.. and you are there to provide them with that info.

Managers are about the big picture, not the fine details. In fact.. a micro-managing manager can be a bad thing.

I think we've all been there... the guy who is directing the circus has no clue about whats involved in it's component parts and you wonder how he ever got the job...

When you really look at what he spends the day doing though.. you realize the majority of his job revolves around the non-technical things that you probably don't want to have anything to do with (timing, resource allocation, cost, etc..)

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994615)

Except, I'm not there to provide them with that info. Not really. I'm there to provide them with "this is how long it will take me" or "this is how long I think it should take". That's not necessarily the same thing as how long it should take, what it should cost, etc.

In order to manage me and my fellow employees, as well as the time and money we are spending, they need to have an understanding external to us.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994623)

(timing, resource allocation, cost, etc..)

Yes, but the people who actually see those resources and money at work have a *much* better better idea where they actually go. A manager who has a history lower down will make better choices, instead of just throwing money at something, they might throw it at the project, but aim it a bit better.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (3, Insightful)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994979)

If you're wasting time at work, it shows - and your co-workers will rat you out. Unless you work at a huge company where no one cares, that is. Every small-to-medium sized business I've been at has only kept the people on board it could afford - and if you were wasting space, then your co-workers had to pick up the slack.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995039)

Snitches get stitches.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995057)

It's not so much about slacking as it is about incompetence. Someone might work really hard but produce far worse results than someone who works half as hard, but has talent and pride.
A manager without the skills is likely to keep the former and lay off the latter.

And what does it help if your project completes on time, if it's seriously b0rken? Then there will be months of band-aiding, followed by a declaration that it was a success, no matter how horrible it was. And you end up with five times as many people in the support organization (and managers to oversee them) because you didn't understand enough of the gritty details to ensure that the project got done right. And as a CTO, you'll get a bonus, while the lower level people who have to support the steaming pile of technology get the shaft. Repeatedly, to Ravel's Bolero.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

Darkon (206829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994635)

Point is, managers manage people. You are there to code.. not them. The only technical details they need to do their job is: how long it will take, how many people can work on it efficiantly, what tasks are dependant on it, risks, and benifits.. and you are there to provide them with that info.

A manager who does not grasp at least the fundamentals of the job(s) that the people under him/her do may not believe or understand subordinates when they give estimates of time/manpower/risks/benefits/etc.

Someone who doesn't have a bit of knowledge of coding is more likely to say "yeah yeah, you can do that in half the time or I can hire this guy in India who says he can".

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994877)

While it's certainly helpful to have the management know how things down below work, as the organization or project grows larger this becomes less and less practical, down to downright impossible. The CEO of Ford knows what a carburetor is, but certainly can't identify the parts of one taken apart in front of him. That doesn't make him a bad CEO.

Each step you take up the management ladder, you lose skills and you gain skills. Every very rare now and then you will run across someone that started at the bottom and is now VP or something, and has a very detailed knowledge of how things worked way down at the bottom, ten years ago. Only does him a marginal bit of good now. More often the knowledge they value is of how the people interact and who is responsible for what. This is what makes a good manager - not knowing how you do your job, but knowing how you are important to the company, where you fit in, etc.

I repair computers. My manager tries to repair computers, but isn't very good at it, and I don't expect him to be. That's not his job, and I can't do his job any better than he can do mine. HIS manager knows how to USE a computer, but certainly not how to work on one. This is how it works.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (0, Flamebait)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994955)

Offtopic but if the CEO of Ford can't identify the parts to a carb (not that their typically used anymore) he probably deserves the boot anyways. Carburetors are something that gets taught to a 15 year old student and is as such certainly within the grasp.

On the other hand though, personal experience from working in a garage would lead me to believe that the incompetency of a large part of Ford is 2nd only to GM.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995093)

Carburetors were eliminated on US cars sometime before 1990, old dude.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (2, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995097)

The car companies certainly support your point. For quite a long time now, the CEOs of American auto makers have typically come from the sales or finance organizations. I'd like to see them go back to being run by a "car guy."

-jcr

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995079)

Indeed, been there done that :-(

'At absolute best factoring in a couple of weeks extra for combating unknown problems that are bound to crop up, this project will take three months'

'I employed you because your meant to be good at this stuff, do it in one'

(later)

'My business friends on the other side of the globe say this web site should have been finished in a couple of weeks! why is it still not done after months'

'You showed me their mail, because of how you described it to them, they are talking about a flat HTML page, not the database driven custom CMS you've demanded, even before you fail to mention the complex accounting system for which you completely change your specification DAILY!'

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (4, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994773)


I haven't RTFA (natch), but from the summary I would agree with you that this argument is wrong. The manager of some programmers does not need to be able to write "Hello World." I've had a very good manager that couldn't do that, but she was very good at keeping track of what impacted on what and keeping an eye on our progress. I do agree that the valuation of managers vs. those that actually do the work is often the wrong way round and cuts should follow accordingly. I often think the better way to consider a manager is as an assistant to those who do the actual work, taking care of the peripheral details of a project allowing the important people to do the actual work. But the reasoning in this article, along the lines of whether the manager can do the programmers job, is *not* the place to start.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (4, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994865)

If you can't do at least a LITTLE of the technical stuff then you better be willing and able to listen to your technical people! I'm lucky enough to have a director who spent 20+ years in the trenches, but our VP is not at all a technical person. When she asks us to do something that would be extremely difficult or impossible to implement we let her know and she listens. Her strengths are in managing people and contract negotiations, she got us Oracle Enterprise at a cost that Microsoft corporate refused to match (for SQL Server Enterprise) and her modification to contracts has saved our bacon several times.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995049)

You are exactly right. I have worked with numerous execs who weren't very technical, but if they are doing their jobs well and respect my opinions then they are perfectly fine in their roles.

Years ago, at one particular job, I was the corporate network admin. My job was to maintain the network and to a lesser extent, help employees with computer problems. Anyhow, there was a time when the head of our marketing department had an issue that, by my rough estimation, I would be unable to resolve without an hours worth of work. When I told her this, she starting yelling and screaming at me, to which I basically told her to fuck off. She threatened to issue a complaint to the CIO since she had no authority over me. All I had to do was tell the CIO what had happened and he went over and chewed her out. It was a perfect example of two management types who both lacked the technical knowledge to assess the problem, yet one chose to berate me while the other chose to trust me.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994867)

I prefer a non-technical manager.

A technical manager often inserts himself as a buffer between me and the users. This makes it harder for me to determine what the users really want.

He also typically starts to solve the problem before I can, while solving it using his own ideas, which are typically not the ones I am used to. (Everybody seems to write programs their own way.)

The result is that by the time an assignment comes to me, it has already been "partially digested." It is not so clear what my program is supposed to do, but I am given rigid requirements about how it is supposed to do it. In the worst cases I am simply given a big pile of code and the instruction, "Finish this."

I much prefer to work for non-technical people. I can work with them to hammer out what the program is supposed to do, and then I am free to use the ideas I know best in order to do it. This allows me to work faster and more accurately.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (1)

ciej (868027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994915)

I'm trying to figure out which side you're arguing for. You say

You are there to code.. not them.

but then turn around and say:

I think we've all been there... the guy who is directing the circus has no clue about whats involved in it's component parts and you wonder how he ever got the job...

I think they should know how to do the jobs they manage. Unless they are managing several different types of jobs such as coding and graphics design. I think it would be unreasonable to expect someone to know how to do both.

Re:I don't know if I fully agree with that (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995055)

Point is, managers manage people.

No, managers administer a business function.

Some managers called 'supervisors' or HR Directors do perform primarily functions in the management of some people. Most manager posts perform much broader functions, and dealing with the people hired to assist in performing a function of the business within their 'jurisdiction' is only part of the job.

For example, the manager of finance is responsible for manging the business finances. They had better know about financial concepts like what balance sheets are, how income statements are made, taxes, credit cards, etc, in high detail. Even if they have subordinates responsible for dealing with the direct work in dealing with these things. This is just the same as an IT manager knowing what programming languages are like and being able to understand high-level design documents, program flow chart, etc.

A facility manager would be responsible for everything that goes into maintaining a certain facility.

In a large enough business, even an IT-related business, there are managers who don't need to know about technology or details of coding.

But for a manager to be effective they must have appropriate knowledge of the domain they are managing.

An IT manager that manages coders directly needs to have knowledge of coding. Individual coders are not likely to be able to give good timelines for a project that needs timelines. Unless they are managers of their project, it's not their job or their ability to provide such estimate.

Adding up the times individual coders think is no good. The IT manager needs to have the knowledge, or needs to hire or delegate to someone to manage the coders and take all responsibilities who does have that knowledge and ability to work on getting a rough estimate.

IT managers will often be responsible for making purchase decisions; approving requests from departments for computers, or for software. An IT manager cannot make good decisions about what computer equipment to allow to be purchased on their IT budget without clear understanding of the equipment and what the usage will be.

It will be difficult for IT managers to allocate resources in a manner that will allow completion of projects if they lack sufficient understanding to know when a request is reasonable, when a request is already stripped down, or when a request is exhorbitant, and it's better to authorize only a cheaper alternative.

Also, IT managers will often be involved in setting policy for the use of technology business-wide. It will be difficult for them to set or approve reasonable usage and internal IT support policy if they do not understand the technology.

Moreover, it will be difficult for an IT manager to hire competent subordinates, rather than candidates who are good at bluffing their way through an interview.

A good IT manager should know enough to be able to quiz candidates and discuss technical issues with clear understanding.

Common Sense? (2, Insightful)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994581)

I don't have a lot of experience in the industry, but the one software company I have worked for (albeit a small one) has a programmer in charge... really, you can't expect to manage an IT staff properly if you don't have a basic knowledge of what's involved in the job.

Re:Common Sense? (5, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994699)

Unfortunately, this is frequently bad as well. Being a good programmer does not make you a good manager. As much as I hate to admit it, management is a valuable skill. A good manager will base decisions on the information supplied by the the tech that report to him (or her).

Of course, many of us have ended up working for those who are neither good programmers or good managers.

Re:Common Sense? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995035)

I think they key is in an understanding of what is involved, not necessarily the ability to accomplish it. Being a good manager requires good management skills and an understanding of all the pieces involved in the process. This includes understanding time constraints, cost/resource/benefit ratios and how to balance these effectively.

It doesn't require a degree in coding but decent programmers understand these ratios. Mixing good management and a fundamental understanding of the process leads ANY manager to success. Most middle managers I have met are elevated due to charisma and not management prowess. A truly good manager can really learn the core fundamentals of ANY discipline.

Yes you can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994583)

Management is about resource deployment and allocation, not coding. Good managers need threat models and broken down schedules from their coders; a little knowledge is more dangerous than none.

Sorry Slashbots but people skills are more important than tech skills and always will be.

Re:Yes you can (2, Interesting)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994621)

Sorry Slashbots but people skills are more important than tech skills and always will be.

I would like to see you back up your implication that those two skill sets are mutually exclusive.

Re:Yes you can (2, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994659)

I would like to see you back up your implication that those two skill sets are mutually exclusive.

you're reading slashdot and expect to see a better example of the exclusivity of those 2 skill sets?!

Re:Yes you can (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994703)

You could argue that people who read slashdot are more inclined to only have technical skills without people skills, but that still doesn't prove that the two don't exist in individuals elsewhere. It's true that the two set's CAN be exclusive, but that doesn't mean they HAVE to be, and (inserting useless anecdotal evidence here) I have know a good many people (bosses, mentors) who prove that those two can coexist within one mind. If you haven't encountered this, then you need to leave your computer for a while. Meet people, not usernames.

How it is (5, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994597)

As usual, Cringely is right. The fat floats to the top.

I'm an IT project manager. If one of my peeps bailed and I couldn't step right in and fill their spot and train their replacement myself I would consider myself a failure. It's all about the customer and if we fail to meet the customer's needs because of this everybody involved has failed.

I had this conversation recently: "Can you replace X?" Answer: "Of course. If I couldn't, we both need replacing."

I've got people both under and over me. I fully expect both the unders and the overs to be able to step in and catch the load if I step in front of a bus. I don't want to catch a bus, and I don't want my unders and overs to do so either. But I'm prepared for either event and you should be too because if you can't you're neither responsible nor capable of advancement and that's a sad place to be.

That said, most days my role is reduced to catering. I let my peeps do their gig and I get stuff out of their way. Only the newbs need direction and they get over it right away.

As soon as they're oriented:

  • They're qualified to do what the customer needs.
  • They're authorized to do what the customer needs.
  • They're educated on how to replace me at need.

I'm only an IT project manager until my bosses find someone better. My techs only work for me until I find someone better. That's the way it is and that's the way it should be.

Re:How it is (0)

imasu (1008081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994713)

As usual, Cringely is right.

You realize everyone stopped reading your post at that line, right? Which is too bad, because other than this one colossal epic fail of a statement, the rest is pretty good.

Re:How it is (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994927)

You're an oxymoron

Re:How it is (1)

ZackBran (1363013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994875)

"I'm an IT project manager. If one of my peeps bailed and I couldn't step right in and fill their spot and train their replacement myself I would consider myself a failure. It's all about the customer and if we fail to meet the customer's needs because of this everybody involved has failed. "

But this is wholly dependent on the project itself, some projects it's wise to have these kinds of managers. For others they are not required. Some knowledge definitely is required IMHO, but it doesn't have to be deep, and it is wholly dependent on the context.

The key ability is to be able to separate truth from what is not true, have enormous vision and foresight into the overview and people that others lack.

Re:How it is (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994879)

By your logic, your boss should be able to step in and replace you. This will never happen across the broad set of roles and responsibilities in any company that does more than one simple thing. You will never get a VP that can replace everyone from an accountant to a programmer or fleet mechanic. TO manage, you need to know how to deal with people and priorities. A knowledge of the business is a huge asset, but a manager does not need to know every detail of the day to day work.

I do like the Starship Troopers attitude though.

Re:How it is (2, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994985)

By your logic, your boss should be able to step in and replace you.

In my particular case not only can he, but he got to be my boss by having my job and delegating responsibilities to grow the business. The same with his boss. Either of them has and can fill my role. That's how it should be and I'm preparing my unders to seize the opportunity. He expects me to do the same so both of us can move up to more responsible positions in a larger business by growing our business. If I fall out and I'm too lame to have juniors step right in, he's prepared to do that until he can bring others up to speed. If the day comes that I must take up his chores I'm ready to give it my best and to be replaced by someone better.

Again, it's about the customer. The customer does not need to worry about personnel details. When I recently I decided to swap out a key person in a customer facing role, I just did. The customer did not ask why because it's implied that I did so in their best interest and with due consideration for the inconvenience. They trust me in this role and they would trust my replacement also. We do what the customer needs done with minimum fuss or the customer hires somebody else. Period.

Re:How it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994945)

How many times can you say "peeps" in one post?

You sound more like a white guy pretending to be a low level drug dealer than a low level project manager.

Re:How it is (4, Insightful)

Stone316 (629009) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994961)

I don't believe you have enough knowledge in all areas of IT to step in and replace anyone, as well as train their replacement..... You must run some small narrowly focused projects... The projects I have been involved with have involved SAN, Unix and network admins, DBA's, developers, BA's, etc, etc. There's no way that a PM could step in to any one of those roles, fill in at 100% capacity, train the replacement and still manage the project.

Re:How it is (2, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995061)

To run it all? It's not feasible. But to step in for a few days and take the help requests, or help the company limp along when a critical employee steps in front of a bus? That is a good manager's job. The idea that a manager is a purely 'people person' and that this makes them somehow better able to manage if they do _not_ have the technical skills is a fallacy of a lot of empire-building little bureaucrats.

I don't expect a hospital supervisor to do heart surgery, but I do expect them to be able to do CPR and apply pressure to a bleeding wound. And I expect my supervisor to be able to actually _read_ my reports, and understand why we're using a central source control system rather than a lot of source tarballs.

Re:How it is (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995015)

You make some good points, but ultimately I disagree.

I have several customers that need everything from C to HTML to Windows support to graphic design. I can configure the servers, network storage, perl to query Oracle, PHP to print reports from MySQL... But when there's something I don't know how to do, I hire someone. Though I'm a reasonably intelligent person (or so I think), there's no way that I can be good at everything.

Plus, I couldn't stand working for someone who thinks he/she can do my job as well as I can. This is insulting on many levels.

I'm not saying that they should not have a clue about what I do, but I was hired for my expertise. The moment my manager has as much competence in what I do then I should get another job.

Re:How it is (1)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995071)

I work for a big IT department and I've worked as a tech on many projects with many IT Project managers. Not a single one of those project managers could have filled my shoes if I got hit by a bus, but every one of them knew where to look for a fill-in for me if it became necessary. I once saw a project manager volunteer to do some of the low-level tedious tech work on a project where the schedule was getting tight and the IT Director vetoed it hard.

I think it's interesting that you think of the techs on your projects as "under you". If I lost a PM and someone asked me to fill in, I certainly wouldn't regard it as a promotion. I'm several career levels above most of the PMs in my company.

8===C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P===D (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994601)

This how I do it...
 
You're fired.

Thunk.

8===C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P=!===D

Writing hello world is not a manager job (5, Insightful)

FR-lopet (628130) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994603)

A manager manages PEOPLE and not C/HTML/PHP code.

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994639)

Also on a related note, programmers are not in charge of firing people.

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (3, Insightful)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994671)

Yep, what matters to me is a manager who listens to the people who know their job.
As long as the communication's right, a manager doen't need the technical skills.

How do you know they know their job? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994727)

Yep, what matters to me is a manager who listens to the people who know their job.

And without the specialized knowledge of that field yourself, how do you know that they know their job?

As long as the communication's right, a manager doen't need the technical skills.

See above.

Anyone who believes that technical knowledge is superfluous to a manager is deluding themselves.

Re:How do you know they know their job? (1)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994959)

They will know by the results and feedback they get from the individuals, the team, from other managers, published articles, etc.
A good manager knows what to look for and it doesn't have to be specialized knowledge.

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994751)

I hate those type of managers. My current 'manager' doesn't see me for a month or longer and even then he just sticks his head in to say hi, he trusts that I do what I do best. He only needs to talk to someone if there is a problem with the results of said someone. We all have our place in an organization, if we know what we need to do, we don't need anyone questioning us unless there is a problem with our (or subsequently) the end product.

Managers that manage people instead of the product of their mini-organization (basically every manager should be 'boss' over their own mini-company in my view) don't have enough to do. Managing people is for HR.

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (4, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994781)

No, often a manager also manages resources, makes decisions as to future projects and product directions, etc.

A certain amount of technical knowledge is required. Either that, or the manager has to be willing to listen to and trust those who are knowledgeable below them.

I've seen good managers who were technical and listened, good managers who were technical and didn't listen as often, and good managers who were nontechnical but knew who to get reliable information from. However, I've never seen a good technical manager who lacked the technical background *AND* didn't listen to underlings.

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994863)

A programmer doesn't write HTML/PHP [ducks]

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994885)

"A manager manages PEOPLE and not C/HTML/PHP code."

Nah, you don't mean that! You mean "An MBA manages PEOPLE and not C/HTML/PHP code."

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995003)

well, not to restate whats in the article, but basically if a manager is in a technical department, and isn't technical enough to search google to solve even simple tasks them selves, then their people skills alone are not likely enough to re-direct a shrinking workforce and to correctly choose then manage the inevitable "what tasks can be contracted to India." And certainly is not interested enough in tech to understand the tech needs of his customers (customer also = tech users within the same company) to save customer satisfaction in the transition.
Of course this managers next level manager doesn't need the same skills, as long as their is a manager with those responsibilities who can in the chain (and the chain isn't too long.)

Re:Writing hello world is not a manager job (2, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995007)

If a manager wants to manage someone who's writing C/HTML/PHP code he's going to be much better at it if he knows what C/HTML/PHP code is.

Cringley didn't suggest the manager be the hottest programmer in the organization, he suggested the manager be familiar with the absolute basics.

Pure Managers? (1)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994641)

But without Pure managers in IT, who would make facial expressions during Scrums? Where would we get our positive social affirmation from?

BBH

Re:Pure Managers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994687)

IN the IT field, just have money managers, and managers who manage the techs. Put two together and let other departments manage their own bud budgets.
Builds a nice hierarchy.

I totally disagree (5, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994665)

I know we're all colored by our personal experiences - but, based on my own, I think the problem is exactly the opposite. A lot of IT managers think they are technically savvy, because they've managed to get some sort of certification at one point or another in their lives (or maybe they were rather knowledgeable at one point, years ago, but have not kept up simply because of the other demands that come with management). These types of people are the epitome of "know just enough to be dangerous". It then gets exacerbated because they often sell themselves to the rest of the organization as "IT savvy", and feel free to make technical decisions regarding project details when they really have no business doing so.

I think we need IT managers that are MANAGERS, not IT people. Those managers should then trust us to know how to do the detail work required for our jobs.

My own manager has been learning this lesson over the last several years, and as such my work situation has steadily improved. He is still the liason with the rest of the organization, but he usually sticks to the broad strokes and lets us underlings sweat the details.

Re:I totally disagree (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994839)

I know we're all colored by our personal experiences - but, based on my own, I think the problem is exactly the opposite. A lot of IT managers think they are technically savvy, because they've managed to get some sort of certification at one point or another in their lives (or maybe they were rather knowledgeable at one point, years ago, but have not kept up simply because of the other demands that come with management).

THANK YOU.

My current boss fits that most exactly. To judge from his behavior, he used to be a hotshot coder at some point, but to further that judgement from his actual knowledge of coding, that era is long past.

When he gets news from us that he doesn't like, he insists on debugging the issue with us. I don't mind extra eyes on a problem... I frequently bounce problems off my teammates to see what other angles they might come up with... but in my boss' case, it's worse than useless. It's rehashing of ideas we've already long since canned. The guy's just not a coder any more, and fueling his ego as a still-savvy techie just slows us all down.

They pay us to be experts at what we do. I wish to hell he'd trust us to be what he pays us for and stick to what they pay him for. We've delivered time and again. The results would be better if we didn't have to babysit him, and morale would be far better.

Now apply that to this situation. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994893)

You have the kind of manager that you describe.
He is is charge of two people.
Those people are telling him two different things.
How does he choose what to do?
Why?

I have been in that situation many times.

The problem is that the less technical the manager is, the easier he is to be swayed by vague promises and hand-waving.

Re:Now apply that to this situation. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994987)

Well, again based on my current situation - it's not like there's one manager who then has a bunch of people below him that are all at exactly the same level. There's a hierarchy. We have two Windows people, one who's the lead and one who's junior. We have two Unix guys, one of whom is the lead and the other is junior. The relevant lead person would make the final decision - and if it goes wrong, it's his responsibility.

Re:I totally disagree (1)

Flammon (4726) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994933)

... Those managers should then trust us to know how to do the detail work required for our jobs.

How is the manager suppose to know who to trust if she doesn't know the technology? Those managerial decisions end up being made based on relationships more than business needs.

Re:I totally disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995073)

You said it.

I have a manager who used to code. He was not very good. In fact, he sucked. I still have to maintain his crappy code. The problem is that he thinks he was very good. But when I say his code sucked, I mean it in the very truest sense of CRAP you can imagine.

How bad? Think of reporting scripts that counted bytes to figure out where numbers began.. Worked great until some numbers got bigger.
Then there were the FTP scripts that relied on timing to send responses. E.g. initiate the connection, wait a few seconds, then send the login information. If the connection was delayed it would fail. There was a find statement that passed arguments to xargs to pass to ls (probably used to fix some parameter list error) but it did nothing.

There were cat statements being sent to /dev/null because the cronlog was getting too large... The way I figure it, he didn't want to change the code so he added a "> /dev/null" to the line. But I have a feeling this wasn't his intention.

This guy is my boss. He likes to suggest ways to code to me. So I nod, say "Interesting approach" then try code as normal. Luckily he can't understand it. I feel like I'm in a freaking Dilbert strip

Oh, great... (5, Funny)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994667)

How much you wanna bet a bunch of CEOs are going to RTA and fire all the COMPETENT bosses and keep the PHB's?

Yeah... sigh. (5, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994677)

It's true. They pretty much all fail.

I had a job where my boss told me to go redo the website using whatever technology and features I thought I needed to make it excellent. He gave me two weeks time to do the first phase of moving the old content over to the new framework and coming up with some cool new ideas.

It was fun. About six days into the project, a manager came down from another branch had an interview with my boss, sat next to me while I explained the site.

The two of them had a little meeting and called me in. "We're pulling the plug."

"What? Why?"

"You're doing it wrong."

"What are you saying?"

"You should be using Dreamweaver. Everyone uses dreamweaver and you're doing hand-coding. What language was that again? PHP or ASP?"

"PHP and MySQL."

"Dreamweaver does that automatically."

Anyway the whole conversation went like that. I was told that I had to change into their idea of what a programmer was -- and that's the big problem. Managers have no idea what a web developer or programmer should be because their idea of the job typically is distorted. They rule based on FUD.

I left the company, obviously. If you can't manage your people, you won't have any.

Re:Yeah... sigh. (3, Interesting)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994851)

You should be using Dreamweaver. Everyone uses dreamweaver and you're doing hand-coding.

This is not necessarily a bad argument. Forcing you to use an inferior tool because there is a standard everyone at the company has to use means anyone can pick up your work later. It decreases your ability to do the spectacular. But it increases your ability to be replaced if the worst happens.

And, I don't have much experience with Dreamweaver, or know exactly what you were querying from the DB, but some simple variables I can imagine being automated.

Re:Yeah... sigh. (3, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994941)

Forcing you to use an inferior tool because there is a standard everyone at the company has to use means anyone can pick up your work later.

Forcing you to change tools 6 days into a two-week project is a bad idea regardless.

It decreases your ability to do the spectacular. But it increases your ability to be replaced if the worst happens.

From the employee's point of view, BOTH of those are bad things. The first means they'll be seen as a poorer performer, the second means they'll be more likely to be out on the street.

A similar experience (5, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994899)

It's true. They pretty much all fail.

I once had a similar gig for a major newspaper. They had contracted the usual clueless newb to engineer their online presence. The app had a memory fault that crashed the server. They hired me to fix it so that it worked, and incidentally deny the original guy the pay for the contract. I found that a different method of memory allocation would eliminate the issues. Rather than telling my bosses about it, I called the original programmer and told him how to fix all three lines of code that were at fault. He revised it and it worked.

I lost my gig but I still feel good about it. Doing the right thing is not always in your immediate best interest. I'd feel bad about stealing the benefits from his work for three lousy lines of code.

The retarded newspaper editors - not so much. They haven't given up their horse-and-buggy-whip model of business. If they had kept me we would have fixed this issue by now. It's not too late to fix this but I no longer care about their welfare and they neither think I have the answer nor remember where to look for me to find their salvation. Such is the ebb and flow of business.

Re:Yeah... sigh. (1)

archkittens (1272770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995033)

good companies will let you spend a little of your time doing whatever you want. i got landed in a secondary role as "innovations team member", which basically means that in addition to my infrastructure duties, i get to spend a few hours a week plugging away at fun changes to the business. if i have a convincing idea, the innovations team manager from strategic and planning will help champion my ideas. i've been there three months and we're already moving one idea to production and another is being investigated with the organizations resources.

You do realize... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995051)

...that from the "managing" point of view their demand that "You should be using Dreamweaver. Everyone uses dreamweaver..." is the same as demanding the ability to "write the code to render "hello world" in C, html, php, and pull "hello world" from a MySQL database using a perl script"?

In other words: "Do it like we tell you/according to arbitrary standard."
NOT, "Do the job right and in the most productive way".

From my personal experience, bosses with limited to advanced "tech experience" tend to stick to "the old ways" and old tools.
For example, coding in C - never in C++, or using ancient compilers.

Bosses with advanced people skills on the other hand manage people - not the code or product that the said people are working on.
Mediate between people in the team, steer in the right direction, and help in the communication along the company's and project's "chain of command".
Managing code... that is YOUR job.

Fat chance of that happening... (1)

ZackBran (1363013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994679)

... if developers want to work for sane people they are going to have to get their collective heads out of their asses and come together as a community and fund their own companies. But you'd need people who love risk, are laid back people, who have good values, good work ethic and are committed for the long haul, and will not give up their values and ideas. Persistence is key.

I've been thinking of just such a thing (see link in my sig), wanting developers to come together and discuss ideas and have dev's fund dev's to get away from incompetently run companies.

Re:Fat chance of that happening... (1, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994983)

... if developers want to work for sane people they are going to have to get their collective heads out of their asses and come together as a community and fund their own companies.

Most developers, myself included, don't have the skills to run their own company. We're as out of place in the business world as Donald Trump would be with a C++ compiler.

Worse, those developers who do have the skills to run their own company, if they do so, will eventually be viewed by those working for them just as they used to view their bosses. Or they'll just go bankrupt. There's a reason it's the same thing everywhere you go, and that's because that's what works in the business world.

Re:Fat chance of that happening... (1)

ZackBran (1363013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994995)

Most developers, myself included, don't have the skills to run their own company. We're as out of place in the business world as Donald Trump would be with a C++ compiler.

Worse, those developers who do have the skills to run their own company, if they do so, will eventually be viewed by those working for them just as they used to view their bosses. Or they'll just go bankrupt. There's a reason it's the same thing everywhere you go, and that's because that's what works in the business world.

While I agree that's what currently goes on. I disagree that that is how "things will always be" many developers are afraid of doing what is necessary. It's a matter of courage, risk taking, etc. Not listening to the party line or status quo. Women got the vote, the slaves got their freedom, so it's a matter of commitment and persistence to change, self-development and hard work.

The hard part of course is finding such people of which I admit is a difficult task.

Can techies even manage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994681)

"Instead of laying off managers who directly help their department, AC argues that the best place to cut IT organizations is at the bottom. One of the great problems in IT techies, AC says, is that the gound-level troops typically haven't a clue what is happening, what needs to happen, and what it all should cost. He issues the following challenge: 'If you are a techie is an IT shop and can't remember what SWOT means, then you are in the wrong job.' Even with help from Google, AC believes many techies would fail this test and should get the boot as a result â" you can't work if you don't understand management concepts."

Hey - this stuff is valid no matter which way you look at it. PHB/techie stereotypes aside, management is a profession as much as a techie is. The further you go up the chain, the more 'management' and the less'techie' you need. Professional MBAs know nothing except management. Whilst is is nice to have a CEO come up through the ranks, that doesn't happen much anymore. Operational issues never go up to the top. If techies are sick and tired of being shat on my management, perhaps they should also recognise that management is also a required role that many of us can't do as we simply lack the skills, aptitude and (critically) training.

I don't agree with this assessment. (4, Insightful)

millisa (151093) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994701)

The article seems to more say that the IT manager needs to understand the underlings jobs and be able to describe the job. Not that the manager has to understand everything the underling must do to complete the job. The summary seems a little slanted.

The absolute best IT managers I've had were more than willing to state when they didn't understand the technical details. In the cases where they had to explain something in detail they did what a good manager would do; they'd ask the individual who DOES understand it better than they come and explain when that level of detail is needed. Those same IT managers not only understood enough of my job to outline what they'd like accomplished and stepped back to let me accomplish it in the most technically correct way possible, they shielded me from those above and outside the department so that I could do that job.

The last thing I want is to be managed by someone who thinks they are more an expert on the intricacies of what I'm working on. Either they are going to micromanage the individuals on their team or they aren't ever going to be satisfied with the work that is produced.

Maybe the poster would be happier if they were called IT Personnel Managers?

Re:I don't agree with this assessment. (3, Insightful)

ZackBran (1363013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994755)

The absolute best IT managers I've had were more than willing to state when they didn't understand the technical details. In the cases where they had to explain something in detail they did what a good manager would do; they'd ask the individual who DOES understand it better than they come and explain when that level of detail is needed. Those same IT managers not only understood enough of my job to outline what they'd like accomplished and stepped back to let me accomplish it in the most technically correct way possible, they shielded me from those above and outside the department so that I could do that job.

While I agree, the ability of a manager to understand what is going on at some level is in fact important, depending on what you are developing. The key skill of a manager is knowing how to assess people, their skills, their talents, their personalities, who meshes with whom, who is incompetent, who is not, who works with whom... the ability to separate truth from illusions of truth

The last thing I want is to be managed by someone who thinks they are more an expert on the intricacies of what I'm working on. Either they are going to micromanage the individuals on their team or they aren't ever going to be satisfied with the work that is produced.

While I agree with you on the micro-management thing, the whole point is to keep the team on track and not give into feature creep or pet projects, or "this code should be done like that because it's more beautiful, efficient, etc but it will require a reworking of x/y/z" beauty and function sometimes have something in common, but often times it's irrelevant to the task at hand.

The absolute best IT managers I've had were more than willing to state when they didn't understand the technical details. In the cases where they had to explain something in detail they did what a good manager would do; they'd ask the individual who DOES understand it better than they come and explain when that level of detail is needed.

IT managers ideally need enough understanding of what they are dealing with to make effective decisions, the fact is that things change too quickly too often and the manager doesn't have enough time. Hence managers SHOULD be former (reformed) coders or from professions who's skills cross pollinate, who have "let go" of their past profession, i.e. are laid back, no longer longer concerned about micromanaging others work, code, etc. But who is able to separate truth from illusions of truth, that is, know what the hell is going on in the overview.

Sad news ... David Foster Wallace, dead at 46 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994711)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - humorist/novelist David Foster Wallace was found dead in his Claremont, CA home this morning. The coroner reported that he hanged himself. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Write Code In HTML To Render Hello World? (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994719)

I'd argue that if you can't differentiate between a markup and a programming language, you probably shouldn't be running the shop... or espousing opinions about who should... either.

Re:Write Code In HTML To Render Hello World? (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994739)

To be fair, you can split hairs and say he said, "Code" rather than "Program" but coding still implies some form of codifying information.

The HTML to render Hello World is... Hello World.

Sure, you can wrap it in additional tags. Sure, if you want it to be valid XHTML, you need DTDs, parent tags and all the rest.

Even then though, the actual Hello World displaying part is just exactly that, the un-enCODEed text: Hello World.

Re:Write Code In HTML To Render Hello World? (1)

archkittens (1272770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994925)

besides that, there's more to IT than the hotshot programmers. I work for the infrastructure group, we do switches, routers, wireless access points, servers in data centers, UPSes, and bunches more. not one of us programs, aside from the ERP contractors (and even that is just a retooling of the install scripts to configure our new linux servers to the silly specs peoplesoft came up with). of course, my supervisor has lots of experience with Cisco switches, his boss is a programmer, and our CIO used to do Cobol, but none of them can do hello world in C3750-IOS.

Re:Write Code In HTML To Render Hello World? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994937)

Write Code In HTML To Render Hello World?

<html>
<head>
  <title>Render "Hello World"</title>
</head>
<body>
  <script>document.body.appendChild(document.createTextNode("Hello World!"));</script>
</body>
</html>

Do I win?

IT Managers not useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994721)

Typical low level IT backlash. Management is not all about coding and pulling cable.

Its about being able to do feasibility studies, create budgets, do performance analysis, and generally be the "face" of the IT organization.

Just because the entry level IT clerk does not know how to do these things; or even about them, doesn't mean the boss is useless.

I'm an IT manager and I know how to code. I'm not perfect by any means, but I know what my folks are up to, and more importantly up against.

IT boss=human filter for stupidity @ higher levels (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24994735)

Are you kidding me?

As long as my I.T. boss shields me from the dipshits and the politics at levels above themselves, I don't honestly care what they can or can't program.

They're worth more to me as a human filter than a fellow developer. Christ. Let me actually fix things - they can go off and interface.

Re:IT boss=human filter for stupidity @ higher lev (1, Insightful)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994999)

Wish I had mod points. Instead, I'll use my low-low ID to say that you're absolutely correct.

What utter bollocks (5, Interesting)

obnoxio (160712) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994741)

Here's a different technical case: I know someone (let's call her Betty) who is an HR director. She's standing in for someone on maternity leave. The person she's standing in for (let's call her Helen) is "technically" superb, knows the nitty-gritty of HR really well. Helen is fully up to speed with every current aspect of HR. She could not only replace every member of her team, she's probably technically better than every individual member of her team.

But she's a crap manager. She micromanages everything, everything HR has been tasked with gets delivered late and in too much detail. Why? Because at director level, you don't need the micro-detail and you don't need the HR director's involvement in getting every step of every task done.

Betty hasn't done the job of HR for a decade, but she knows how to run a tight ship. After six months of having Helen out of the way, the HR staff are happier and more productive, the board is delighted with the stuff that HR is producing and Betty is doing very little indeed.

You don't get a dog and do the barking yourself, Mr Cringely.

Complacency and self-fulfilling IT growth (1)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994745)

IT managers are supposed to do more than direct management of people and projects. They're supposed to have a grasp of overall organizational goals, and to fairly assess how IT can be used to make the organization more efficient or effective.

Of course, as with so many things in life, people are generally interested in protecting themselves. So it can become a policy to protect ones own budget, and to (artificially?) propose new projects as reason to grow or at to at least maintain a department's size. Diminishing returns, anyone?

Still, managers are supposed to add value by seeing the bigger organizational picture. Ask yourself if the front-line IT workers can handle that themselves.

--
Hey code monkey, learn electronics! Microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

Disagreement (1)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994763)

I disagree with the summary to a point.

Yes some managers stink and need to be fired. However, I had a great boss once who didn't know how to code anything new (he used to program embedded C, but had been out of touch for a decade). What made him a good boss was that he listened to his programmers and took their suggestions seriously. He was highly competent in the areas necessary for good management; organized, focused, motivated, and open to good advice.

Don't fire managers just because they can't code. Fire them if they don't listen, think programmers are annoying, and are generally incompetent.

Full disclosure: In fine Slashdot tradition, I did not read the article. I'm busy.

What does it mean to "manage people"? (2, Insightful)

PostPhil (739179) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994789)

With a division of labor, the idea of the manager is to strictly keep to "managing people", right? What does that actually mean in real practice? If the techies are the ones with all the actual skill to implement technology, what happens when techs have a technological debate? If a team is designing a complex system and there is a difference of opinion between two or more choices with subtle but far-reaching consequences, in the real world, is the manager going to be hands-off and stick with the "people side" only?

I don't know about anyone else, but that's not how I've ever seen it happen. The manager must make a decision about the design of the technology. How is he/she to decide? Based on which developer is a snappier dresser, or which one kisses ass more? :-) The business world needs to get rid of this obsolete idea of a "manager" who mechanistically manages human "resources". We need to be more honest about human interaction. What most businesses need are LEADERS. You can't lead if you're not in front. You want quality code from your employees? Then can YOU recognize the difference between bad and good code? In practice, good managers in IT are technically proficient AND have people skills. It's out of necessity, businesses really don't have a choice unless they want to keep burying their heads in the sand and sticking with merely "managing" their employees who they have no idea what those employees actually do.

Slippery slope (1)

Loopy (41728) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994795)

While I understand the basic premise of needing to basically understand the technologies you're charged with overseeing, you can understand the capabilities and limitations of those systems without having to know what variable type declarations need to be strict and which don't. WHile well intentioned, the submission misses the forest for the trees. I've got 3 guys that work with me that know how to program in at least 4 languages competently, but they're completely unreliable because they lack the ability to think on their feet when a problem presents itself that isn't covered in the google tutorials. You can buy any number of screwball, underpaid asians/indians/H1-B types that can do the same thing I can as long as they have the interwebz to double-reference any piece of code they cut&paste into a project. You canNOT buy people who can look at a problem and make intelligent decisions as to what the general pseudocode should look like to actually solve the problem(s) within budget and on time.

A shared opinion... (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994825)

"If your boss doesn't understand your job enough to describe it in technical detail, that boss is in the wrong job."

This is something that many people I know in the industry, at all levels, feel about those who make the decisions. Given that commonality of thought, does that mean that managers are truly clueless or that IT personnel are simply the type that don't cry out for recognition and simply expect recognition from management for the contributions they make?

As an IT manager... (5, Insightful)

jafo (11982) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994835)

As an IT manager who has commit privileges to the core Python repository, and can write hello world in half a dozen languages, I'd like to chime in...

IT management almost certainly isn't about doing the work. That's why it's management and not technical work. Management is about helping other people do things.

For example, technical people are notorious for being not very good with people. Having someone helping them interface with the rest of the company, get funding, run interference for projects and decisions, all of this is very important to getting coding done, and does not require an ability to code or even an understanding of what is going on with the people doing the coding.

Having a die-hard techie in a management position may not be as valuable as having a die-hard manager there. Because if the manager just really wants to be doing the techie work, that's really where his passion is, then he probably is in the wrong job. Just as if the person in the techie job's passion lies elsewhere...

If you have someone in the organization, management or not, that isn't pulling their own weight, then definitely look at what you can do to remedy the situation. But whether a manager can write main() { printf("hello world\n"); } is almost certainly the wrong test to be using.

Would you fire the techie who can't come up with $50,000 in funding for new workstations and servers?

But, I guess the "re-purpose people who aren't pulling their weight" headline isn't as easy to get on slashdot as "fire your IT boss". :-)

Sean

Re:As an IT manager... (1)

gnu-sucks (561404) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995085)

Right on!

Your knowledge in IT probably does help you do your job, but your business, management, and people skills are entirely paramount.

It's the headline, for sure.

To live in the land of bad managers. (1)

rwwyatt (963545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994859)

A manager can break a window as easily as something that is thrown, say a chair...

Roles/titles vary too much from company to company (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994869)

Some smaller companies have technical Directors and CIOs who likely wouldn't be qualified to be a technical team lead or lower-tier manager in a larger established company with a strong technical history. Sometimes that's fine. It depends on the company, on the nature of the people over, above, and around each key person, etc.

"Managers" in some organizations code (and are effectively Technical Team Leads with hire and fire authority), while "Managers" in other organizations simply manage. Some organizations don't have a manager level at all, while others might have three levels between "Directors" and FTEs.

Sometimes a project management layer exists which handles things like large project coordination and the like, and sometimes that fals into the lap of a manager. Or a tech lead.

Some companies allow their managers to make strategic decisions about where their area is going, others don't even give them much input into the process (being driven instead by internal user groups and organization-level processes).

I've worked for a large technology company, a large airline, a small manufacturing company, and a meduim-sized IT company, and all four of them are so different in the organization and general approach to IT that it's very very difficult to compare a position in one to a supposedly similar position in another.

That makes it hard to come up with snap judgements about "who is responsible", since a large and complex organization might even have multiple internal corpirate cultures. Look at IBM for an obvious example, but even a much smaller company like Northwest Airlines had three distinct IT cultures: IBM mainframe, Unisys mainframe, and UNIX. There are very different processes and general mindsets in each group, believe me...

Worked Great in San Francisco! -nt (1)

itsdrewmiller (1346931) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994887)

nt

Next, we'll do away with customers...! (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994901)

Which car-buying customers really know how their car works, especially, now that cars include microprocessors in their engine systems?

Do you want the car-makers to decide what each customer should buy?

I don't think so.

Hold on! Maybe you're right: After all look at the monstrosities that General Motors, and other "dinosaur-makers" have put on the market... eg, Hummer, & the like...

I'll buy into your plan for this industry, if not the IT departments within it:

Let's remove the heads of such companies, eg, replacing them with people who understand Global Warming, electric vehicles, the joy of bicycling or motor-scooting through a scenic place on a warm, summer's day and really care about energy independence (as a political goal).

Let's see what the new "people's boards of directors" would direct their companies' engineers to design, and how soon they manage to overcome all the problems that present ones seem unable to solve.

Smaller, lighter, electric "smart, city-commuter cars" would save much & would cost less (when in production), enabling first-car buyers to skip 8-cylinder gas-guzzlers, thereby putting more of their money into supporting the new energy-efficient car-makers, and less into ancient, off-shore oil-producers.

US car companies would begin to lead, again, and jobs would be created instead of going off-shore.

More important, people would feel proud to buy locally designed/made cars, again.

Win, win, win, win, win...

Yes, I think I like your idea after all... in its place!

A two-way test? (0)

FornaxChemica (968594) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994909)

Does it work the other way around too? Can I become an IT boss if I can do those things, write "hello world" and query a database? No, because seriously I'm getting tired of cleaning toilets for a -- no pun intended -- shit salary and then come read here about incompetent people in the IT industry.

I think you guys are missing the whole point... (4, Funny)

hemp (36945) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994943)

Perhaps it would be best illustrated by this 20 year old joke:

The Americans and the Japanese decided to engage in a competitive boat race.

The Americans and the Japanese decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On the big day the Japanese won by a mile.

The American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend corrective action.

The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering. After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the American team's management structure was completely reorganized. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers, and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.

The next year, the Japanese won by two miles!

Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.

Dispsable Bosses (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994947)

Most decent IT pros in production jobs can quickly learn new techniques and systems - that's their main skill. If you've got one of those kinds of teams (and everyone should, or the IT department is really a joke - though perhaps most are), then you probably want to fire its tops managers first, if the department isn't performing. Because those top managers probably got to the top by working some more or less specific way of doing IT, riding some vendor's marketing white papers, having one good idea once that saved the day. And they're usually older, less able for many reasons to change their "wetware". Plus, they make a lot of money after feathering their nest for a while, that gets saved to pay someone else to replace them. And they can take with them a lot of accumulated resentment from the production staff when they go, which might even have been most of what's wrong with the department.

Just make sure that their balance of pros and cons is in favor of benefit when you replace them, and not just with some new idiot. Make sure the new leader is really a leader, and can lead the team in learning the new way - and not just a way that's new, but a better one.

Re:Dispsable Bosses (1)

play_in_traffic (946193) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995067)

Be very clear about the difference between leading and managing!

Strongly Disagree (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994993)

Actually, you can manage what you don't understand. I expect first line managers to understand what their people are working on but I only expect second line managers (one layer up from first line managers) to understand how the pieces fit together. From that layer on up to the C-level, people manage budgets and strategies. They rarely have the foggiest idea about how those strategies get implemented and it would be a waste of their time to get lost in the minutiae of the actual implementation.

The whole trick of making this work is for managers to realize what they don't know. Problems come up when people who really don't know squat try to make technical decisions that should be left to the people with the technical knowledge to make the correct decision. The most dangerous beasty in this jungle is the idiot who thinks he knows what he's doing and is unwilling to get the technical inputs he needs because he sees asking for such inputs as diminishing his "power."

I'll take the manager who can't write a line of code and knows it over the bozo who thinks he knows everything just because he can write a "Hello world" program in FORTRAN.

Cheers,
Dave

Deadwood (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 6 years ago | (#24994997)

I fully agree. There is a union type seniority mentality where experience far outweighs talent. I have found that many organizations have IT managers who came on at the same time as the IT department was created. Typically there are two problems with these people. Either they came from another department to manage this new IT thing and thus don't really grasp what they manage; or far worse in most cases they came in long ago with a now dead technology and never kept up. So here we are potentially decades later with IT managers who might not yet be in the 90's techwise let alone up-to-date. I have seen companies where they resist giving even management access to the internet or email. When the reasons are explored it turns out that the network is so old that TCPIP is not really an option. I have seen these people going to heroic levels to persist with the madness of these old dead systems. I was a fly on the wall when the local phone company was first offering DSL in the late 90's. They nearly cut the internet option as they saw the DSL business model as renting applications such as MS word via some complicated Novell system. Let me repeat: they nearly left internet out of their DSL product in the late 90's.

Generic problem (1, Insightful)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995001)

[...] you can't manage what you don't understand.

ITs are suffering from generic problem. (Correction: users are suffering, it is of course not IT's concern.) It's not that they do not understand what they are managing.

The problem goes much deeper: IT never really knows what for and how IT resources are really used by people who actually do work.

IT always concentrates on its end of job.

Results are obvious: horrifying end user stories about lost data, lost hours of work and IT which simply can't give any sensible response in emergencies.

Problem as I see it: whatever company is, IT is always way too far from real work: real work company is doing and earning money with.

My idea was always that IT has to be not department, but people spread all over the company. You need about 1 dedicated guy to be responsible for communication with suppliers (or probably somebody from Purchases can handle it - they handle it (monetarily) anyway). Rest has to be managed by teams themselves. They can have a dedicated guy(s) for the IT needs. Or one/more people on team can handle as part-time job the problems and etc.

As R&D guy, I yet to see a competent IT guy who can competently set up *nix server which after reboot is ready to work. Piles of certificates from lengthy trainings do not help them in real life. Outside of checking cables and phoning suppliers - I've seen no use to IT. And phoning/checking I can do myself. No big deal.

But probably that's only me who is that unlucky.

technical vs the business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24995005)

So, I understand that mindset also. And I agree, it helps managers relate to their employees if they have spent time in the same trenches, etc..

However, management in itself is it's own career path and it should be about balancing the business and people aspects in support of their organizations.

One of the largest problems however, particularly in corporate settings is, the development and support, QA, etc teams do not understand the domain/business or operational aspects and therefore, and only code/build/test what they're given.

When you have a management position who understands the business side, it can help ensure success once you put in a new build etc. because the operational aspect can be considered.

While most downlevel individual contributors tend to look up at sr. level managers and think they are lemmings, there's a lot to the business side that goes on the employees don't see. Then it's more about how effect the mgr is at communication at then end of the day.

How many managers read /.? (1)

play_in_traffic (946193) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995053)

Pandering to the Audience (Guilty as charged)

TF2 Pyro Fire (1)

Massacrifice (249974) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995087)

Just closed my Team Fortress 2 game, where I was playing Pyro. Then read "FIRE Your IT Boss" as top story on Slashdot. Sounds like a plan!

"MHenenEHHEHenH!!"

Peter Principle (1)

hansoloaf (668609) | more than 6 years ago | (#24995095)

Peter Principle at work here [wikipedia.org]
That's why finding good managers no matter where (IT, HR, etc) is difficult.
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