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First, Let's fire all the non-technical managers
and replace them with the right managers
The technology industry famously struggles to find enough managers to sustain growth and regularly is tempted by a perverse thought: “people like to have a good manager that can take care of their wellbeing, regardless of the fact that they understand their craft or not”.
So companies ask engineers to manage designers, agile coaches to manage engineers, project managers to manage product owners, etc etc
On the surface it makes a lot of sense, don’t we always write on LinkedIn banalities like “people leave bad managers not companies"?
Managing people was never supposed to be a full time job
I will cover in a future post why I think managers are important and why I call bullshit on movements like holocracy, but for now let’s focus on an important point: Managing people is an important, but small, part of being a manager.
Companies don’t need managers to make sure people get a therapy session each time they need one, and for sure they don’t need a full time manager to make sure people are engaged (the beating will continue until the morale improves).
At the very core, managers are needed to ensure that everyone works toward the same direction and goal, finding the right tradeoffs and being an effective communication channel between the people doing the job and the rest of the company.
This can be done in many ways and, quite crucially, it requires the manager to absolutely understand the details of the craft.
Being managed by an experienced manager that has no idea about the struggles of your daily job is just slightly better than having no manager at all.
Not everyone needs a therapy session in their 1:1, more often than not people seek help about their profession, they want advice from someone they respect, or just want to vent to someone that understand their struggles.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, in fact you can ask a CTO/VP of Engineering how much support they get from a non-technical CEO, or worse, what happens after an outage, for example when AWS was down a few days ago…
So why is this still happening?
Short term thinking and lack of leadership. Many fast growing companies are just busy hiring and onboarding new people, they get a lot of money from VCs and need to spend it to meet the unrealistic plans that they used to get the money in the first place.
So they just get bum in seats and move on, our engineers are smart they don’t really need managers anyways.