Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Leaders Aren't Being Made At Tech Firms

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the just-cylons dept.

Businesses 135

theodp writes "In this article Vivek Wadhwa laments that short shrift is paid to management training these days at many high-tech firms. You can't be born with the skills needed to plan projects, adhere to EEOC guidelines, prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and IP law, says Wadhwa. All this has to be learned. Stepping up to address the problems of 'engineering without leadership,' which may include morale problems, missed deadlines, customer-support disasters, and high turnover, are programs like UC Berkeley's Engineering Leadership Program and Duke's Masters of Engineering Management Program, which aim to teach product management, entrepreneurial thinking, leadership, finance, team building, business management, and motivation to techies."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

MBA's (4, Insightful)

ProfBooty (172603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480892)

Wasn't this what MBA's were originally intended for? Training engineers to be managers?

Re:MBA's (2, Insightful)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480968)

You're making a case here that MBAs are actually supposed to have a purpose besides attempting to further their own career and screwing over anyone and everyone in their path to do so. Said case does not exist. An MBA for training focuses almost entirely on skills required for those two above goals, there is no technical skill imparted and no technical skills tested. Therefore your MBA's come out of their programs with very little value for actually knowing something about the jobs of the people they are managing and end up either looking good enough on an interview to start making colossal mistakes in a management position somewhere, or inept enough that the interview is actually at McDonalds.

The really good MBAs can manage to blame all mistakes on someone else while making themselves look good at the same time. These are what usually rise the ranks into CEO territory, and are all largely responsible for the utter mess that the economy is in right now.

Now, there are the select few that don't fit that description. Those people either end up being one of the very few stellar CEO's or are too good at their jobs and not good enough at politicking and work in middle management somewhere for the duration of their careers.

Re:MBA's (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481000)

Careful with the broad brush, there. I've met MBAs who were well-trained to run a business, and I've met others who just got their ticket punched from a "name brand" school who were somewhat worse than useless.

-jcr

MBAs at Apple. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481022)

John, what was the background of the good MBAs? Were they originally engineers or scientists by training, who took up management later? Or was their original training in a field like commerce, business or economics?

Also, I know you worked for some time at Apple. Clearly, based on their recent success, Apple is currently a well-managed company. How prevalent are MBAs within the management hierarchy there?

Re:MBAs at Apple. (0)

coryking (104614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481410)

Judging by the number of MBAs hired by apple [cnn.com] , I would say MBA's are pretty darn prevalent.

Re:MBAs at Apple. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481700)

That's not a list of MBAs hired but a list of companies where MBA students say they'd most like to work.

Re:MBAs at Apple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481804)

That page you linked to is "Where MBA students say they'd most like to work"
Its not a list of the companies that hired the most MBAs.

Re:MBAs at Apple. (2, Funny)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482260)

there is no management hierarchy. jobs is god, everyone else is peons. but jobs is not a business major...

Re:MBA's (5, Interesting)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481066)

Careful with the broad brush, there. I've met MBAs who were well-trained to run a business, and I've met others who just got their ticket punched from a "name brand" school who were somewhat worse than useless.

-jcr

I haven't met any of those people. The good MBAs that I HAVE seen have an MBA pretty much as an afterthought. They were already good managers that came up from a different background. Engineering, IT, something like that.

The rest can often negotiate well and make decent business decisions but the majority of the problem with them is they think management is everything and that they don't have to listen to their employees, even when the employees are saying "Listen, theres a bridge up ahead thats only half done. At the rate you're going, when you get to it, you're going to smash into the cliff wall on the opposite side of the gap"

Often the MBAs will feel their authority is being threatened by something like that as well because in a good amount of cases their underlings are smarter than they are, if not as well trained in powerpoint. In this case the MBA over reacts to something small that someone brings to their attention, and next time it just doesn't get brought to their attention, then the MBA blames worker X and moves up the ranks.

I've met an MBA who moved up the ranks at a fairly large corporation this way, he wasn't at the top at that point, but very close to it and by all indicators going to get it when the opportunity arose. He knew almost nothing about his companies product. I don't mean knowing technical details, though at that point he should have been able to answer a few technical questions well enough to at least satisfy the average joe, but basic functions of the product.

The CEO of that company on the other hand had a technical background and could answer almost anything you wanted to know, and that is largely responsible for its success. I'm shorting stock in the company if I hear he's leaving.

There are outliers of course, I think I may have met one a year or so ago but its too early in his career to tell. The SNR is just so bad that I haven't met the folks you are talking about.

Re:MBA's (2, Funny)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481228)

I'm going to guess that you're a useless MBA trying real hard to justify your existence from the sound of your post.

Re:MBA's (1, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481278)

Come on now. You really think an MBA could successfully navigate the web, register, read text thats more than a few words long and post a reply on slashdot?

I think you're being generous.

Re:MBA's (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481890)

Why yes, Cheryl will get that for you ASAP! Meanwhile, how would you like to explore the second derivative of the market curve in a mutually beneficial relationship?

(...waits)

The best MBA's find a scary way of having their Mumbo Jumbo actually mean something, then take the best side of the deal before you can wipe away the smoke. In the above example, Tech is an example of a lurching industry that alternates explosive growth and eerie stalls.

Re:MBA's (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481950)

Come on now. You really think an MBA could successfully navigate the web, register, read text thats more than a few words long and post a reply on slashdot?

I think you're being generous.


There's a certain unintentional irony in your comment when you consider the number of people here who post on subjects that they know nothing about, along with the number of moderators who will happily mod those posts right up because they assume the poster has a clue.

Re:MBA's (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481084)

Yes, there are some. In my observations, while not first, they tend to be very high up on the list when lay-offs come around. They also typically do not get promoted past their entry position. They are also often entrusted with doing the tasks of multiple management positions when other managers are out or the positions unfilled. If they want a shot at actually going up the corporate ladder, they have to change companies. They do get bonuses though, but not like the PHBs, despite stellar reviews and results. This is often a token bonus for covering multiple positions (as stated above) that doesn't come near to compensating them for the additional work. They will be passed over if they attempt to get promoted by applying for the position they are already doing the work for.

It doesn't help when the MBA major is one people join when their GPA is in the crapper, compulsive partiers, jocks, failed would be science/engineering students, would be liberal arts majors, etc...

Re:MBA's (1, Informative)

coryking (104614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481430)

MBA is a masters degree yo. It is something you get after you get your bachelors. If you flunked out of a bunch of stuff during your undergrad, odds are good you wouldn't get admitted in a high-ranking MBA program, nor would you have the desire.

You don't get an MBA because you are a "jock" or are some kind of party person. What is this, high school?

An MBA is a joke... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481882)

It's a _NON_THESIS_ (as in you don't have to write a big difficult paper) "Masters" degree. The "highly ranked" schools of business within college XYZ that run these programs are may have more challenging entry requirements but even then there's a level of name recognition & ass kissing that sets students up to play the "it's not what you know, it's who you know" game for the rest of their lives. It's not like the course material is SOOO much better at B-School Ivy vs. B-School State, it a questions of which alumni are associated and what doors will open for you.

And as far as not getting an MBA because you're a "jock", I call bullshit. The way the "high end" of the business world works, it's all about popularity & networking. Have you been paying attention to the corporate corruption & insane salary levels in the news for the past decade or two? That shit doesn't happen to an entire so-called profession by accident - it's fucking structural! There's a few bits of some simple subjects to learn compared to real Masters programs (where they make you write a REAL master's thesis, by the way, but otherwise - yes. It is EXACTLY like fucking high school. That's why when we honest, hard-working engineering students were grinding through Comp. Sci. & Electrical Engineering going to study groups 5 days a week we'd go past Greek row and see the frats stocked with the "let's skate through life on our good looks & connections" types partying while we studied our asses off since 90% of them were there for either Business or Communications degrees.

Yes, you could flunk a bunch of stuff in your undergrad and still get into an MBA school (since there's so fucking many of them). They'll be happy to take your money so you can skate through another two or even only _ONE_ year (there are "5 year MBA programs": google it.). Will it open as many doors? Probably not. But you probably also won't starve and (as with most college degrees) the dirty little secret is that after you've gone out and done something 10 years later, nobody cares about your GPA or what college you went to any more than you high school teachers cared about your finger painting and what kindergarten you went to. So long as there's a degree on your resume, you'll generally pass the corporate HR bullshit - but then again, nobody in their right mind goes through the front door hiring process if they can help it, so you're back to "who you know".

Re:MBA's (2, Insightful)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482074)

It would be appropriate certification for someone who could bullshit their way through high school and college.

Re:MBA's (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481252)

Yea us engineers with our undergrad degrees with are detailed focus on our particular sub component on our product, with minimal human interaction. Makes us that much more qualified to operate a complex organization with many people where we need to look at the big picture and insure the experts in areas are on track.

Re:MBA's (2, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481412)

You are correct, sir! It just requires a few all-nighters hacking on the org chart, dintchoo know?

Re:MBA's (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481294)

Generally, people that exclusively go for their MBA from a business degree will in fact be exactly as you say, with few exceptions. You won't get anything out of an MBA unless you come from a background that can appreciate what they teach you. My close friend has his MBA from a Finance focus, and hes pretty smart. He is the first to admit how much of a joke 90 percent of the people taking the degree were. Maybe hes just an asshole though ;) .

Re:MBA's (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481798)

An MBA for training focuses almost entirely on skills required for those two above goals, there is no technical skill imparted and no technical skills tested.

Why would there be? That's what your first/bachelors degree is for.

Re:MBA's (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480998)

Not for training engineers to be managers. But to make strong full company leaders. What went wrong was most MBAs went into finance or consulting, and not into upper mid level management. Because of this the MBA gets a bad name. Have gone threw an MBA myself at least at my college (that focuses on making professionals and not convince them to go into money grubbing) I found it was actually quite useful. And gives me a wider perpective of the business.

  While my MBA class has a lot of engineers and IT people it also has a lot of finance people. These degrees are a little more focused then the MBA which is a good thing too. As a masters is a 2 year degree and not enough time to cover everything.

Re:MBA's (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481028)

Or perhaps we ought to go back to the system where you didn't need extra letters behind your name to get a promotion. Just evidence that you could do your job and the next one up. That's ultimately where we went wrong. No MBA or degree program in and of itself is a replacement for industry experience and knowledge. The fact that people see an MBA and assume that a person has any knowledge or capability at all on that basis is extremely terrifying to me. The evidence I've seen over the last decade or so is that it would be wise to put those applicants to the bottom of the pile if we're doing anything without a full thorough investigation.

The fact that businesses so routinely run themselves out of business and do great harm to themselves with ill conceived business strategies ought to be evidence that perhaps something is going horribly, horribly wrong as the status quo at business school.

Re:MBA's (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481124)

Actually a lot of MBA don't flaunt it. I myself worked for an MBA not to help me get promoted per say. But it makes it easier as it says I want to be promoted and I am serious about it and it makes sure I am not just type casted as a techie, but that I have other ambitions in life. There ae a lot of people who don't want to be managers that is fine and good. But how to weed out the ones you should put on a management track and the ones on a different track. Companies of any signigant size finding talent within the company is hard. The fact you took those classes helps the search.

Now there are many different ways to get an MBA.

1. Mail order degree. These are usually the scummy MBA who know nothing but how to talk themselves to a jab as your boss.

2. Full time - no work experience just academia. These are the know nothings but at least they have the fundamental which they can get experience with.

3. Fast Track - weekend programs covering a full class in 2 days. You get a lot of people who just needs the paper to look good for #1 and #2. They will pick up a lot of stuff. And they have real work experience but they miss out on the fundamentals.

4. Part time - dedicating 3 - 4 years with a full time job and family. They usually produce the good ones who are not in it thinking they will get rich quick. But to help the company and themselves grow. They are usually the bosses who knows what they are talking about

honesty and wisdom (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481642)

Once again, I'm seeing a focus on technical competence, and the usual ragging on managers who don't know anything that way. And also on competence in the technical aspects of business such as budgeting and knowing the ropes of IP law.

Managers and financial wizards are worse than useless if they are damned fools and aren't honest. They think they're telling little white lies that don't cause any harm when they mislead investors and employees. And they have funny ideas about how to motivate people. They want everyone on hot seats, all the time, thinking that's how to get the most out of people. They prowl around with the micromanagement, thinking that's how they're going to ferret out the slackers, and making it so the rest won't dare slack. They treat underlings like mushrooms, in an insulting, patronizing manner, not seeing how that can be self-fulfilling, and how it can blow back at them. As if that's not bad enough, they gratuitously indulge their fears, jealousies, petty spitefulnesses, bullying ways, and dominance gaming on the employees they've done all they can to make captive.

Where is the "leadership" training that covers such issues? Are people just supposed to instinctively know not to treat with their fellows so? I've seen enough of that kind of foolishness in RL to know it cannot be just swept under the rug.

Re:honesty and wisdom (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481958)

In my experience, leadership isn't something which can be taught, anymore than integrity and strength can. Sure you can help somebody develop those skills, but at the end of the day, it comes from someplace within.

People tend to follow me for the simple reason that I'm not scared of really anything, but haven't lost my respect for the dangers out there. I'm willing to take responsibility for the people that are following my orders and willing to tell people to screw off when I have the need to do so.

The absolute worst thing that a leader can do is flip flop and fold on a subordinate following orders.

The technical skills can all be taught, pretty much anybody willing to put in the time and effort can learn them, same goes for the laws applicable to the situation.

Re:MBA's (1)

jonathanleong (1306661) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481750)

Isn't there a 3 year minimum period of experience required before you will even be considered for an MBA program? Perhaps 3 years isn't enough? Maybe MBAs should be limited to Engineers or a technical field.

Re:MBA's (2, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481862)

In Europe it would be rare to get admitted to any reputable MBA course without at least two years of serious work experience. However in the US the majority of MBA students come straight from their first degree. I believe a one year gap (seems like a token to me) is increasing in popularity - but still rare.

Re:MBA's (1)

jonathanleong (1306661) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481966)

That probably explains alot of the problems out there. In Canada there is work experience requirement and it's taken pretty seriously.

Re:MBA's (1)

homer_s (799572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481808)

Or perhaps we ought

Who's "we"? There are millions of companies - find one that works the way you want it to. If you don't, start one.

Re:MBA's (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481942)

Good luck getting any funding like that. One of the big challenges of running a business competently is that it's really hard to get funding like that. Investors for the most part flock to companies like Walmart, which despite losing it's edge on efficiency is still the darling of Wall street, even as it's competitive edge wanes and it faces increased resistance from neighborhoods and astronomical labor costs.

Which is sort of the point, a few companies isn't enough to change the inertia of the market, it takes a large number of companies, and probably regulatory reform discouraging short term holdings and requiring CEO compensation to bear at least some resemblance to actual performance.

Re:MBA's (2, Interesting)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482266)

I wish I could +6 you. This is so true. Managers are afraid to promote on merit because it's hard and risks confrontation with the people you have to tell don't make the grade. It's the right thing to do, but they often don't, and are often not rewarded for doing so. As a result, we get corporations who reward measurable things which don't necessarily contribute to the company. Having an MBA by itself should not get you more money or a better title. Consistently applying the information, practices, strategies, etc you SHOULD have learned during your BS, MBA,, PhD, or whatever, yeah, that should get you something. Simply having one is not enough.

Re:MBA's (2, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481528)

The purpose of an MBA course is not to make strong leaders... or at least it shouldn't aspire to be. Looking at the curriculum, most of what it does is teach business administration tools and skills. Leadership skills? Not really. The sad thing is that a lot of MBA graduates do precisely that: they go into middle and upper management, often with little or no real experience at leading.

Managers, not MBAs [amazon.com] offers a good insight into the MBA program and into all the things wrong with it today. The thing is, the MBA is not a bad course to take in itself... except that it reinforces bad behaviour in some cases, like making uninformed snap decisions. One of the bigger problems, according to the author, is that most MBA courses focus on the "science" side (analysis), and more or less completely avoid the "art" (vision) and "craft" (experience) aspects. And isn't this exacly what we most often see when we look at all the lousy managers in our own places of work? Making snap decisions on a whim, lacking a coherent vision and instead always reading up on the latest management techniques. They are often very poor at managing people and teams, but oh, they are good with numbers and spreadsheets. And numbers and spreadsheets is what is driving many companies today, rather than vision and insight.

The skills taught in an MBA can be very useful, and an MBA can offer a valuable additional set of skills to managers, consultants and even techies. But an MBA alone is insufficient to become a good manager, just like an engineering master's degree doesn't make one a good engineer.

Re:MBA's (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481668)

Have gone threw an MBA myself at least at my college

Oh yeah? Which college?

Re:MBA's (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482372)

One who doesn't nitpick from a blog response.

Re:MBA's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481690)

It was, but unfortunately the MBA has really become nothing more than a "Hey, get this degree and you'll magically become rich!" degree.

Re:MBA's (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481796)

Wasn't this what MBA's were originally intended for? Training engineers to be managers?

I've never met a good engineer who even wanted to be a manager. I've met many people with engineering degrees who were hoping to be king of the nerd-pen though. MBAs have become essentially meaningless, since you can't be in a tech company and not understand tech, even if you're a suit. This appears to be some way of appealing to that belief.

The problem is the same as always, you can't stay on top of tech if you're not doing tech. Regardless of whether you get an MBA or some specialized engineering management degree, you're always about 5 years away from being the clueless PHB, unless you can demote yourself and spend a few years doing engineering again.

I'm not sure that tech firms need "leaders", tech became successful without them, at least here in the US what we're lacking presently are tech firms that produce good tech that aren't so encrusted with marketing or business acumen that they suck. If you ask me we need our nerds back, or at least to have our nerds to stop submitting to the "queer eye for the straight guy" treatment to pretend they're leaders to hang on to their jobs, and just be nerds again.

It's not necessary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33480904)

Sociopathy ftw!

On your own dime... companies don't care. (2, Insightful)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480906)

Why should a company care? Someone else in your position is going to grad school right now and can fill it when needed.

Re:On your own dime... companies don't care. (2, Insightful)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480932)

This is it. Why promote from within when you can hire someone to be an asshole manager from outside the company?

Re:On your own dime... companies don't care. (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481020)

The best assholes come from outside. Form small groups. Discuss.

--

Students were told that they could be either assholes or incompetents, but not both; however, every time I repeat this, someone says he has a counterexample.

Companies don't care - but good managers should (5, Interesting)

lalena (1221394) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481004)

I agree. Computer technology changes every 5 years and we are now expected to keep pace with the latest technologies on our own time, I think the same is expected with management skills. In a sense, these skills are easier to develop because the required skills aren't changing as fast.

With the computer skills, I have to learn the new technologies on my own if they aren't being used at work yet. With management/leadership skills (project planning, budgets, IP law...), they are obviously being used at every company and there are more chances to learn (insert bad management joke here).

Most good managers are overworked and there are opportunities for on the job training. Do some research, read some books, and then ask your boss to take one thing off of his plate. Start small and build from there. Note: A bad boss will be unwilling to give up responsibility for fear of you showing him up and taking his job. A good manager/leader will is interested in developing those under him and realizes that you doing a good job reflects well on both of you. A good manager doesn't have to worry about you taking his job. He should be moving up (not sideways) anyway.

Some good places to start training are:
1) Agile development: By definition, SCRUM masters come from the development team, not the business/management team. This is a good intro to management & leadership skills, and the Sprint Demos give you good opportunity to communicate with the business and management teams.
2) Scheduling: In a non agile environment, this means owning the Pert chart. In agile, it might mean helping prioritize the product backlog and contributing to ROM estimates.
3) Customer Satisfaction: Sometimes product maintenance (bug fixes) can involve lots of customer interaction. Making unhappy customers happy is a useful skill that will get you noticed.
4) IP Law: Reviewing existing patents for conflicts is a boring job. Sometimes the legal team creates a huge list of patents where half of them can be dismissed right off the bat. Maybe you can take a first pass at the patent review and just summarize your thoughts in an Excel spreadsheet with High/Medium/Low priorities so that other managers can focus on the high priority ones first. This will give you insight into the whole process and a foot in the door.
5) Interviewing: Any potential candidate should be reviewed by multiple people. Not just the boss. Again, read some books and do some research on good interviewing techniques first. Then see if you can participate in interviewing candidates. This area can be tricky because your interviewing style might conflict with your managers. He may not like your style, but that doesn't mean you are wrong. You will probably handle the interview differently depending on whether you are doing it with your boss or not. I suggest the 5 Why's style here. As a new interviewer, your opinion will matter less. If you use the 5 Why's then you will have much more detailed facts on why the candidate did what he did in a certain situation - your comments will be based less on your opinion and more about what you got the candidate to say. During the candidate review after the interview, someone may bring up a scenario that the candidate discussed and say he did the right thing. You will be able to go 3 levels deeper into the decision process used by the candidate to verify if this is actually true.

These are good places to start. I don't think you will get much finance/budget exposure or deal with any equal opportunity issues if you are not a manager. On the leadership side, there are always changes to exercise your skills as a mentor and leader without having the official title. This is just part of doing your job.

Re:Companies don't care - but good managers should (2, Interesting)

lalena (1221394) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481016)

Followup - Forgot to add the most important part.

You can take work off your manager's plate, but you can't let it impact your main job. You need to get the same amount of work done with the added responsibilities. This is why you need to start small and learn one skill at a time.

Re:Companies don't care - but good managers should (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33482118)

Sounds like you are writing a 'How to be a manager in 21 days' type book.

The thing about management is it is a different skill set. Do good programmers take pride in that they know Java? Most great programmers take pride in knowing how to program, architect and document independent of the tool set.

For management, agile methods are just a tool. Knowing the principles behind it, why they work and applying them appropriately is important.

Being a good manager in my book is being able to commit the time to understand the tools at your disposal and to commit the time to understand the value of the members of your team (and being able to hire replacements or to fill holes in the team's skill set). Most managers don't commit the time. Your people are an asset (not a liability), how do you maximize their effectiveness?

Management is such a broad topic. If I can leave you with only one take away: management is a different discipline and skill set, please treat it as such.

Btw, the two best books I've read that helped me the most: 7 habits of highly effective people (kind of cheesy in spots, but is a great template to understand team dynamics/interpersonal relationships. Interesting to re-read as you mature as well) and effective executive.

Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (2, Informative)

myocardialinfarction (1606123) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480908)

Never personally met anyone with an MBA who knew their ass from their elbow about engineering. Or had an agenda

Re:Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (1)

myocardialinfarction (1606123) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480912)

Next week on how to be an asshole. Well, the point was, I've never met anyone with an MBA on their business card who was any bloody use.

Re:Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33480924)

I've never met anyone with an MBA on their business card who was any bloody use.

Part of that is probably since the learning you do in business school doesn't exactly transfer all that well to the real world.

How do management classes work, anyhow? If you have a class full of management majors, how would projects work/get graded?

"Alright, we're doing our end of term project. Break up into groups and decide on a leader."

*10 minutes later*

"You all decided on leaders? Alright, that guy gets 10 bonus points. Moving on."

And if there's no projects, book learning isn't near as useful in something like management compared to engineering.

Oh, degrees. Can any of you not in the sciences or maths really measure up to real world experience?

Re:Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33480954)

That's because MBA Means Bugger All.

Re:Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (1)

AnalogBrain (1882306) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480988)

Are you kidding? Agendas, missions statements, memos, they do it all! Or did you mean a clear and compelling vision of the direction a project should be moving? Hmmm, maybe you're right.

Re:Prepare for short shrift here, methinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33482136)

That's funny, the MBA who is above me currently has an engineering undergraduate degree and is one of the best managers I've met. Maybe your HR department needs to be let go?

CEOs Believe Leadership Is Important (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480926)

I'm surprised only 89% of corporate executives at the companies they interviewed indicated they felt corporate leadership was increasingly important at their firm. I guess for the other 11% their decisions are already maximally important.

Re: CEOs Believe Leadership Is Important (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481040)

Actually those 11% are too busy trying to figure out how to loot the Picasso from their office without people noticing before crashing the entire business and collecting a gold parachute to send the jobs overseas to care about corporate leadership.

How to hire competent technical people (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33480928)

While they're at it, perhaps they can teach managers on how to hire competent technical people.

Is this really unique to tech? (2, Interesting)

AnalogBrain (1882306) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480972)

How does this really compare to companies that are not considered "High-tech?" Are those companies spending a lot more money and time on training management, or is it just that most MBA-type programs are geared towards that type of management role?
I know several retired engineers who became managers in companies that invested in their training throughout their career. I'd be curious to see statistics on how that's changed over the years. It could be that high-tech companies are just more likely to reflect modern business practices. Perhaps those companies are more likely to feel the effects of hiring people from a "pure management" background because managing complex engineering projects is, you know, complicated.

Lack of Qualified Managers (3, Interesting)

srothroc (733160) | more than 4 years ago | (#33480976)

And this is why tech types always complain about their managers -- none of their own are getting the training they need to rise up and manage. Frankly, tech types cast such a stigma on management that the number of people who actually want to do that is very small, which is a major mistake.

Re:Lack of Qualified Managers (1)

milkasing (857326) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481210)

I doubt the there are very few tech people who want to manage. Sure most of us think that the Dilbert stereotypes on management have more than a grain of truth, but the reality is that tech has a culture of moving up or moving out. Experienced programmers are typically asked to lead teams, then manage projects, relationships with vendors, etc. The problem tech people face is different -- getting management positions outside the tech department. When it comes to becoming a CEO, it is much better to be in Sales or in Accounting. Being in Tech seems to be a real drawback. Its not that tech folks do not want the upper management places, it is just that the doors to advancement beyond the tech domain are often shut to them.

Leaders (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33480992)

Leaders! pft! My place is like a Dilbert comic

Can't anyone be a manager? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481012)

All that managers seem to do is attend meetings and make stupid comments on what the engineers are saying, making it obvious they have no idea whatsoever of the technology involved.
They do have some minimal technical knowledge they got a long time ago, but they're completely disconnected to how the product works.

They're just people in charge of guess-valuating the engineers worth, and their associated payroll.

Vivek "the shill" Wadhwa (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481024)

Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic

Good to know this guy couldn't cut it as an entrepreneur, now he's teaching all his best tricks to anybody who is stupid enough to cough up the tuition fees.

Vivek Wadhwa Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University

I'm sure there is no conflict of interests and he is being absolutely objective in his desire to promote his excellent courses.

Slashvertisement? (0, Offtopic)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481046)

It sure looks like it.

"these days" (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481026)

Whats this "these days" quote? Confusing "it is and always has been bad" with "it must have been better in the good ole days"?

No, it actually was better. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481068)

If you were born after 1970, which you likely were, you probably don't realize how much better life and work actually was in America during the 1950s and 1960s. Things were significantly better back then.

The wage gap between executives, managers and the people actually doing the real work was minimal. It wasn't unusual for a CEO to make a salary that was only twice as much as the salary of the lowest-paid employee. This is what allowed America's middle class to become so strong and wealthy after WWII.

The general attitude was different, as well. With the standard of living increasing so dramatically for so many people due to hard work, people would go out of their way to do well at their job. Truly good work, rather than bullshitting and deflecting blame, was the key to career advancement. Indeed, successful managers and executives put in a huge amount of effort growing businesses by providing top-notch products and services, while doing what was best for the community as a whole.

Things really started to tank in the early 1970s. That's when manufacturing started being sent off-shore, mainly to Japan at first, but eventually to Taiwan and then China. Now we see India and Mexico getting involved. The end result was that many people were put out of work, management became more about fucking people over rather than doing a good job or doing the right thing, the quality of manufactured goods became extremely shitty, and the American economy's real growth has stagnated for the past 30 to 40 years.

Re:No, it actually was better. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481466)

Not among the rich. They pretty much control the money flow through finance from their castles across the US.

Re:No, it actually was better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481728)

You are spot on. Before the 70 we were evaluated and promoted on merit. The evaluations were based on well defined, measurable parameters. Promotions were based on performance and consensus. Honor, loyalty and customer satisfaction were the driving force.

In the early part of the 70s that switched to: expense to revenue ratio.
Management rolls could be filled by anyone that had management experience in any field. They had decided that management was totally generic and did not require any techical knowledge. Employees became a necessary evil. The bottom line became the driving force.

A lot of us left in the next few years. The growth they had experienced reversed and has never returned. So much for that experiment.

How did we survive back then (5, Insightful)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481054)

My God, how did we ever survive, much less built some amazing technology before this great mind discovered we are not "making leaders" today. We are not making leaders, or are the leaders focused in the wrong direction. IBM, HP, Wang, Dec, Microsoft, Apple, yes even Google started small and grew because their "leaders" did not focus on the next month, the next quarter, but on a long term vision of what they wanted their company to be in the market. In my thirty years in this IT industry I know of only two managers that understand that if you manage the people, they will manage the project. The rest managed the budget, the project and never took time to understand the resources they had. Whet these new classes should re-teach is the art of managing people so they become a positive, motived work force and not indentured labor.

Re:How did we survive back then (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481166)

Most of it was made in "blue sky" R&D facilities where nerds ran rampant, and/or on open ended military grants in an effort to fight the red menace. Now neither exist any more, and we are left with companies trying to yet again put a new shine on a old ride. Only problem is that it has been polished so many times they risk rubbing the chrome off the fender.

Now all leadership do it attempt to hunt that elusive dream of perpetual 3% annual growth. How the hell do you make anything grow by 3% a year continually in a closed system like this planet we live on? Any other living organism that have tried so eventually chokes on its own waste and/or run out of nutrients. Is there any way to engineer greed and gluttony out of humanity?

Re:How did we survive back then (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481336)

3% what the heck are you talking about. 10% at least is needed for growth. 3% is staying at an average rate of inflation. A company that grows at 3% is stagnant.

Money isn't a pool that just goes away after you spend it. It is spread to person for good and services. The problem with our economy isn't do to lack of money but the fact it isn't moving fast enough.

Re:How did we survive back then (2, Interesting)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481454)

And all the money has been captured by the wealthy, never to be distributed again until they either start spending most of it or it gets re-captured by higher taxes and spent on public projects like our crappy infrastructure.

Re:How did we survive back then (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481782)

And all the money has been captured by the wealthy, never to be distributed again until they either start spending most of it or it gets re-captured by higher taxes and spent on public projects like our crappy infrastructure.

Not exactly. Even if the wealthy put the money in the bank, the bank loans it out. Unfortunately, recent practice has been for banks to loan the money out for consumption by the non-wealthy instead of for capital for productive enterprises.

Re:How did we survive back then (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482378)

Being in debt is not the same as wealth creation. A system primarily based on credit will eventually fail with something similar to what is occurring right now in our economy. When a wealthy person's money is lent out, they still have a right to the exact same amount plus interest from the bank. The net result is that they retain their wealth, but others essentially owe them more money through the banks. Back in the 50's and 60's people could buy houses with savings. Why can't we do that now? Because there is not enough money to go around. The 10 percent wealthiest individuals in the states have 70 percent of the money. This is in stark contrast to post 1950's with it being literally the reverse situation. Jobs are moving overseas to help the profits of US companies for US consumed products. Where do the US citizens get money to buy these products when the jobs all are going away? They go into debt. My personal opinion is they need to reinstitute a much harsher tax rate on those making over 1 million a year. People say, "yeah well then people will just move their businesses overseas". I counter, use import taxes on foreign held companies to penalize that. Im not sure if my solution is the best, and Im sure there may be others that would work equally as well, but its obvious there is a major problem with wealth disparity in this country, and its killing it.

Re:How did we survive back then (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482256)

You have been watching to much Disney. The rich don't put money in a vault and sit on it. The rich actually invest it and keep it moving. Hence why the rich get richer. They are not doing it at the expence of the poor. It is the middle class and the poor don't use the money they have well.

I am willing to bet that if you take away everyones money and assets 90% of the people who were rich will be rich again. And 90% who were poor will still be poor.

Re:How did we survive back then (2, Interesting)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482398)

You have been watching too much neo-con propaganda. Its much easier to get richer when you are already rich. All you have to do is pay someone smart to handle your money for you. You don't even have to pay them as well as you pay yourself. Are you totally unfamiliar with Aristocracy? Back in the 1950's the middle class used their money just fine. They could buy homes with savings, they could buy a high quality American made car every few years without financing, etc. The reason? There were high paying jobs here in the United States and the tax rate on the wealthiest 1 percent of the people was close to 90 percent. The jobs made it so the average person could live a very high standard of living, and the taxes funded roads, dams, fuck just about everything. Its no mistake our infrastructure is turning to dust. The poor and middle class have no money, and the rich don't get taxed as much anymore on theirs. Oddly enough, history is on my side here so why don't you go peddle your Plutocratic crap elsewhere.

Re:How did we survive back then (2, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481184)

It is often when a company goes public. And must answer to the mindless mass called shareholders. After a few years after going public and with technology you will need to change direction. The share holders get nervious and move their money somewhere else. That is why these companies fail.
When you are small you can focus on one thing. That doesn't take much leadership but when you grow you need leaders especially as your core compenance becomes antiquated like in the tech industry. Why don't we hear much about Wang, Dec, Prime etc. Because they didn't adapt to the new market. Due to poor leadership

Re:How did we survive back then (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481240)

This is complete bollocks. Truly ignorant nonsense. Dave Packard, for instance, was well known for reaming out his managers if they didn't stay on top of things like inventory management. Making a profit was built explicitly into the HP Way - number 2 on Bill and Dave's list. They placed it ahead of getting good people and trusting them to get on with it. They were consistently profitable from the get go.

How did we survive? Because we've had people capable of simultaneously looking at the long and short term, and not indulging in your kind of shoddy thinking where we can focus on one and just trust the other to happen on its own account.

You might have noticed if you read the summary (not even the article, not to much to ask is it?) that things like team building and motivation are already on the syllabus for these new classes. So really, you're not adding anything of value at all, in fact you're destroying some.

But hey, don't the facts get in the way of a good rant. I'm sure your thirty years in IT have made you a much better businessman than the giants of Silicon Valley.

Re:How did we survive back then (3, Insightful)

munitor (1632747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481358)

What you describe is the difference between leadership and management. You can teach people to manage projects, meet regulations, take care of HR housekeeping, etc., but it's hard to teach leadership (building a shared vision, developing people, personal effectiveness, etc.) unless the student already has the capacity and the drive.

Re:How did we survive back then (2, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481652)

I think the problem is that in IT we're used to building machines, and we build them from parts. Often those parts and the product are software, but it is all the same.

If I want to upgrade 1000 computers I need 1000 sticks of RAM and 1000 CPUs. Therefore, if I want to program 1000 pieces of software I must need 1000 units of programmers.

IT leaders lack the ability to assess what they have and work with it. Indeed, "best practices" almost encourage this mentality. What do you deliver? Well, what do the requirements ask for? Never mind if that is the best use of what you have.

There needs to be a balance - a company needs to have strategic goals, but it also needs to make tactical use of the resources that it has.

A friend of mine expressed it well - suppose you are coaching a football (US) team. Do you just write up a playbook without any regard to the players you have, based on studies on the merits of the plays themselves? Suppose that logic dictates that a passing offense is the best option - so you tell your players to start doing passes. Hey, any NFL player ought to be able to be part of a passing offense, right? Well, suppose you have three of the best running backs in the league, but your receivers are all below par? Is that really a smart move? Sure, they can be generalists, but if you focus on what they're good at you'll get far more out of them.

IT managers focus on the projects, and then fit resources to them. They don't say, "hey, we've got 3 people that are the best in the industry at doing X, so is there any business benefit from doing X even though nobody is asking for it now?"

Now, of course there has to be a balance - a company also has to have strategy and not just tactics, and sometimes strategy tells you to trade your star running back. However, we're far from that problem in most of IT.

Waste of Talent (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481138)

I can think of no faster way to doom a company than using engineers for salesmen, managers etc.. Engineering a product and the packaging that contains it is an endless task when done at its best level. Worse yet, keeping engineers up to date on machinery used in production and fabrication methods, tools, jigs etc. is a crushing burden. What often happens is that engineers get pushed into public relations, sales, and all kinds of nonsense and every tiny bit of that takes away from the job that they could be and should be doing.

Re:Waste of Talent (2, Interesting)

bobstreo (1320787) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481248)

I can think of a faster way. Take a small established company with a product that people want. Add MBA's until they
outnumber engineers and designers.

Re:Waste of Talent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481330)

Putting a salesman in charge of a group of engineers is just as bad. The death spiral might be slower because it takes a few years for the product line to become obsolete. It's painful to hear management talking of engineering as a cost, then see them "incentivizing" the sales staff to push more of the out of date products.

leadership training is an oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481154)

People learn to lead by doing, spending years in the trenches learning the industry and craft and making the personal and shared sacrifices along the way. While being committed and aware.

Not by sitting in a classroom where some glib professor says things like, "Today we're going to talk about leadership. What is it? Who has it? How do you know it when you see it?"

MBA - Master of Business Administration (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481226)

IF you are trained to be a MASTER of Business Administration.
AND you do not run your own business, THEN you are a useless
piece of shit.

You have mastered NOTHING. You are a bean counter in disguise.

Leadership? (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481332)

adhere to EEOC guidelines, prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and IP law

That's not leadership. That's memorizing a bunch of artificially imposed minituae that is not very interesting. That is a role suited for an assistant trained in law.

The budget part is relevant, but only to the extent that every human being ought to know how to manage their resources. The rest is suited for an assistant trained in accounting.

Re:Leadership? (0, Offtopic)

coryking (104614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481520)

The budget part is relevant, but only to the extent that every human being ought to know how to manage their resources. The rest is suited for an assistant trained in accounting.

Isn't that the exact same complaint developers and IT folk have about management? That the senior execs don't know C# the language from C# the note?

What you are saying is that management doesn't need to worry about those scum in accounting—they can treat accounting like a black box were magic goes in and magically record growth numbers come out. Kind of like how programmers take in cheap pizza and "make it work" as a spec and by magic crank out a working product in a single weekend.

You better be caraful with statements like that because if you subscribe to the idea that the management ought to know what devs do, you also have to subscribe to the idea that they need to know what accounting does too.

There is a reason the higher the level in the company you go, the broader your knowledge must be. You need to know how all the pieces fit—how accounting can help development, how the IT staff can improve the workplace, how marketing can sell the damn thing, and how the lawyers can keep everybody out of jail.

Re:Leadership? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481616)

We're not talking about knowledge, we're talking about leadership. Any schmuck can acquire knowledge. Leaders are born. Yet the skill must be honed and validated in business school. Otherwise, how can you tell the real leaders from those claiming to be leaders?

Re:Leadership? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481790)

Any schmuck can acquire knowledge.

There's a lot of "any schmucks" out there that provide evidence otherwise. Some, but not all, have MBAs.

Re:Leadership? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482130)

"Otherwise, how can you tell the real leaders from those claiming to be leaders?"

But that's obvious, my friend! If someone tells you he is a leader and you believe him, he *is* a leader.

Re:Leadership? (2, Insightful)

wagadog (545179) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481640)

"'adhere to EEOC guidelines'" is not leadership because it's "memorizing a bunch of artificially imposed minutia that is not very interesting"?

Well, you're right. Leadership that promotes objectivity and fairness regardless of gender, race, childbearing status or age will simply not have to worry about adherence to EEOC guidelines--because the leader will have made it very clear how people are to be treated and evaluated by both their peers, their reports, and by management.

Instead of playing "divide and conquer" along race, religious, gender, and age lines in order to maintain his own petty authority by keeping his charges fighting with each other instead of *him* (and bad leaders like this are almost always insecure unqualified white males promoted beyond their actual abilities because of their lame white maleness), a *real* leader can motivate everyone to do their best work by making it clear that good work -- not good looks -- is what's noticed and rewarded.

Interestingly, because women, African-Americans, Latinos and particularly Latinas have to be grossly overqualified and between two and three times harder working than their white male counterparts, and since they are so used to never getting a fair shake -- simply BEING FAIR is a big surprise to us.

Re:Leadership? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482360)

Interestingly, because women, African-Americans, Latinos and particularly Latinas have to be grossly overqualified and between two and three times harder working than their white male counterparts

Huh? Particularly Latinas? Speaking as a neutral, white male observer, African-Americans, particularly African-American men, have it a hell of a lot harder than any of the other groups you just mentioned.

Re:Leadership? (2, Insightful)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 4 years ago | (#33482142)


You're absolutely right. There's a difference between management and leadership, and the skills are generally mutually exclusive. Force a leader to take on management tasks and he will likely be unhappy and not do well. Force a manager to be a leader and you'll end up with a lot of unhappy subordinates.

Well (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481428)

Leadership training has always been a lie. All the theories upon which training was based have been refuted or considered non-trainable. I believe that we will be able to settle for the right leadership training, but how can we do it if we don't even have a consensus on which Group Development theory is right? After all, the role of the leader is that of realizing which stage of group development an organization is and, then, take appropriate measures to burst productivity, either by utilizing a privileged development stage, or directing the group towards another development stage.

I like the Integrated Development Model that is used here in the University of Coimbra in many things ( http://bit.ly/90XCCA [bit.ly] for instance). This is a modified version of Wheelan’s Integrated Model of Group Development, it's Miguez and Lourenço's Integrated Model of Group Development.

Other examples where this theory is exposed: http://bit.ly/9CmeNA [bit.ly] and https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.psicologia.com.pt/artigos/textos/A0338.pdf [google.com] (mentions it) and http://www.slideshare.net/daniellopes314/gesto-de-equipas [slideshare.net] and http://bit.ly/aU9Rvy [bit.ly]

They may all be in Portuguese, but they show a real (and IMO, the best) approach to Leadership and the likes.

Don't use an URL shortner, you dipshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481524)

Why the fuck did you use that gawdawful bit.ly URL shortener? Now most of us surely won't click on your links, since we have absolutely no way of ensuring you didn't actually link to Goatse, Tubgirl, a site infested with Firefox-infecting malware, or something far worse.

This isn't twitter. There's no stupid artificial length limitation that'd prevent you from using the full URLs.

Leadership is a skill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481512)

I've been lucky to have had good managers over the years. My first IT job was under an experienced mature manager.

A good manager is one who understands what motivates each individual. A good manager also works to understand what each individual is capable of and helps to create a development plan to fill in any gaps.

However, a good manager also needs to realize that there are individuals who aren't prepared to put in the effort to improve or grow their career for whatever reason. As a worker drone, I've seen guys in IT who are happy doing what they are doing day-in day-out and aren't interested in moving into another position.

As for leaders, that takes a certain skill level. The majority of IT leaders in the company that I work for have been promoted from the IT tech pool (i.e. the IT drones that were hired early in the company's history), and it shows. Up until a recent spate of changes, there hasn't been a well thought out 5 year plan. The entire IT department is at the mercy of the business and every business initiative is a fire drill, caused by IT not being part of the project from the beginning. It's been a mess.

Very rarely do you find good quality IT leaders from the first wave of IT hires when a company is starting out. Most IT people who work for a new startup are people who don't have the training or experience to work for larger companys. They then fall into managerial and leadership positions as the company grows, despite not having the training, skill level, or qualities that makes a good manager or leader. This wouldn't be so bad if they realized that they need additional training and to grow into the role. The problem is that the majority of these guys are Alpha geeks who think that they know everything about IT and think that they are always right. The worst part is that they never develop the skills to plan 3 to 5 years ahead.

How to motivate engineers : (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481646)

Don't be a total bonehead. Listen to them. Let them do their job.

Ok, the tongue is in the cheek a little there, but nothing saps my motivation more than being told to do something really stupid. Like the project I'm on ; the code is some amateur coders PhD project, the code quality is utterly excretional, and EVERY engineer working on it that I've asked agrees that we could have thrown the whole thing away and written something superior inside of 6 months.

Management were told, almost as soon as the external code arrived. But management shelled out lots of cash for the thing, so management would never dare to follow their engineers advice because it would make them look stupid.

Meanwhile, 2 years later, the thing is still causing deadlines to stretch and users to curse at it's astounding lack of user friendliness.

My previous project was a success - because management kept their snoot out of the implementation details and just let the engineers get on with it.

Re:How to motivate engineers : (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481784)

Software engineers are not engineers. Real engineers include (bio)chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, etc. Software doesn't require as much effort.

Other Programs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481816)

Just wanted to include the MMM program at Kellogg and the Accelerated MBA at Cornell for techies. The MMM program is focusing on taking a product from the "fuzzy front-end" in design all the way through the operations of supply chain management. About 75% of those enrolled have a technical background (such as myself with a masters in mechanical engineering having previously worked in robotics). Okay, I'm done with the shameless plug. =D

Blame The Disposable Society (2, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481898)

I'm in my 40s, as a kid I grew up watching my dad & other male relatives build furniture out of wood, decorate houses, build brick walls, mend washing machines, etc. etc.

I grew up in a house where I had enough free reign to take stuff apart to see how it worked and try and fix it - yes, sometimes I broke it for good or couldn't get it back together again.

Then when I got into my teens, I built electronic circuits, learnt to program Z80 CPUs in assembly and took bicycles or mower engines apart to clean and fix them - again, sometimes what I did made it worse.

Since then, I've spent 30 years in telecoms, computers and IT and done a good job over those years. Not once have I considered entering management, the closest I've ever got is writing and presenting training courses, along with some technical mentoring as necessary.

It's impossible to be trained as an expert in every piece of hardware, operating system, telecoms principle, etc. that I come across but most of the time I get by using my engineering brain and knowing my limits - so if I need to know something more about something, I ask someone or go read a book. I'm not afraid to tell anyone "I'm sorry, I don't know the answer but give me a day or two and I think I can find one."

In IT especially, there are a lot of people who are afraid to admit their limitations or even believe themselves to always be right - and on some occasions, I've taken great joy in taking them down a step or two.

The point is that logic, intuition and self-motivation are disappearing in business - sorry, but as I'm over here in the UK I blame it entirely on American-style management techniques (although we're not blameless for accepting it so readily) where everything is performance and statistically based, and as long as you achieve your targets, it doesn't matter if you can think outside the box or not.

I know that being a good engineer is not about necessarily having the answer there and then but knowing how to get towards getting the answer in a logical fashion. That is a skill that comes from real-world experience, it cannot be trained into you.

And whilst I lack management skills, I expect that the same is true for a good manager - leadership & motivation skills are not something you can be taught, they're skills you pick up as you progress through life.

A related problem.. (1)

BangaIorean (1848966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481902)

I've seen that in the giant service houses like Accenture, Infosys, Cognizant and so on, almost every damn programmer dreams of becoming a 'team lead' or 'assistant project manager' as soon as they've put in 4-5 years in the company. This trend has become all-pervasive and people who really love technical stuff and who want to just keep coding are considered losers. Most of these companies just don't offer growth opportunities in a purely technical sense. Even your manager will tell you, "Congratulations, you're being promoted to the position of Team Lead" and henceforth you need to involve yourself in progress reports and 'people management'.

This, IMHO is one of the prime reasons for the lack of management skills in the software industry today.

Too much education and not enough common sense! (1)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481936)

Today's colleges and universities are hopelessly out of touch with reality-and the students they graduate are too. My late mentor-a TV pioneer who associated with people named Sarnoff and Garroway, among others once told me that in many cases "schools get in the way of your education". He meant that no 'book' education can teach you "street smarts" and "people smarts"-only experience working with others can teach you this. Now today we have companies who think experience is a BAD thing-and are laying off their (older) competant workers in droves-replacing them with fresh out of grad school MBAs who don't know the difference between a AA battery and a tank-and don't CARE to know either! And we wonder why the USA is fast becoming a third world company technology (and many other ways) wise.

Leaders Aren't Being Made . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33481948)

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

It's a lack of understanding what is leadership (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#33481978)

It's not about being the smartest, or the best educated, or the greatest designer/engineer. It's about being wise, open-minded, deliberative, charismatic, and decisive. The best managers I've worked for all acknowledged their technological inferiority to the team (the guys who actually did the work), were able to push and drive people to work towards a consensus answer, then employed their passion and charisma to get buy-in from everyone else - and maintain enthusiasm of all parties.

.
Leaders are advocates and champions of the team, not the technology or the budget.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?