Monday, October 6, 2008

My First Dilbert Moment

I've been working in the computer industry for 13 years by now, and I've never had a Dilbert moment until a month ago.

I work for a large computer manufacturer. Every year, the company hands out surveys to all employees asking them whether they're happy, whether they're productive etc. etc. Our VP saw the results, and it was terrific this year compared with last year. However, there're still some negative sentiments in certain areas that showed no improvement. In other words, the same percentage of people are still answering some survey questions negatively compared to a year ago. Among them, "Group finds ways to improve productivity", "Process allows me to meet customer needs", "Senior management supports innovation", "I have the tools and resources to do my job well", "My accomplishments are recognized".

And here comes the Dilbert moment - our VP asked all non-managers to meet as a group and come up with concrete recommendations to improve those negative areas!!! I mean, isn't it management who's supposed to improve group producitivity, devise processes to allow me to meet customer needs, support innovation, give me enough resources to do my job well, and recognize my accomplishments? For God's sake, he's PAID to solve those problems and all of a sudden they've become our problems! Kicking the ball right back to our court is the ONLY THING he could think of!!!

The story isn't finished as it was heading into an interesting twist. We non-managers had a group meeting afterwards as directed by the VP. We had serious discussions regarding "Group finds ways to improve productivity". And here's what we came up with as recommendations to mangement:#1 Development regression tests should be made to run on our laptops so that we don't have 10, 20 people trying to overwhelm the test servers.#2 Development regression tests should be ported to SQL Server so that we can catch errors early on that platform before we check in our code.

Do any of you see the problem here? Not only did we tell management exactly how to do their job, we've created more work for ourselves, as opposed to give them more work to do!!!

In summary, here's how management works. First, its employees have a productivity issue. They let management aware of the problem. Management turns back and asks them to come up with a solution. Employees get together, figure out a solution among themselves, report back to management, and implement the plan!

So, why the hell do we need management?

(originally written on 10/02/2008)

1 comment:

  1. Management is a wonderful irony in corporate life.

    Management usually does anything but, because management involves managing details, which most managers are too busy to look at because of their management duties such as management meetings, management offsites and management conference calls.

    The word "manage" comes from the 16the century Italian word "maneggiare", usually in the context of controlling a horse. If you manage, or "maneggiare", a horse by telling it to meet and come up with concrete recommendations to improve, you will probably get your ass kicked quite literally.

    The irony goes on. One can trace the etymology back to the Latin word "manus", which means hand, as in hands-on. The meaning emerges: to manage is to handle hands-on details, which one must in order to control a wayward horse.

    One might say modern civilization has evolved to such complexity that renders the hands-on approach obsolete. To this criticism I would draw attention to the usage of the word "manage" to mean "to conduct a house of business or public institution", which dates to the early 18th century. Alas! To conduct! The word comes from the Latin word "conducere", which means to lead or bring together. Leadership? Managers, let's learn to walk before we learn to run.