8/24/2005

8-24-05 [corporate] - 1

8-24-05 [corporate]

I long ago tired of rants about how managers suck and the bosses are so out of touch with the product and they keep telling me to do stupid things, blah blah blah. Yes, that's all true, now what are you going to do about it? Each person in the company should be doing the best they can to make the situation as good as possible. Everyone has different abilities to do that and different ways of accomplishing it. When the people at the top do something foolish, it's the job of the recipient to tell their superior, and for them to do what they can about it, etc.

It should come as no surprise that management is not into the product. Generally the executives are people who are good at starting & running a company. They're good at talking to VC's , or the press, or the lawyers. That's what you want. In fact, if the executives are people who know a lot about the product, that's generally very bad unless it's a very small or young company. Now, delegation is crucial, obviously you want people who are good at each thing in charge of that thing - you don't want your executives who are good with the money doing the redesign of your product line, but at the same time it's only natural that the people at the top will have input, since in the end it's their show to run.

I've been thinking more generally about why corporate culture sucks. By "sucking" I'm talking about the manipulation, the back-stabbing, the lying, the awkwardness, etc. In the end it just comes down to the fact that people suck. Try getting a group of people together and get them to work together cooperatively on anything. For god's sakes, the Oddworld group could never even get from the office to lunch together in any semi-functional way. The bigger the group and the harder the task, the more disfunctional it gets. Why are managers generally cocks? Well, partly it's because of their own social problems, they want more credit than they deserve for the successes and less for the failures, they want to do less work than they should, and also they see those same problems in their subordinates. What if managers were generally nice guys who trusted the employees to tell the truth - to ask for help when it was needed, to give accurate time estimates, to work as hard as possible, etc. - the employees would exploit it and rip the managers off. The average human acts like a cock, so they get treated like a cock. Part of the difficulty for a manager who's trying to be a nice guy is that some people really are great and could be treated well, while others will exploit every bit of slack you give them, but you can't really treat people too differently because it looks like you're playing favorites, etc.

When a corproate group works well, it's generally not because the structure is so good, because they're using "scrums" or "extreme keywords" or whatever, it's because the human interaction is working for whatever reason - the people are just good trustworthy people, or they are friends, or they just get along well, or they're just good workers. It's much easier for a small group to work well, but once you get into a large group it becomes extremely unlikely that the whole group is functioning well. In that case the best you can do is isolate the good portion together and minimize the negative impact of the remainder, but that doesn't work very well because it means some part of the your operation is smooth, and some other key part suffers, and as I've often pointed out, the quality of your product is usually set by your weakest link.

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