I both agree and disagree with David. He's absolutely correct about technical people not needing to be running the company. However, Even the highest CEO in the company had better realize that by not listening to his technical people, he's jeopardizing his company or income in some way. I have yet to see a situation where a technical person failed to address business needs after being informed of them, yet see on a daily basis managers failing to address technical needs after being informed of them. I have seen many many instances of technical people going to their manager and explaining a situation which would fail a project provided its not addressed, the manager ignored the discussion, then comes back a few weeks later asking why the project is failing. well, duh......what did they believe was going to happen, after being told of it. It may very well be that the middle level manager isn't communicating, or doesn't understand the issues, or doesn't have the time, but that's not the type of person you want managing your technical people to start with. Its a recipe for disaster. This is the direct responsibility of the person placing that manager in the position. The thing is, its not the responsibility of the technical guy at the bottom of the ladder to even have to deal with crap like that. Its his/her responsibility to provide technical direction and experience, not to mention the skillsets he/she was hired for, that will prevent costly mistakes.
True enough, we all have to be able to work with people, but to be honest, had I wanted those types of responsibilities, I would have chosen a different field for my career. Perhaps Manager. Its the manager's repsonsibility to provide resources and direction for his managed persons. The manager is there to facilitate the technical person doing what he was hired for. Notice that word facilitate. That means to make it happen. If the manager needs to better understand an issue to be able to do this, its not the technical person's responsibility to hunt him down, tell him he doesn't understand it, and tutor him. It's the manager's responsibility to indicate that he/she doesn't understand, and the technical guys responsibility to help him/her with the understanding and together creating a direction that accommodates both business and technical. Chris's article gives some excellent advice towards overcoming the shortcomings of manager's, and some direction on providing better understanding and communications with these corporate types, to overcome what I would term "Poor Management". The advice he offers is quite similar to what I've used in some situations over the years, and it works in a lot of instances. When it comes right down to it though, they would have no reason to use his advice if managers were really managers. In other words, they managed their resources efficiently. I would say that the very first part of being able to manage a resource, would to be to understand what that resource is, and how it should be used. Would anyone hire a programmer who couldn't program? Why then, do they hire managers who can't manage? This is where it gets interesting. They don't. They hire people who have a proven history of managing. Unfortunatly, they do not give consideration to WHAT is being managed. Managing an office, a pool of secretaries, a bunch of workers, almost anything you can think of, really cannot be compared to managing technical people. With any of them, the manager has a good chance of being more knowledgable than the employee. After all, its business processes they are dealing with. With technical people, its quite unreasonable to expect the manager to know as much as the techie. This leads to the areas of contention we see in the world. With the standard set of managed people, its generally not critical if they are ignored. With technical people, making this same judgement can cost the business severely.
Now that I've said that, let me ask a question. As a technical person, How many times has your manager sit and worked with you at your desk and for how long. Or, as a manager, how often do you spend time seeing what is involved in what your managed people do. Over my career, the greatest breakthroughs in communication have come from my manager sitting down at my desk and observing. In 16 years, I have had only a single manager who did not get up saying, "I had no idea it took all that." If I could find the company he is with today, I would do everything in my power to work for him again. It was the single smoothest IT department I've ever worked in. We had morning meetings, every day, to get and give direction and info for the day. Code reviews were standard on every piece of code to hit production, and when issues arose, it was discussed thouroughly until everyone had a clear picture of what was wrong, what direction we wanted to go, and the path best for the company to take.