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Are managers a waste of space?

Mike Isano
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 2007
Posts: 144
In my experience, project managers are a waste of time and actually slow down projects with all the documentation they want.

Their only purpose is to collect useless documentation and timeline tracking to make it look like they contribute something to the project.

If the person does not actually do any development they are just fluff.
Alexander Wu
Greenhorn

Joined: May 13, 2007
Posts: 8
yes they should all be fired. documentation and time tracking is a waste of time
Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
Marshal Commander

Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11523
    
100

Hi Mike,

It sounds to me like you are having bad experience(s) with managers and/or processes.

Personally I have experienced some fantastic managers - but is can vary a great deal.

Most managers have a large amount of work that they need to perform. To give a very small example, consider the following tasks: lining up the next jobs to be worked on, prioritizing jobs, limiting staff interruptions, managing staff holidays, managing headcount, managing hardware requests, managing reports, meeting with users, budgeting and so on. And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

There are some things that a manager may need help from staff on. For example, I mentioned hardware requests - they may need input from staff to determine the hardware specifications. But having received that input, they will usually handle all the ancillary work required by the company. They may have to justify to their bosses, they may have to get multiple quotes, they may have to organize when it will be delivered and in what state.

Likewise with new jobs - this may involve (multiple) meetings with users to determine what is needed. It may involve working out where the new jobs fit in an overall roadmap of the product. It may involve working out which projects can be re-organized so that similar projects can be worked on simultaneously. It may require high level scoping of the project, which may in turn require scoping of the project by team members. And it may require the manager to get buy-in from their bosses.

With both of these example tasks I have only given brief examples of what might be - the reality can be far more complex in some cases, or it can be far simpler for either. It all varies company by company, country by country, position by position.

Most of a managers tasks require good time management skills. Many developers are used to working on a single project / task at a time, and that task can occupy their entire attention. Many managerial tasks are running simultaneously, and are often stop-start processes. Going back to my previous example, the hardware request is rarely something that you can just spend 2 hours one morning working on and it's done - it is more likely that they will have to get the initial requirements from whoever asked for the hardware, then spend some time determining if the specifications are reasonable, and whether there are any other options. Then send off quotation requests (which effectively stops the processing for a couple of days). So the manager has to plan that in 3 days they will check on status of quotes (assuming good vendors), in 5 days they will spend some time writing up the quote analysis and justifications, in 7 days they will follow up with management, and so on.

And of course this is all very fluid. I've given very specific timelines in that example, but if your preferred supplier says that they can't get a quote out until 6 days, the manager has to re-plan their schedule.

So hopefully I've given a brief overview of why a manager is important - can you imagine how little work you would get done on your project if you also had all of those other tasks to do? Not to mention that you need a different skill set to be able to effectively work as a manager (which is why there are courses for those who wish to be effective managers).

As for the documentation you are doing - that may be a process issue (waterfall likes documentation, XP doesn't so much). Alternatively it may be a simple fact of life for your project - if you need the documentation for your external clients, then someone has to write it. Neither of these can really be said to be a management problem in itself. An individual manager might be able to change the processes you use, which may cut down on documentation - but that is an individual manager (or company) decision - it is not an indictment against managers in general. Likewise an individual manager or company may decide to hire documentation staff if there is enough demand for it (or if the documentation needs to be high enough standard), but once again we are talking about individual managers / company decisions, not about managers in general.

Regards, Andrew


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stephen gates
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 30, 2007
Posts: 69
The other factor is politics. A good manager also has to be a good politician. You have to get the right people doing the right jobs and projects. You have to convince upper management that certain projects are indeed important, other projects are needed but not as important, and so on.
I agree many managers seem to do nothing at all, but at the end of the day, a good to great manager will make a programmer or engineers job a lot easier. Most engineers and programmers do not like dealing with non IT people.

If you had to answer to all the business people, all the users, all the upper level managers, all the non IT people, you'd probably never get a chance to develop anything. IT is now just another "support" group in a large company. Yeah a software company might be different, but then again, as software companies become larger, they need to answer to their clients needs. It's just the way it is. If you have no managers, it probably means you have no projects. Cause most engineers and programmers are not the best politicians.
M Burke
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 25, 2004
Posts: 388
There are times when other departments create bottlenecks for Development. The PM's job is to co-ordinate between teams and gets the ball rolling again. Its an important skill.
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3274
When technical staff are bogged down in details, it is always vital to have a good project maanger to look at high level things like tracking the projects, looking at gaps, motivating staff, cordinating, resolving staff issues, and improving communication among staff. Having said that, it is not easy to find good project managers. I am currently working with an excellent project manager who makes our tasks easier.


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Mike Isano
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 2007
Posts: 144
I think tasks would be easier without any project managers at all.

I fail to see why a manager is needed for communication. Email, face to face work just fine. If communication is needed you still have to communicate it to the manager, so why not just communicate with the person you need directly? The extra hop of communication through a manager actually slows things down.

What good is tracking a time line? Developers know where they are and know how long its going to take. If a time line chart is made, it's not really the manager who makes it. It's the developers who are the source of all the time wasting time line charts after all.
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 19059
    
  40

What good is tracking a time line? Developers know where they are and know how long its going to take. If a time line chart is made, it's not really the manager who makes it. It's the developers who are the source of all the time wasting time line charts after all.


Hate to break the news to you, but upper management (and customers) like their timelines. And they like it broken down to phases, which in turn, are related to their business. They don't care about the time to finish a Java class, a service, or anything technical.

In other words, they like to communicate with your manager.

Henry


Books: Java Threads, 3rd Edition, Jini in a Nutshell, and Java Gems (contributor)
Devesh H Rao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 09, 2002
Posts: 687

Originally posted by Mike Isano:


In my experience, project managers are a waste of time and actually slow down projects with all the documentation they want.
.....
I think tasks would be easier without any project managers at all.

.......



You seem to have made up your mind regarding project managers...

slogging hard lately are you..?
Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 42906
    
  69
A lof of the posts in the thread seem to be based in the notion that there is little more to projects than programming the code that implements it. It's a sad comment on the state of software development that it's necessary to state that there's lots more to it, particularly if the customer/client is not part of the company that implements it.
B.Sathish
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 18, 2005
Posts: 372
Agreed that a manager has to do all that is stated above. But how much effort does he put in towards doing all this and how challenging is the work? Compare that with the effort that a developer puts in and the challenges a technical person faces. There is a big difference. Then the technical persons should be getting paid a lot more than the managers right? But why is it that the person who does the easier non-technical part and puts in much less effort than the person who slogs is getting paid more? I agree that managers are needed, but they should be paid a lot less than the technical people, probably half.
vjy chin
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 17, 2005
Posts: 279
I understand what most of the developers think, why managers at all? I am a developer, but a manager(Good) is really essential. Since the developer cannot directly talk to the client, even if he talks, he cannot convey the message properly. The manager talks with the client, they take all responsibilities for the whole project. There will be no time for the developers if they start attending the meetings. Moreover some clients are real bad, so the manager will be in the firing line.

The developers only take a part responsibility for their module, but the manager has to look for various scenarios in the project. Manager is also a link between the upper management and the developers. I feel good managers are really necessary for the company as well as the developers.
Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
Marshal Commander

Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11523
    
100

Originally posted by B.Sathish:
Agreed that a manager has to do all that is stated above. But how much effort does he put in towards doing all this and how challenging is the work? Compare that with the effort that a developer puts in and the challenges a technical person faces. There is a big difference.
Agreed - there is a huge difference. As someone who has been a manager, I was so glad to get back to the easy life of being a developer with my latest job. But now I miss being a manager as well, so even though it is much tougher, I am moving towards that position again.

Regards, Andrew
Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 42906
    
  69
Originally posted by B.Sathish:
But how much effort does he put in towards doing all this and how challenging is the work? Compare that with the effort that a developer puts in and the challenges a technical person faces. There is a big difference. Then the technical persons should be getting paid a lot more than the managers right? But why is it that the person who does the easier non-technical part and puts in much less effort than the person who slogs is getting paid more? I agree that managers are needed, but they should be paid a lot less than the technical people, probably half.


You're mixing two unrelated things here: what one does, and how hard one works. The implication is that management generally works less or less hard than development. While that may be true in the cases you've seen, it is not a valid generalization. Usually, management puts in more hours (and, yes, gets paid more).

That development work is harder is debatable. But in my experience, management ia definitely more stressful, no matter how harsh a developer may perceive his deadlines. It's a different skillset for the most part, though, so this is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
Originally posted by B.Sathish:
Agreed that a manager has to do all that is stated above. But how much effort does he put in towards doing all this and how challenging is the work? Compare that with the effort that a developer puts in and the challenges a technical person faces. There is a big difference. Then the technical persons should be getting paid a lot more than the managers right? But why is it that the person who does the easier non-technical part and puts in much less effort than the person who slogs is getting paid more? I agree that managers are needed, but they should be paid a lot less than the technical people, probably half.


Are you paying them from your pocket?

If yes, you can pay them less, less than half or whatever!!!

If No, that is none of your business!!!

The companies are certainly value their managers more than you or me as developers. They are willing to pay from their pocket or their share holders' pocket for a reason.

It does not matter you or me agree with their reason or not.

Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
Another choice for B.Sathish:

Training yourself to become a manager

It could be real challenging for several reasons:

1) Make yourself adjusted for the "easier" job
2) Make yourself qualifying the "easier" job
3) Make somebody willing to hire you to do the "easier job" as a manager
4) Make yourself willing to accept the "unqualified" higher pay
5) Make your boss willing to pay you less as a sample manager...

Try the new challenges of life!!!


[ June 12, 2007: Message edited by: Roseanne Zhang ]
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 19059
    
  40

Originally posted by Andrew Monkhouse:
Agreed - there is a huge difference. As someone who has been a manager, I was so glad to get back to the easy life of being a developer with my latest job. But now I miss being a manager as well, so even though it is much tougher, I am moving towards that position again.


I too, have been a project manager for a few years. I also consider the management role to be harder than the development role, and I am also glad to be a developer again. Some of the things that I noticed were...

1. As a manager there are definitely more balls in the air at the same time. As a developer, I could make a to-do list, and work on (and finish) them in order. Most of the tasks as a manager are on-going. This can get annoying if you are the type that require closure.

2. As a manager the tasks are more open-ended. As I developer, I can load up my favorite IDE, make the changes, test the changes, done. As a manager, I have to talk to different stakeholders, and negotiate the tasks, which I later have to talk to different stakeholders, and negotiate the tasks, which I later...

3. As a manager, there doesn't seem to be a stopping point. I found it much more easier to relax after a day as a developer, while as I manager, I was always on.

Now... I haven't done project management in years, so I too, sometimes miss it. But to go back full time? No thanks.

Henry
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3274
Having done both myself, I totally agree with Henry's points. Technical skills can be easily developed with hard work and experience but not the managerial skills (leadership, interpersonal, communication skills). It is not everyone's cup of tea.

It also depends on what type of project managers you are referring to. There are technically motivated project managers and also only timeline driven project managers. Good project managers also act as a buffer between the management and the developers. People's perception of a project manager vary or change depending on what type of a project manager they have worked with. Like any other professions, there are good project managers and bad ones.
Devesh H Rao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 09, 2002
Posts: 687

Originally posted by B.Sathish:
Agreed that a manager has to do all that is stated above. But how much effort does he put in towards doing all this and how challenging is the work? Compare that with the effort that a developer puts in and the challenges a technical person faces. There is a big difference. Then the technical persons should be getting paid a lot more than the managers right? But why is it that the person who does the easier non-technical part and puts in much less effort than the person who slogs is getting paid more? I agree that managers are needed, but they should be paid a lot less than the technical people, probably half.




Thank you for a good laugh....
David O'Meara
Rancher

Joined: Mar 06, 2001
Posts: 13459

Just to throw in a few points that have not been mentioned yet:

The Peter Principle refers to the business principle that people will be promoted to their least level of incompetence. This means a person will keep getting promoted until they reach a role that they aren't any good at and won't be promoted from here. My further thoughts are that a developer that gets promoted to a PM role (and stuck there) may not have developed the necessary skills to manage projects.

Also, PMs are required to manage developers, and you won't find people in senior positions making less than the people they manage. In my opinion it won't happen. Regardless of the (biased?) interpretation of the relative skill levels and job complexity, it doesn't happen.
Ketan Joshi
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 09, 2005
Posts: 66
Definitely if is necessary to trace what was done by whom in what time so that we can get back to that person in case of any issues so documentation is necessary.

However we need to ensure that we dont spend 7 hours documenting something we completed in 1 hour.I have noticed documentation having repeated same inforamtion one in Excel Sheet,other in word document, one document in accordance with client template,one document in accordance with internal quality standards which should be avoided


Regarding the point on managers,sometimes they are intrusion into your time apart from them being a waste of time in their own

However the entire company and not just the individual needs to be handled to ensure its smooth functioning which surely needs an individual labelled as a Manager

But we need to realise that a manager cannot spend time doing the work himself/herself.His/Her job is to supervise the work allocated to team members.

The manager has been a team member sometime doing all the work allocated to him/her.He/she cannot keep working life long

So in his position as manager he is expected to use his experience to handle issues and intervene when its not possible for team member to handle the situation
[ June 14, 2007: Message edited by: Ketan Joshi ]
Devesh H Rao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 09, 2002
Posts: 687

Originally posted by Ketan Joshi:

So in his position as manager he is expected to use his experience to handle issues and intervene when its not possible for team member to handle the situation

[ June 14, 2007: Message edited by: Ketan Joshi ]


So what stops the person from doing the job?

Project managers are a part of the team, they get the brunt of the stick as they are seen not to be part of the team.

I have personally worked with some really great project managers who have not just taken time to get the work done but also groom and mentor people who worked with them.

Apart from interpersonal skills a manager also needs to be intutive enough in resource management, I work as a solution architect but still hold the view that a code if broken, can be built given time and cost. A manager does not have that leeway though, the moment a resource looses trust in the team he/she is a goner and along with the person goes the knowledge, time, efforts invested by the company hence a managers job is more or less equally difficult. A manager is not just expected to deliver projects but also deliver "teams" to the company, if you all get the point I am trying to convey.

I do not want to go into details..but at a high level typical responsibilities on a PM in our organization... can't speak for the rest though

1. Risk Management
2. Resource Management
3. Account/Project Management
4. Schedule Management
5. Scoping and Iteration Management
6. Process Management
7. Defect Management
8. Infrastructure Management
9. The bug bear of all --- Project Plan

Yes, the manager may not individually own each of the above but at the same time is no less responsible than anyone who owns the work items.

Development is no less an activity, but at the same time give all work its due......
Sandeep Ghosh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 23, 2002
Posts: 145
Nice topic of discussion. Ideally in a project except one or two top project manager, everybody´┐Żs hand should be dirty with codes. One who is in higher in hierarchy should take more critical task and lead the team by example. What we actually see is only few juniors or mid level experience programmer are doing actual coding and experienced guys are busy compiling timesheets or talking over phone with customers or doing nothing. Now trend is if a guy with 5 yrs experience is still coding it is an act of shame. Even in army except few top General and Colonel, all the men has to go to field and even these General has went to battle once upon a time, but only in our industry we see some team leaders who have not coded more than hello world application giving instruction to experienced programmer. Being a PM or team lead is a nice job in itself. If a project succeeds take all credit and if project fail you always have that lowly programmer to blame.
Mike Isano
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 19, 2007
Posts: 144
Given the time, I could literally build any enterprise level software by myself or with a small team. All without management.

I know there needs to be someone in meetings to be the face of the company, but this has no bearing on the actual completion of the project. We should have meeting managers, but not "project" managers.

The level of documentation and writing can be rediculous. The benefits of such massive documentation and tracking don't justify the time spent on it.

The manager can hold up the stuff that the developer wrote and say "we're on schedule!!!" and make himself look important. People seem to focus on english documents as if they are the holy grail. They forget the actual coding that must be done.

This is why i'm so fond of agile XP. (minus the pair programming)
 
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