Managers are going to manage
I've never been too fond of managers and their managerial work. The mere concept of “managing” people make no sense to me.
And this piss off many people around me, but personally, I don't need to be managed. I'm a professional, I know how to do my job. I'm perfectly capable of managing task requirements, and deliver in time with the agreed quality. If there are deviations (because things go wrong sometimes), I communicate it promptly, and propose a solution. Status meetings, progress reports, and even customer support, not a problem.
Technical leads are a different story. I do appreciate working with my tech lead. First and foremost, he understands what I'm talking about. He reads code, he writes code, he does provide useful feedback. I learn from him. Beyond his technical skills, he also attends meetings with other dev teams, to sync in, manage dependencies, look ahead and plan upcoming team's work. When there is a blocker, he removes it.
I remember someone saying: “there are only two kinds of people: those who manipulate atoms (and bits?) and those who manipulate people”. Engineers and managers are clearly not of the same kind.
In all my jobs, there are periods where my team is manager-less for long periods of time. The reasons vary, but the impact is always the same: none. Maybe I'm lucky to be part of self-managed teams, but I don't see why it should be any different.
Early this year, my manager was tasked with a “temporary” Product Owner (PO) position for a problematic project. And I love how these guys estimate things. The original plan was that he will be “80% of the time manager, and 20% PO”. The reality was he had to spend like 90% of his time dealing with this burnt project, which was supposed to be finished in March, and it is still in progress.
To provide some context about it: it is a new mobile app to support upcoming products, which is being developed by a contractor. Developing the app itself is not a challenge, the meaty part is interacting with the firmware running on the device. App development expertise is not enough, you really need domain knowledge of the product. The firmware running on the device is the app's backend, and it was not ready to provide all the needed functionality. We (my team) told them (the managers in their ivory tower) that this was a doomed idea. How did we know that? Because we worked on a different app before and understood the ins and outs of the problem. But of course, they knew better than us. The decision was made, interviews took place, and the project granted to the best company. Way over budget and with 6 months delay, this app is still under development.
My triweekly one to one meetings with the manager slowly became venting sessions (for him, not for me). So much stress this 90% job is causing to my poor manager. I had to sit down for 45 minutes to listen. And I don't complaint because it seems that he really, really needs to get it out of his chest. Five minutes before the time is up, he usually asks if I have something to discuss: “nothing, all is good”.
I guess I'm writing this post because my manager is back from his one-month holiday and the next week I have my routine meeting with him. Maybe this time we're going to talk about his trip to the UK. We'll see.
Anyway. This is the managerial reality of my professional life. Managers are here to stay. Managers are going to manage.