Friday, December 23, 2016

Management - an end of year postscript

The end of the year is almost here, a year which has seen two mini-series in this blog: Management and Agile ERP. Well, I was catching up with my reading backlog a little something about management by Tim O’Reilly caught my eye.

Writing about the future of management in MIT Sloan Management review O’Reilly makes he following suggestion:

“a large part of the work of these companies [Google, Facebook, Amazon.com]— delivering search results, news and information, social network status updates, and relevant products for purchase — is performed by software programs and algorithms. These programs are the workers, and the human software developers who create them are their managers.”

O’Reilly’s argument is that the traditional management role was about organizing workers. Now the workers are often electronic systems and their work is governed by programs then the programmers are in effect the managers. Programmers - and others in the development arena - instruct the workers using algorithms and code.

In my management series one of the arguments I made was: no matter how self-organizing and managing teams are there is a residual amount of “management work”. In a team without (or just fewer) managers this work is spread around. Among the most obvious examples are the NCO managers (Scrum Masters, Technical Leads, etc.) teams often have. And, because management work is spread around among more people there are more people who need to understand management and business.

O’Reilly’s argument leads you to the same place.

If we assume more management and business decisions are being taken at-the-code-face then more programmers (and other technical staff) need to learn about management and business. Paradoxically, firms should have fewer managers but more management training.

Some aren’t going to like that, some want to take an engineering view of everything.

I suspect there is a corollary: if technical staff need to spend more time considering management and business issues then there is less time for coding, less space for technologies which require really deep understanding (e.g. C++) and fewer opportunities for those who only want to code and ignore all the management, business and political stuff.