Michele Sollecito (@sollecitom) kindly responded to a recent tweet of mine with the following question:
“Why do so many well intentioned founders and companies end up creating management monstrosities?”
The “management monstrosities” referred-to are the (dysfunctional, ineffective) tech organisations we find just about everywhere these days. My work on #Rightshifting illustrates just how ineffective is the average tech company, compared with how effective they could be (and how effective Rightshifted outliers are known to be).
But Michele’s question is: “Why?”
Over twenty years and more, I’ve seen dozens of organisations up close and personal. In none of these organisations have the folks in charge appreciated the difference between collaborative knowledge work (Cf. Drucker) and other categories of work. We can call this a Category Error.
Collaborative knowledge work is NOT like:
- Factory Work
- Office work
- Service work (e.g. Call centres, Help desks, etc.)
- Individual knowledge work
Collaborative knowledge work is in a distinct category all its own, and demands a fundamentally different approach to the way the work works, if we’re to see effective working.
Attempting to manage collaborative knowledge work by means common to other categories of work will inevitably lead to ineffectiveness, and all the monstrous consequences that follow from that.
Assumptions and Beliefs
Put another way, organisations import or retread the assumptions and beliefs of the category of work they believe applies to software development. As the category they assign is (almost) never “collaborative knowledge work”, the prevailing assumptions and beliefs are similarly almost never aligned to effective working.
You may now be asking “Why is the category they assign almost never ‘collaborative knowledge work’?”. I’ll leave that question for another post (if there’s any demand for such a post).
That’s true. But they also probably underestimate the challenge and opportunities present in all those other kinds of work too! It’s not like answering calls is robotically simple work either!
And yes, I’ve seen companies “manage programmers” the same way they managed temporary stock pickers in their warehouses. And it was bad. It was profoundly bad. Like everyone in the contracting community knew how bad it was. And they had to pay really high contracting rates because of it.
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