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Why Managers Are Like Clumsy Storm Troopers

Filed Under Human Factors

Clone Trooper

Sharp developers are like Clone Troopers. They are quick, disciplined, and deadly in their specialty. The ability to instinctively react to pressure situations with high impact; all developers hope that they resemble this elite fighting force.

However, it’s inevitable.

Someday…somewhere…you will become a manager.

Managers are elite forces in their own galaxy (far, far away); however, when they attempt to reenter the development trenches they look like the clumsy 2nd generation Storm Troopers. There are two reasons why you will become a clumsy Storm Trooper when you become a manager:

1. You never were a Clone Trooper

Sorry, but you sucked as a developer and your company is too weak to fire you – so they promoted you. A lot of companies promote people to management to see if they have the soft skills to cover up for the lack of hard skills. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news…

2. Hard Skills: Don’t use ’em – you lose ’em

What I find humorous about this career “evolution” is that it is actually a devolution in your hard blue collar skills. Think about it, all of the skills that got you this current management promotion are now being put aside and a whole new skill set must be learned.

You will code less. You will sit in more meetings. You will stagnate.

Storm Trooper - Bonk!

When managers spend to much time in the meeting room (aptly named Death Star Room), developers turn into much weaker forms of their previous self. This common devolution can be handled in one of two ways: avoided or accepted.

Avoiding becoming that of which you hate is probably the most obvious. Keep coding. Work hard to relate to both sides of the business. Don’t let your skills slip. This sounds easier said than done, but it is necessary in being a great manager (as opposed to good).

Acceptance is a much harder thing to do. Most managers believe that they have been promoted because they are technologically superior! While this maybe true, this truth is only held for approximately 7 days max. Why 7 days? After 1 single iteration you no longer intimate with the code base and it’s not looking back…

Regardless if you choose to avoid or accept your change of skill set – be brutally honest with yourself! Always know your weaknesses and allow the stronger people on your team to fill in the gaps for you.

Great leaders are not great because of their single abilities, but because they have the ability to lead great people. Now go get ’em corporate TK-421!

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4 Responses to “Why Managers Are Like Clumsy Storm Troopers”

  1. Seth on March 17th, 2008 10:20 am

    I’m a firm believer in technical management – but it’s true, they don’t contribute in the trenches. They aren’t supposed to for the most part. They are supposed to sit in the star destroyers and click on maps – sending me to my doom.

    I do think they run a higher risk of being force choked by a sith lord…

    Call ‘management’ a promotion if you want 😉

  2. Shawn Oster on March 18th, 2008 12:34 am

    I’ve always thought being a manager is just another skill like writing code or being a great graphic designer, some people come to it naturally, some work at it and others will always pretty much suck at it. Hence why a great developer has no guarantee of being a great manager of developers or how often great technical managers really suck at the technical bits.

    In my mind this also means that managers shouldn’t get paid any more or less than those they manage. They are just a person doing their job and the pay increases should go to those excelling in their positions, great devs or managers or tech support. Organizational hierarchy should not dictate pay hierarchy.

    One justification for higher manager salaries is that only their necks are on the line; if a project goes south it’s only the manager that loses face yet this is rarely the case and where it is true I believe it should be changed so the entire team feels like their necks are on the line. A shared feeling of responsibility tends to create a strong team as well as more focused effort.

  3. Robz on March 20th, 2008 12:00 am

    My favorite is when “those that are formerly technical” think they understand how we code and thus make decisions for us without asking us. Then we are left to live with the mess or clean it up.

  4. Developers are Clone Troopers and Project Managers are … Storm Troopers « Jim 2.0’s Blog on March 20th, 2008 1:51 pm

    […] March 20, 2008 by Jim Max Pool of {CodeSqueeze} writes an interesting article titled “Why Managers Are Like Clumsy Storm Troopers“. […]

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