- As you said his subordinates "worshipped the ground" he walked
- If anything was slipping out of our hands we could always call him and he wud run to us in a jiffy
- The place he hated the most was his cabin. He could be seen walking around, sitting with developers and in some cases even testing the application
- He made the strict hierarchy look very fluid.
- I worked with him for 3 months ( he came in to replace a PM when the project was in crisis and left after 3 months when the project was delivered successfully.)
- We were never in the firing line. He was the shield
- He even used to participate in the technical meetings and showed a keen interest there in.
- One thing that is common to the worse managers i have seen is that they remain cloistered in their cabins and always try to impose the feeling that he is the boss.
Ravi Mohan's Blog
Friday, September 09, 2005
How shall I judge a suit - Part 2
In a comment to another post on this blog, Sundaresh asked, "Ravi......i give you a problem statement and a laptop and ask you to write a piece of code and looking at that, i gauge your worth. Thats an excellent/good/bad programmer. What is a good manager ?" And that is a good question. I have not been able to articulate a satisfactory answer for this and that is scary . There's no way to judge a middle manager and they are all over the place ! Anyway this was my reply (slightly modified to include a few post-reply thoughts ). " Sundaresh, That is a very good question. There is a lot more to judging programming skill than handing a laptop + a problem statement to someone . But I digress . The gist of your question of your question seems to be "is there an objective, externally verifiable way for judging a manager's ability ? " Except in the case of frontline managers like CEO's and marketing/sales managers or operational managers of a factory floor, who can be judged by numbers attached to their performance (market share, eps, operational efficiency ) , the answer is no, there is no externally verifiable measure . In other words there is no "laptop" you can give someone and ask them to display their skills. This is precisely why a lot of people can get away with what , in Thoughtworks India jargon was called "PM giri"(a word approximating "PM ing " for non hindi speaking readers of this blog) as in "PM giri is no big deal". Having said that ,there are a few heuristics(by definition a heuristic is not infallible) that I look for when I judge managers. 1.Is he/she extremely good at any activity beyond "managing" ? Of the truly excellent managers I have met, all of them without fail were skilled in something besides "managing people " (as in the movie "Office Space" :-) ) One is a decorated Combat Helicopter (Apache LongBow) Pilot. Another is a world class writer and athlete. One is changing the model of how charitable organisations work .Another is an excellent musician . Somehow the habit of excellence and the consequent ability to recognize it in other fields seems to make a difference. Some examples from the outside world. Larry Ellison is probably an excellent manger .He is a world class sailor. Krishna Bharat (India head, Google) is probably an excellent manager . He wrote Google News.That gives you a lot of confidence in his understanding of programmers and programming. Now this doesn't always apply. Linus Torvalds is good at coding but by his own account he tried "managing" a project and was a big failure.But then he "manages" the kernel development effort very well. hmmm... This is why this is just a rule of thumb. This pattern is surprisingly persistent though .Even managers who are not yet at the height of their powers but are climbing the ladder show this trait . One of the managers i most respect was in IIT grad(says something about his intellect ) ,and ex techie who was put in charge of the India Office of his company. He used to say with genuine regret " I am losing my technical skills" . Yet another was fanatic about physical fitness and superbly organized. His projects would run like clockwork and he would sit quietly in a corner filling up crosswords ! 2.They are highly spoken of by the people they manage . Invariably the best managers are those whose subordinates worship the ground they walk on . This is not about popularity but about respect . If a programmer rolls his eyes and looks heavenward when speaking about his manager, that is a strong warning sign . The age of the "command" paradigm in management is over. Nowadays , to effectively manage, People have to willingly give you their best . Again using my Thoughtworks experience there were managers who were so effective that the team thought of them as "one of their own" and others about whom people would make snide comments when they were not around .I am sure this is true worldwide and not just in Thoughtworks. 3. In the software industry , most (but not all) of the best managers are ex hackers or people who like technology .The top grade managers who are not techincal genuinely respect the wisdom of the technical people 4. Good managers *always* protect their team from the politicking that goes on .If a manager being added to the team *decreases* the politics , that is a good sign. 5. Not a single good manager in the software industry I know likes ISO/CMM style processes.They may quietly live with the process and work around it when necessary but if someone likes and enjoys these heavyweight processes I would be very wary of hiring him . I could think of a few more characteristics but you get the idea . There is no sure fire way of determining the worth of a non frontline manager but in any industry or company there are thngs to look for . I am interested in your heuristics for judging managers .What do you think ? what are the characteristics of the best managers you know?" Sundaresh replied "That was an excellent analysis. In my experience, i have worked with 11 project managers, out of which all but one were perfect charlatans or incompetent. Few things i have noticed in the one person whom i would rate as "very good" were,