Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad Development Managers

I believe that development managers should be developers themselves. I was in a team where a former PMO became the manager for our team. He has been by FAR the worse manager I've ever had. It nearly destroyed the team. He didn't know what we were doing, and yet he considered himself a developer.

One day I mentioned some trends that I've seem. We were doing a serious of small websites (micro-sites) that were pure admin, had to done quickly, and were constantly changing. I mentioned that we should look into Ruby on Rails. He quickly told me about "standardization". I talked to him about what Neal Ford calls Poliglot Programing. The manager just did not get it. He also noticed that the team started to reject him, so he started to put some distance between us and him. Meeting were done through e-mail, requirements where discussed with IM, and status were done over the phone. It got so bad that the team eventually talked to HR.

I talked to one of my mentors (a finance guru who loves technology and the best CIO I ever had) about this manager and about some of the incidents. He told me that once should see the "silver lining" of the situation. One can really learn about bad managers. He was right! Through this bad manager, I learned that managers should monitor the "pulse" of his/her team members. They are the ones that will help you achieve your goals. HBR published an article How Not to Lose the Top Job where they talked about this issue,

The leadership feedback that you (and your CEO) receive from your direct reports can be an excellent predictor of your ability to lead the company. Poor feedback from a direct report can sabotage an heir apparent, just as poor feedback from peers can

Eventually the manager was laid off, but by that time I had left the company. I'm happy to report that one of my friend, and frankly the best guy for the position (a developer), is in charge of this team.

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