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betasam's Journal: The Management Sandwich

Journal by betasam
I have recently been involved in the production of a Consumer Electronics product. The development process has been fun. The fortunate part is that I've had to code, debug and learn through the whole development cycle. However, being the man in between the techies and the Middle managers is a bit worse than being a middle manager. This is like being squeezed in a sandwich.

All companies I have been with have an attitude to ignore what works. To put it quite simply, no human would take global warming seriously until the temperature all over the globe shot over 50 degrees Celsius. Until then, all that nature gives is taken for granted. Water is taken for granted unless you're in a desert. So when things work more of the time, they're taken for granted.

Things fail (Murphy). What results, however is ugly. Whenever things fail, companies, even with the best of managers like to do postmortems. They forget that postmortems are done on corpses not Corporates. The question I hate most is, "Why couldn't this have been done earlier?" after a team brainstorms and finds answers to something that has been perplexing. That's the same as a Doctor diagnosing a patient with atypical syndromes over a period of time and a contemporary Colleague saying, "bah! that was easy; I'd have done that in an hour."

There is no better explanation to why the attrition rate in the place I work is high than what I have just seen. Being a fiery player though, I take nothing sitting down. I like to show my mental state. People tell me that it is unwise and not nice to probably stick up to your boss (and give him/her a piece of your mind.) I have found that it works, like a miracle pill; people start waking up and doing what they are supposed to do. My job in the sandwich is to manage the team, manage the boss (and his boss, if needed) and get stuck sometimes doing that.

Dealing with the techies who don't like the management part is usually easier. They have their interests and love pursuing them. There are those who are sometimes braindead and need some Voltage to wake up, but most techies like being just that. By law, they will rise to the level of their incompetence, be in the sandwich one day; and thereafter rise beyond it. A mentor of mine calls this the inevitably rising tide that shows no difference to competence or the lack of it.

This entry is for the unsuspecting techie; who's taken the tide and got stuck in the sandwich. My message is, there's only one way out of the sandwich; and that's like playing "Doom." The only way out of Hell, is through. Never lie down and be the nice guy; it might work very well in professional relationships, but if you are anywhere near ambitious, you're in for depression. The one way to get the job done is to get the job done, no matter what stands in the way. This is the bulldozer approach; you would get noticed, sometimes scorned, but the job will be done and depression would probably not hit you. I see so many people working cringing, afraid of their bosses (better read Dilbert), talking behind their backs; achieving absolutely nothing. If you want to change the way your boss treats you, you've got to make the statement; you can always keep trying. Jumping from one job to the other is going to get you nowhere unless you change. The grass is always greener on the other side.

People tell me, I get angry too easily and that they "never" get angry. In the culture I hail from, not being able to be angry is not considered too healthy a trait. I do get angry when people get mistreated, or people act stupid. I start with a polite approach only to see that in 6 out of 10 cases it fails. The bulldozer approach has a 1 on 1 success rate. Something Happens, that's most likely to your liking and if well done, in the best interests of everyone. I don't mind techies and friends arguing with me, it is a nice way to pour out emotion and get rid of any negative feeling one has. Usually people are seldom angry with a specific person, they are angry with an action by someone or an idea from someone; debating those doesn't create enemies. I have found that it creates better relationships and understanding.
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The Management Sandwich

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